Friday, August 28, 2015

Vermicelli pudding (semiya payasam)

It's major, formidable onceinayear phenomena when a holiday possesses a whole region, so serious that when its own citizens take habitat elsewhere in the world, it's no surprise they share the party and make it bigger, posher than the original.

This is no small feat people, celebrations created around a Grand Vegan Menu, ranging in items from fifteen to thirty five, mostly sides to rice,  painstakingly prepared and creatively adorned on a 15 inch banana leaf that will serve as your plate for the time it takes you to finish those items. And how do you end a meal without a minimum of four, more like ten, different sweetmeats, taking food coma to a whole new level? It's no surprise that sleep is not a mere suggestion after the multicourse and you literally get evicted to rooms to take care of the glutton-induced- slumber edging into your very being.

It's the geographical confines that I bear roots from and have pretty much bragged on every chance I got, and the holiday is Onam, celebrated throughout Kerala, India's southernmost state, fondly known as God's own country.

Here then it is, my nod and salute to this favorite, all Malayalee-but-not-limited-to grand festival where public institutions close for days and ecofriendly floral carpets (made just for the day) dot State roads.

And no, I'm not carting any part of the innumerable curry inundated meal here. I believe the WWW is plush with Onam specific/ vegan friendly ideas. Instead, I'll showcase a bit of that banana leaf, the reverential spot where dessert is placed,

Even those that have no clue of what I've been talking about in these past too many sentences, will understand that you really don't need an epic celebration to make what could definitely be nirvana in a bowl.

Semiya payasam is vermicelli pudding's Indian name. Nonunderstadably, but for lack of a better one, the word pudding is used, yet doesn't quite bring it. Payasam reaches a greater destiny, one thats undeniably thick, lush, velvet with options of bite and crunch, something way beyond what pudding could ever aspire to be. Can you ponder thin vermicelli noodles hot-roasted and immersed in a nice blended base. One where milk and sugar unite to altogether wondrous much-likened-to-condensed milk magic. 

A few bites into and you get the softened chew of cashews, spoons flecked with spheres of pearlescent tapioca, those which lend dimension and depth to what is probably one of the easiest Indian desserts. Ever.

And really do you need an occasion to boil milk?

I know it's fascinating, this dialogue of culture and lore. But I think you've heard enough from me.

Create your own epic. Payasam. Holiday. Memory.

Until next time.

Happy Onam.

The vermicelli should cook just past al dente and not be noodle mush.

  • 1 tbsp tapioca pearls
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp oil or ghee
  • 2 tbsp cashews
  • 3/4 cup semiya or thin vermicelli
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 crushed cardmom(optional)
  • Soak tapioca pearls in 2 tbsp water for 10 minutes.
  • In the meantime, add ghee to a skillet over medium, stir in cashews and vermicelli strands.
  • Allow contents to brown, including vermicelli strands. Take off heat and set aside.
  • In a separate deep wide set pan/dutch oven, add milk. Take heat to medium -high
  • Drain and rinse the tapioca pearls to get rid of any stickiness or starch. Add this along with sugar and cardamom to the milk. 
  • Keeping heat on medium, simmer contents, stirring at regular intervals, until pearls get semitranslucent about 10 -15 minutes. 
  • Add vermicelli and cashews at this point.
  • Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer, occasionally stirring until vermicelli is soft and clear, an additional 12-15 minutes. By this time the tapioca pearls would be clear and the milk considerably thickened,
  • Serve hot or cool and refrigerate for 1-3 hours to serve chilled, a favorite here.


Although it's dreamy to use whole milk here, I've used 2%, and on most other occasions, skim.

You can drop the sugar amount to the level you'd like, though I'd not go lower than 1/4 of a cup, which would just barely be in the mildly sweet range.

Indian groceries have readymade roasted vermicelli in which case you could altogether skip the step of browning, save for the cashews. Just add it straight to the milk.

These specialized groceries would also be where you'd find tapioca pearls, known as sago palm pearls. These are of the small granule variety and need to be presoaked, should not be confused with the instant. No Indian market nearby? No problem! They're sold here.

Besides cashews, roasted raisins/dates are also added into payasam. You can pick/ choose/forgo as you please.

Another payasam story~
A star contender for the above said meal~
"Hear my voice when I call Lord, be merciful to me and answer me."
Psalm 27:7


  1. mouthwatering dear,I too made this for Onam ...Hope u had a great Onam too :)

    1. Thank you, Julie- always a nice Onam with payasam :-)

  2. My absolute favourite payasam! Looks delicious! :)

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Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me!