This is the payasam of my childhood. My mother would make it on festival days. For me, all other payasams were just wanna be’s.
This payasam always was the real thing. Amma never showed me how she made this. I have tried to recreate it from childhood memories and without fresh coconut milk
Payasam with Coconut Milk
The key to all payasams is to carefully cook the milk till it thickens and forms layers of creamy texture. This requires stirring constantly over a low to medium heat so it does not scald. If it does, the flavor of the payasam will be marred by the taste of burnt milk.
Whole or Two Percent milk – 1/ gallon
Saffron – 12 – 16 strands
Cardamon husked and powdered – 1/4 tsp
Jaggery/ brown sugar – 1 cup
edible camphor – 1/4 tsp
Cooked moong dal – 2/3 cup
cooked brown rice – 2/3 cup
golden raisins – 1/2 cup
Coconut milk – 11/2 cups
In a large heavy pot bring the milk to boil while stirring frequently and lower the heat and continue to cook the milk until it reduces and start to thicken. Rich cream will float on top in layer. Be sure to stir constantly lest it scald. Continue to cook the milk for 30 or so minutes and then add the cooked rice and lentils and cook gently for another 15 – 20 minutes. The milk will thicken and reduce and start to become a creamy pink color which may vary depending on the milk. Finally it will be ready for the rice and lentils.
Now add the jaggery and stir until it is dissolved and then add cardamom the saffron and the edible camphor.
Soak the raisins and any other dry fruit like raisins or wild blueberries in warm water ahead of time. Drain and add them to the milk.
Lower the heat and stir in the coconut milk. Heat the payasam without boiling and remove it form the heat. Serve hot or chilled or even at room temperature.
Tinned coconut milk is available in many grocery stores in the Asian section or at Asian food markets. The light version is not very good for making payasam. If you want to make it light, have buttermilk instead of payasam. If you have access to fresh coconuts you can make your own by grating fresh coconut and grinding it in a wet grinder with some water and then extracting the coconut milk with a strainer.