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Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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payasam is a sweet dish prepared from rice, pulses, semolina, or other starchy ingredients simmered in milk to produce puddings of varying thicknesses. It is an integral part of South Indian meals, especially feasts to mark auspicious occasions. Payasam is also used as an offering in temples and Hindu rituals, as well as being integral to traditional thali meals in restaurants that specialize in South Indian vegetarian meals.

In Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala, this dish is called payasam; in Karnataka, payesa; payesh in Bengal; sangom kher in Manipur; and kheer or firni in North India. Each version of the dish uses a local variety of rice or some other regional grain. In Manipur, sangom kher is cooked with purple or black rice. In Bengal, payesh is prepared from a variety of short-grain rice called atap chal (sundried rice). Classic versions of payasam are prepared from rice bran (aval) or dehydrated rice granules (ada). In addition, payasam is made from semiya (vermicelli), sago (semolina), and pulses, particularly moong lentils (cheru payar). Kooto payasam from mixed lentils and nei payasam from broken wheat are also common.