Payasam (sago) is an essential sweet dish at any Tamil celebration or festival, including New Year and weddings. It is usually served in small stainless-steel cups, but the traditional way to serve it is on a banana leaf and topped with crushed pappadum. The best payasam I tasted was
Dry-roast the green gram in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat for 4 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool slightly. Using a mortar and pestle (or spice grinder), pound the green gram into a fine powder. Set aside.
Melt the ghee in the frying pan and fry the sago over medium heat for 3 minutes, or until it starts to puff and pop. Add the vermicelli noodles and fry for 1 minute, or until golden brown, stirring continuously so the vermicelli doesn’t burn. Remove and set aside. Fry the cashews and raisins in the extra ghee over low heat for 1-2 minutes until golden, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.
Add the coconut milk, bring almost to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring continuously, until the mixture starts to thicken slightly. Stir in the green gram powder and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the sugar, cardamom and coconut cream and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring, until the mixture thickens a little. Stir in the fried cashews and raisins or sprinkle them on top. Serve hot in small cups.
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