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Desserts, Kerala Dishes, Payasams, Sadya

Semia Payasam – Once Upon a Time… A Birthday!

In these days of mass-manufactured birthday parties conducted by professionals, my mind often drifts back to the time when I was a child.

On my piranaalu (birthday), my parents made me feel like a princess……. We would go to the temple early in the morning ; and after that, pay our respects to the elders in the family. My Grandmother would hug me and kiss me – a special one from a very special person. Lunch, that day, would be a traditional sadya. My mother would first light the lamp and serve rice and the curries, along with sharkara upperi, pappadam, banana chips, pulyinji and pickles, on a leaf set aside for God. Then I would be served, followed by my Father and then everybody else. We would then finish our main meal… and eagerly await the payasam.

Payasam, the ultimate temptation from God’s Own Country, is a must for every special and auspicious occasion. For me, although there are many different kinds of delicious payasams, semia payasam, a dessert made with vermicelli and milk, is synonymous with celebrations.

Semia Payasam – Vermicelli Payasam

Serves 6           Preparation time10 mins         Cook time 40 mins


  1. Vermicelli- 1 cup
  2. Milk- 1 litre
  3. Ghee- 2 tbsp
  4. Condensed Milk (Milkmaid)- 1 tin (diluted in two tins of water)
  5. Cardamom- 2 crushed
  6. Raisins- 1 tbsp
  7. Cashewnuts- 2 tbsp (halved)


  • Heat ghee in a heavy pan. In low heat fry cashew nuts and raisins. Take off heat.Remove them and keep aside.
  • In the same ghee, fry vermicelli to light brown. Boil milk, add vermicelli and cook. Add cardamom to the mixture to enable the flavours to infuse into it.
  • When the semia is fully cooked, add  diluted condensed milk to it and keep stirring to ensure it doesn’t settle at the bottom and burn.
  • Continue  stirring till it reaches the required consistency. Remove from fire. Sprinkle fried cashew and raisins on top.

Note– (a) If  you are not using condensed milk, you will need 2 litres milk, 1/2 cup sugar for 1 cup vermicelli. The milk has to be boiled stirring continuously, till it reduces to 3/4th of the original quantity.

(b) To bring it to the desired consistency, add milk to thin it. Else, keep stirring on low heat to thicken it.

Quick Snack PUFFED RICE MIXTURE – PORI (right) – Ideal as a tea – time  low calorie snack – Season 2 tbsp oil with mustard, 1 red chilly, 1sprig curry leaves and crushed garlic -2 cloves (optional). Lower heat. Add 3 tbsps groundnuts, saute till color deepens, add 3 tbsps puffed bengal gram, again saute till lightly crisp. Add salt, a pinch of   turmeric and  1/4 tsp chilly powder(optional).  Add 100 gm puffed rice. Stir for 3 mins. Cool and store. As tasty as any fried mixture. Try it, you will love it!!!

Quick Tip – Wet puttu powder the evening before and keep in fridge.  You will be rewarded with extra-soft puttu for breakfast the next day.


About Paddy

When I married and came to Bangalore, it was a real ‘Pensioners’ Paradise.’ The climate was as today’s generation would say – ‘Awesome’. It was cool and pleasant throughout the year. My parents cautioned me to keep warm and have given me the loveliest Kashmir shawls, which I treasure to this day. Since I could not distinguish between rice and dal, cooking was an uphill task. I had a cook from Kerala, but the cold weather did not suit her and in a month’s time, she went back. Looking back, I have come a long way now… Cooking for me has metamorphosed from a daily routine of making edible and nutritious food for my family to an exciting journey of creativity by experimenting with different flavors and ingredients. To me, food is not only for nourishment and sustenance. Its taste and flavors take us back to our good times too. Food is nostalgia and comfort. It brings home our culture. Food is a treat and nourishment for the soul too. I dedicate this blog to my parents, who instilled in me a strong sense of ethics and discipline, and whose affection, love and support gives me strength in this journey of life. I feel the need of today’s generation, who come away from their homes and crave for home cooked food. To you too, I dedicate this blog, where I will share the recipes that I have learnt and grown to love over the years.


2 thoughts on “Semia Payasam – Once Upon a Time… A Birthday!

  1. The Payasam looks absolutely delicious Aunty!!! I feel like I can smell and taste it right now.. mmm yummy! It is one of my favourite payasms too! And easier to make than the other ones!
    It reminds me of my Grandfather’s payasam, he used to make it very well! Now I can make it too! Thanks to you!!! 🙂

    Posted by Deepika | February 27, 2012, 4:59 PM
  2. Deepika, Wonderful to hear that we share a love for Semia payasam.Great that you shared your memories! I am sure that the payasam will be as delicious when you make it.All the best!

    Posted by Paddy | February 27, 2012, 8:36 PM

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