What is your payasam?

Keralites across the world are eagerly looking forward to a delicious sadya today. Since last year’s Onam was very quiet because it came just after the floods, this year’s Onam is special one.

From making various dishes for the sadya, decorating their homes with ‘pookalam’ (flower rangoli) and dressing up in traditional sari and mundu, the celebrations are in full swing this year.

However grand or sober the celebration may be, the sadya is one of the most important aspects of Onam. A typical sadya will have about 24 to 28 items and items are served in a particular order.

The excitement of devouring these items as you sit cross-legged on a mat and wait for your banana leaf to be filled is a feeling that words cannot describe.

Though the majority of dishes are the same everywhere, the dessert depends on one’s preference and area.

In certain parts of Kerala, the ‘pradaman’ is the dish that ends the meal; while in some other, it is one of the courses in the middle.

The difference between prathaman and payasam is that the former has a thicker consistency, uses more ingredients, is made with white sugar or jaggery and use coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.

And there are different versions of that too.

‘Palada pradaman’ is one of the most popular desserts of this festive season.

It’s also one of the simplest recipes to try.

It’s made with ada rice, jaggery, coconut milk and powdered green cardamom.

Ada is basically rice that is ground into a paste, rolled onto sheets and cut into pieces. Traditionally, you make the ada from scratch in a banana leaf. But it takes a lot of time, so most of us just prefer to buy it from the supermarket. The browned cashews dropped on top adds an extra flavour.

There’s also ‘Pazham pradaman’, which consists of plantain, jaggery and coconut milk; ‘Parippu pradaman’ (green gram); ‘Kadala pradaman’ (black gram); ‘Godambu pradaman’ (broken wheat). If jackfruit is still available this season, you can make a thick dessert out of that too.

Pradaman is extremely addictive and healthy to an extent.

Of course, you shouldn’t have too much of it, especially if you are diabetic, but the use of ingredients like plantain, grams and wheat makes it a delicious choice.

Having said that, it doesn’t mean that you don’t make payasam at all.

As mentioned earlier, the savoury items may be the same but the desserts vary.

The creamy, sweet milk pudding is the ‘Paal payasam’ that’s made with rice and milk.

Add two more basic ingredients — sugar and ghee — and you have your recipe. You do add a couple more ingredients, like dry fruits and saffron strands, to enhance the flavour. Finally, among the popular Onam desserts is the ‘Semiya payasam’ or vermicelli payasam. It’s something that regions across the country make and is a favourite for many. It’s not too hard to make but it’s important that you have an eye on the bowl the whole time while cooking it. Overcook it a little and the whole dessert will go to waste.

So whether you are having any of these desserts today or making your own fusion version of it, finish the grand sadhya on a sweet note.

 

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