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Onam payasam (Kheer)

What’s Cooking? by P.S. Lakshmi Rao

1 cup chana dal

1 1/2 cup water

1⁄4 cup ghee (clarified butter)

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup fresh shredded coconut

3 cups water to make fresh coconut milk

1⁄4 cup saggu biyyam (sabu dana, chauvarry, or tapioka)

Wash chana dal a couple of times and cook with 1 1⁄2 cups of water in pressure cooker inverter for three whistles and turn the heat off. Take dal out of the cooker after the pressure is gone, and let it cool.

Preparing fresh coconut milk:  blend coconut with one cup of water. Strain and save this first batch of coconut milk separately. Repeat this two more times using same coconut and rest of the water until you have another two cups of coconut milk.

Cook saggu biyyam in ¾ cup of water until they are translucent and keep it separate.


1⁄2 tablespoon ghee or unsalted butter

1-tablespoon cashew pieces

1-tablespoon sweet golden raisins

1-tablespoon small coconut pieces

1/2 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds (elaichi)

Fry cashews, raisins, and coconut pieces in 1⁄2 tablespoon of ghee, and set aside.

Transfer cooked dal to a nonstick frying pan and fry it with ghee on low heat for six minutes, mixing continuously. Add brown sugar and second and third batches of coconut milk. Cook two minutes longer, mixing often.  Add the first batch of coconut milk, cooked saggu biyyam and fried cashews, raisins, coconut pieces, and cardamom powder. Cook for two minutes on low heat stirring. If the payasam is too thick, add a little water.

Note: Don’t use any regular milk because it might curdle or break.

Our friends Leela and Dr. Sudersanan who were originally from Kerala used to invite us for lunch every year for Onam festival and make this special payasam (kheer). Onam comes in the month of August or September. My thanks to Leela for letting me share this wonderful dish with my friends and readers.

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