Everyone thought I was crazy for going to India.
They warned me about theft, feared for my safety, and were genuinely concerned when I told them I hated Indian food.
How could someone that hates Indian food go to India, let alone go to an ashram that would surely be serving nothing but?
I know, I’m a crazy one.
My plan to conquer India was simple – open myself up to embrace the culture, religion, daily practices and food, no matter how awful it looked or scary it was to be unsure of the ingredients.
This plan what what allowed me to have such an amazing trip. Not only did I learn more about the world and a culture I’d never experienced, I actually started to enjoy it, including the meals.
At the ashram, the plates would come fully stocked with the days’ meal. I donated my bread to a neighbor and mashed everything together with my right hand (best EVER!) before going to town on the pile of food before me.
I began to look forward to the Indian meals on my flights,
the briyani’s in restaurants,
and the mound of food that was our cooking class.
Needless to say, I was converted.
I enjoyed many a delicious meal along the journey, but will always have a soft spot for payasam. It’s sweet, hearty, and seemed to always be one of the cheaper things on the menu which is always an added bonus!
Payasam is an integral part of traditional South Indian meals. In many cases, it’s served on a flat banana leaf instead of in a dish or bowl and eaten with the hands as with all other meals in South India (which is SO fun!). What I loved also, is that in South India, payasam is generally made with jaggery and coconut milk in place of sugar and milk making it less processed and tastier in my opinion!
My favorite way to enjoy it was alongside rice and other curries,
but I’d gladly eat a whole bowl on it’s own with no complaints whatsoever.
Lucky for me, now I can recreate it any time I fancy, with rice or otherwise and so can you!
Healthy Pineapple Payasam (Sweet Pineapple Pudding)
Vegan (option), Gluten free, Dairy free, Refined sugar free, Yeast free, Corn free
Payasam; also known as kheer in Northern India, specifically in the Punjabi community, is a rice pudding, traditional in South Asia. It’s made by boiling rice, noodles, or broken wheat with milk and sugar, and flavored with cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashews, pistachios or almonds. Out of all the payasam I enjoyed, coconut, cashew and cinnamon were the most popular. It is typically served during a meal alongside your curries or rice, or consumed alone as a dessert.
Yield: 1.5 cup
- 2 tbsp ghee *see note
- 2 tbsp cashews, roughly chopped or halved
- 2 tbsp raisins
- 1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced and divided
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup lite coconut milk or other non-dairy milk of choice
- 5 cardamom pods
- 3 tbsp demerara, palm or date sugar
- 1/4 tsp pineapple extract, optional
- 1/2 cup rice vermicelli noodles, broken into 1/2 –inch pieces
- In a medium sized saucepan combine ghee, cashews, raisins and half the pineapple. Bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring constantly until cashews are browned, about 2 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients except noodles and remaining pineapple. Bring mixture back to a boil then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
- At the 5 minute mark, stir in vermicelli noodles and allow to cook. The mixture should begin to thicken in the last 2 minutes. If it’s too thick for your liking, add a bit more water until your desired consistency is reached.
- Place remaining diced pineapple at the bottom of a serving bowl and drop payasam mixture over top. Serve with diced fruits or seeds sprinkled over top. Alternatively, separate the pasayam into 4 small dishes, one for each serving.
note: to make vegan, sub the ghee for extra virgin coconut oil. It will change the flavor of the dish, but still taste great!
note2: ghee is made from dairy, but all lactose and casein is removed in the clarification process. Use your own personal judgement when opting for a dairy-free diet. If you’ve chosen to omit, use vegan suggestion above.
If you’re like me and wondering what payasam would taste like made with coconut milk, fresh coconut meat and vanilla bean, check out the coconut payasam recipe I shared today on Tasty Yummies! It’ll knock your socks off.
How I ever hated Indian food is seriously beyond me. This stuff ROCKS!