With Thiruvonam around the corner on September 4, every Malayali home is gearing up to prepare at least some items for the much awaited Onasadhya, the traditional feast that marks the culmination of the Onam festival in Kerala. For those who are not familiar with the Onasadhya, it comprises of 26 items that are served on a plantain leaf and served one by one. It takes considerable expertise to eat the Onasadhya on a plantain leaf as it has to be taken without a spoon or a fork but by using one’s fingers. The most awaited moment of a sadhya is when the ‘payasam’ or the traditional sweet kheer is served.
Every community celebrates Onam, which is one reason why every payasam, its preparation, and its taste varies from place to place and community to community. For those of you who are keen to make ‘instant’ payasam at home, remember that it takes at least two hours to get it thoroughly cooked and ready to be served and this includes even the instant packet versions that are given here for your easy use.
Check out these three delicious, easy recipes that you can experiment with for Thiruvonam, especially if you haven’t made payasam before:
Recipe 1: Paalada
Buy a Double Horse instant paalada packet from your nearest South Indian store and at least one litre of milk, to which you may have to add about 500 ml water. The instructions regarding measurements are clearly given in English and Malayalam on the packet itself. Just follow the instructions, keep stirring the ingredients which include milk and you can add sugar according to the level of sweetness that you prefer. The slow method is to keep cooking it over boiling milk over a pan.
This can take up to two hours to get the consistency right. You will know it is right when the colour of the milk and ‘ada’ turns slightly peach and pinkish colour. The faster method is to cook it in a pressure cooker for 1 whistle, then lower the flame to a minimum and wait for one more whistle. Remember, when making payasam, don’t move away till it is cooked and ready to be served with a dollop of ghee and garnished with toasted golden raisins and toasted cashew nuts that are earlier fried in a dash of ghee.
Recipe 2: Semiya Payasam
This is another delectable and easy to make payasam that you can prepare at home. Just as mentioned above, the easy option is to buy the Semiya or Vermicelli Payasam mix, preferably the Double Horse brand. In case you don’t find it, opt for Nirapara Payasam mix. If you prefer to buy a plain vermicelli packet, that is also fine but you will need to toast it gently over a hot pan and then add ingredients step by step, whereas, in the instant mix, all ingredients are already in it.
You can add milk, sugar, cardamom powder to the vermicelli as per the packet instructions, keep stirring until it is half cooked and then you can add a tin of condensed milk if you want it to be sweeter than usual. Keep stirring slowly on a low flame otherwise, it will get burnt easily.Once it turns thick and the consistency turns almost a thick, soup-like, garnish with toasted golden raisins and cashew nuts that are fried in ghee. as a garnish to dot over the payasam once it is about to be served.
Recipe 3: Cherupayar Payasam
This is a more complex payasam compared to the other two as you have to prepare it using ‘cherupayar’ or ‘green gram’ (about 200 gms). There is no instant packet payasam for this delectable dish, which makes it a tough one to experiment with. Toast the green gram dal in a pan for few minutes without oil, then wash it well and pressure-cook. Once cooked, you have to add about 400 gms of melted jaggery to this and make sure that it is continuously stirred well.
Then add two tablespoon ghee to this mixture, four cups of light coconut milk. Remember, the flame should be lowered when you add coconut milk as it can easily curdle when boiled over a high flame. When the mixture seems like it is getting cooked in terms of its consistency and flavor, add the remaining four cups of thick coconut milk, stir for five minutes before you keep it aside for serving.
Remember, the ”payasam” is the showstopper of every Onasadhya, so it has to be served only at the end of the feast after every other dish is polished off the plantain leaf.