Vermicelli Payasam (pudding)
This week I had a chance to catch up with my pal, Sam Boswell, over our usual meal of choice - thalis. We bond over an assortment of vegetable subjis, dals, sambar, rice, dessert, and pappadums. She even knows how much I love pappadums with my rice and always lets me have hers! We talk about work, kids, and the food we are devouring. We branch off into talking about Indian food, the foods we miss (she was born and raised in Bangalore), the food our moms cook, our spice tolerance, and more. She is pretty much the perfect lunch date in my books.
We were served kesari bath (semolina pudding) for dessert and it wasn’t up to my standards in that it did not have any ghee or butter in it. If you know indian desserts, you will understand my disappointment with the lack of rich fats in my kesari bath! After I pushed mine away, Sam was quick to grab it and scarf it down. In fact, after I left, she ordered (and ate) two more servings of the bright orange dessert! At some point she told me how she loved vermicelli payasam (vermicelli cooked in sweetened milk) and that she had been craving it. Since I had made vermicelli payasam many times, I promised to make her some.
The next day, I pulled out my ingredients (I had everything I needed in my staple pantry), and made a large pot of payasam. She came by in the afternoon to pick it up, and the evening was spent liking and answering comments on Instagram about vermicelli payasam. That seemed like a natural segway into writing up the recipe and sharing the goodness of this delicious dessert with everyone!
Vermicelli payasam was a dessert my mom made frequently when we had people over for dinner parties. These days I find myself offering to make it when we are invited to dinners. I love taking over something homemade as a sign of friendship and love for the people with whom I choose to spend my time. I hope that this recipe turns into an offering of friendship and love for someone you care for as well.
- 2 cups vermicelli (broken up to 4-5 inches long)
- 4 cups organic whole milk
- 1 cup water
- 3 tbsp ghee
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 6-7 strands saffron
- A handful of cashews
- A handful of raisins
- 3-4 cardamom pods (crushed)
- Dry roast the vermicelli in a stainless steel frying pan until it is toasted and a golden brown color. (You can also buy pre-roasted vermicelli at the Indian store. I like the MTR brand.)
- Put a tablespoon of ghee in a large pot and sauté the cardamom and saffron for a minute. Add the vermicelli and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in 3 cups of the milk, water and ½ cup of sugar. Allow the milk to come to a slow boil, stirring occasionally to make sure that the vermicelli doesn’t stick to the pot.
- As the vermicelli cooks, add the rest of the milk as needed. The vermicelli should be soft when it’s fully cooked with enough milk to sit in. Check the sugar and add more if needed. Turn off the heat.
- As the vermicelli sits it will continue to absorb the milk. Once it cools down, add more milk until it reaches the desired consistency. I like to have a more milky payasam, so I am pretty generous with the amount of milk I add.
- In the first frying pan, add the rest of the ghee and sauté the cashews and raisins, stirring frequently, until the cashews are a light golden and the raisins plump up. This will take a few minutes, but keep a close eye on it to keep things from burning.
- Add the sautéed cashews and raisins to the vermicelli and mix well. Allow the milk to come to a quick boil and turn off the heat.
- Serve warm or cold.
Milk is nourishing and balancing for all the doshas. In Ayurveda, we bring milk to a boil and drink it warm. Cold milk is clogging to the system and is harder for the body to digest. When milk is boiled, it is easier to digest and we are able reap the bounty of nourishment present in milk.
Add ¼ tsp ginger to make this more warming.
You can buy pre-roasted, broken vermicelli at most Indian stores. I like the MTR brand.