For most of my young life I had a very straightforward, uncomplicated (read boring) sweet tooth. It recognized and accepted all things chocolate, but only chocolate. Nothing else but cocoa based wonders worked in satisfying my urge for indulgent sugared treats. My life progressed (thankfully) as I got older, with my tastebud profile taking me from all things Hershey to a slightly more sophisticate form. Culturally landing in the flavor footfalls of Kerala helped, where over- the- top desserts and extravagant sweetmeats were in part tradition and part, way of life. Here, I discovered all sorts of exquisite, a poignant factor which sparked my forever battle with the weighing scale.
Delicacies I'd never tried now called my name. Flavor contrasts and pairs were beyond my wildest comprehension. In my new sugar smitten world, everything around me was unbearably delicious. It was in one of these instances that I fell in love with the gloriousness I introduce to you today.
Chakka payasam. Also known as jackfruit kheer. Can be known as Awesomeness Beyond Recognition.
Payasam is the Kerala nomen for a common milk- based, pudding- like dessert, called kheer in other parts of India. To characterize it as mere pudding would do huge disservice to this sweet nectared bed of delight. Such is the character of payasam, made in a myriad of ways with a handful of staple ingredients, this ambrosia of a dessert is of must -try, must- eat purports .
Legend has it that this same kheer was once served in the courts of kings, when Kerala was ruled by it's Royal family. The sweet fare is as much a part of regional folklore as it is a ritualistic culmination to many a lavish feast. It is as good as payasam gets.
Traditionally, chakka payasam is a production of sorts, ridiculously time consuming, and overwhelmingly authentic. Tradition can be good, though I chose not to travel that route, not in my time starved world.
Chakka is what we call jackfruit, the mammoth fruit of the tree sharing the same name. This tree is predominantly native to Kerala, but also populates it's adjoining coastal regions. The gigantous fruit, literally lumps downward off the tree's trunk and lower branches due to it's sheer weight. Once cut open, Humongo houses a numerous amount of smaller, fragrant fruit bulbs. These juicy segments can be pulled out and most gluttonously eaten straight from their hard skin jacket. Ripe or not, the bulbs are morsels of pure pleasure, a treat for your lucky mouth. "Betcha can't eat just one" can very well be the new catchphrase on experiencing a first bite.
Of course, fresh ripened pods shucked straight from its fruit on a larger than life tree would be my ideal payasam filler. Annoyingly so, there exists not one jackfruit tree nearing even a 4 digit mile radius of where I live. So, my answer came from tins straight from the aisles of local Asian grocers. Yup, Chaokoh brand jackfruit would have to do the trick.
The liquid base for this dessert comes from rich coconut milk, again of the canned variety,which plushly gets sweetened with jaggery. The scrumptious blocks of raw sugar that I'd introduced here and mentioned here, justly lend a right amount of dulcet pureness, adding in the color of molten gold, along the way.
Once I began, my mind filled with significant doubts as to how this whole thing would play out. It took all of twenty minutes of mashing, mixing and stirring to help me realize I just might exceed my expectations and be left with a righteously good bowl of kheer.
I loosely followed the Jackfruit Jam Payasam recipe of Mrs. K.M. Mathew, India's equivalent to Julia Child. But I was forced to adapt many of the techniques with my own what- to- dos. Hers required making a customary jackfruit jam base, which would be flavorfully beneficial had I been using fresh fruit, but would turn cloyingly overbearing for my canned and syrup- infused chakka.
As the thicker part of the coconut milk is streamed in, I culminate my payasam making journey, transporting myself to the end-all of a revamped drama production, one that runs its sweet course, in less than an hour's time.
|The delicious task of breaking apart jaggery,|
- 1 ½ c shaved jaggery
- ¾ c water
- 2 cans jackfruit or 2 ½ cups ripe jackfruit, chopped into ½ pieces
- ¼ c water
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 1 13 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk, divided
- ¾ cup water
- 1 cardamom pod, powdered
- 2 tbsp ghee
- ¼ c slivered almonds
- ¼ c coconut slices
- Melt the shaved jaggery pieces with the ¾c water in a sauce pan. Keep flame on high until liquid comes to a boil. Reduce to medium and have it simmer until it comes to a mild syrup consistency, once one thread of syrup is maintained without breaking when pulled apart either between fingers or dipping spoon into the syrup.
- Strain canned jackfruit and rinse. Place in ¼ c water over heat and bring to a boil. Lower flame to medium low and let simmer, until cooked through and fruit is soft, about 15 minutes. Take off heat.
- Process jackfruit to a semi chunked form or mash with a vegetable masher.
- Again on medium heat, in a deep heavy duty pan, place processed jackfruit.
- Stir in ghee and combine with jackfruit.
- Strain the jaggery syrup into the jackfruit mixture. Let simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Measure and keep aside 1 cup of pure coconut milk. Dilute the remaining milk with the ¾ c water and pour into the mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring at intervals. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- Pour in the undiluted milk and cardamom powder. Mix through and heat for an additional minute. Take off flame and set aside.
- Fry the almonds and coconut slices in ghee. Add to the cooked payasam.
- Alternatively, scatter the individual servings with the fried garnishing.
- Have it warm or refrigerate for a couple of hours and enjoy chilled.
I know, it's been a stretch since we last met. Please excuse the delay, friends, I will do my all to keep pace after these final dregs of summer. Thank you for sticking on. I so appreciate your patience during my delayed drafts.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5