Semiya payasam – A dessert with milk and vermicelli


10 min


20 min

Ask any Indian about hot payasam?
He would spare a bright smile and his mouth will crave for a cup immediately.


Semiya payasam is the most popular dessert prepared in India and no celebration is complete without it. Vermicilli is a famous ingredient used in Indian cooking. Dishes like upma, bagalabath (recipe here) and puddings are made with them. When there is an Indian festival, get together or birthday/anniversary, I prepare this dessert for my family. I made semiya payasam last weekend for S’s cousin (newly weds) who visited our home for the first time.

Rich and creamy in texture, this delightful dessert has tons of ghee roasted cashews and raisins in it. The nuts enhances the taste of the payasam and further creates exotic crunch in almost every spoon. A touch of few strands of aromatic Iranian saffron blends beautifully with the simmering hot milk and fills the kitchen air with the smell of earthly ghee and saffron. Saffron has to be used in small quantities, excess addition can harm your stomach. Restrict your use to minimum amount of it (about 12-15 strands). 

My grandmother lives in small village near Panrutti, known as the commercial center of Cuddalore district, Tamil Nadu. This place is known for cashews and jackfruit. They export them to various countries like USA, Australia, Singapore. The broken and powdered cashews that are rejected for export are sold at much lower price for the locals. My grandmother would buy several packets as they are cheap and we use it for dishes which requires the use of cashew paste. She would say “Pretty whole cashews should be used for garnishing while the broken ones for making paste”. During my trip to Indian this year, she gave me two 1/4kg packets and I have been using them in chicken curry, paneer curry and in desserts too. I am planning to make kaju katli someday.

Some serve this delicious payasams hot like soups a
nd some prefer it cold like smoothies. I would like to have mine warm. Serv it in pre-warmed ramekin and they taste even better the next day.

Serves 4-6
Source: My mother
1cup raw vermicelli – available in Indian grocery store
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup raw cashews
6-8 cardamon pods (crushed) or 1tsp powdered cardamon

1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1/2-3/4 cup sugar ( adjust accordingly to your palate) or 1/2-3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter/ ghee (clarified butter) – available in Indian grocery shops

10saffron strands 

Soak and grind
1 tablespoon broken cashews
1/4 cup milk

1. Heat 1 tablespoon ghee /clarified butter in a small cooking pan. Once they get heated up, roast the cashews and raisins till they brown lightly. Remove and let it cool. Soak broken cashews in warm milk for 10 minutes and make a smooth paste out of it.

2. Heat a large cooking pan and add the remaining ghee. Fry the vermicilli till they roast and crisp up, about 5 minutes. Pour the milk along with the crushed cardamons and bring it to a boil. 

3. Simmer the flame and cook for 20-30 minutes. Don’t cover it, if you cover them up till be boil and spill over. Mix in the cashew paste and stir to combine.

4. Throw in the fried cashews and raisins and cook for further 3-4 minutes. Turn off the flame and add the saffrons. Cover and let them rest for 15 minutes. Serve hot. You can store them in the fridge for couple of days but re-heat before you serve.


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