Recipes

Semiya (Vermicelli) Payasam

Sometimes it takes your child’s nursery celebrations to make you realize how unfair you have been to your home cuisine. I had been so enthralled by the world of cakes, meringues and pies, that my memories of luscious ‘payasams’ and lipsmacking ‘aluvas’ were fast getting smudged and forgotten. So when my toddler’s nursery announced the International Day Celebrations, complete with “bring a dish from your home land” request, I had to turn away from my usual cheesecakes and tarts and gaze into a zone I had never bothered to explore till then.

So there I was, making my customary distress call to….yes, my mom. I laid out my conditions:

  1. It has to be sweet (because it’s for tiny kids. And because I like it sweet)
  2. It cannot contain nuts (because that’s in the allergy zone of the class)
  3. It has to be super easy (because I’m the one cooking, and my mom needed no further elaboration than that!)

The solution was almost instantaneously delivered. Vermicelli Payasam, aka, Semiya Payasam. And that is what this post is about.

Semiya Payasam is a Kerala dessert which Malayalis proudly make and indulge in during celebrations and festivities. Or during family gatherings. Or when somebody buys a new television. Actually, we don’t really need a reason to make Payasam at our part of the world.

Vermicelli is nothing but really thin rice noodles. Payasam is nothing but a really lovely, sweet blend of milk, condensed milk and water. So my vermicelli payasam is essentially an enticingly easy dish. It’s shame I never tried to make it in my kitchen till yesterday. It’s a shame it never made it to my blog till today, despite its awesomeness.

Vermicelli Payasam / Semiya Payasam / Vermicelli Dessert Pudding

Things you need:

Milk (full fat) – 500ml
Vermicelli – approx. 100g
Condensed milk – 1 tin (I used Nestle Sweetened Condensed Milk 400g)
Water – 1.5L
Sugar – 4 tbsp
Salt- two pinch
Clarified butter/ ghee – 2 tbsp
Raisins – 2 tbsp
Cashew – optional

How you make:

Take a large pan and pour out the condensed milk to it. Add 1.5L of hot water and 500ml of full fat milk. Add 4 tbsp sugar. Turn the heat on (low-medium flame) and keep stirring now and then, until it boils. To this, add 2 pinches of salt and just about 100g of vermicelli, broken to your finger size roughly. Let this soak and boil in the milk mixture for about 7 minutes. By now, the mixture would have gently thickened, and the vermicelli well softened. Turn the heat off.

In another pan, heat 2 tbsp clarified butter/ ghee. If you prefer cashews, add it now and stir until slightly browned. Now add the raisins and gently stir until they have bloated up. Turn the heat off. Pour this on to the milk and vermicelli and give it a gentle stir. Believe it or not, Payasam is DONE.

Now, the beauty of Payasam is that it can be had warm or cool. Some like me prefer it cold, some like it hot. Some like it runny, some like it syrupy, while some like it downright thick! So even if your payasam looks too runny at this point, fret not! Just wait for it to cool off, then transfer it to the fridge for 3-4 hours and you will see that the Semiya (Vermicelli) has curdled a little, causing the payasam to be of a lovely rich texture.

Note: Take note on the quantity of vermicelli you add while cooking. Stick to adding less than more, as more would make your payasam too thick. If in case it turns out too thick for your taste, add milk, heat it and bring it down to your preferred texture.

Because this is an amazingly easy dessert to make (obviously why it is being featured in my blog!), it was a revelation of sorts to me. A pleasurable introduction to the beauty of Indian desserts. And while I try to walk down that road in the coming days, hopefully with a lot more than just false pride, you can go ahead and give this dessert a try! Afterall, it did earn me a “Lovely Work” sticker from Mehreen’s class teacher! Yay! 😀

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