Elaneer payasam’s recipe is a must.
Not all South Indian sweets and desserts have been around forever. Mysore Pak, a sinful delicacy that is made with three ingredients, is a 20th century phenomenon – a savory delight that was invented in the royal kitchens of Mysore Palace. The Elaneer payasam is an even more recent phenomenon. Although many sweets use coconut milk or tender coconut kernels in parts of southern India, the idea of combining them into a delicate cold dessert with reduced milk is a relatively new development.
A payasam (or kheer) is an integral part of a great festive meal of banana leaves from South India. Over the past few decades we have adopted the Western model and serve payasams as a dessert at the end of the meal. It was not always eaten at the end of the meal. It was not uncommon for a candy or payasam to be served as the first course of a traditional banana leaf meal. In addition, payasams were usually served hot or at room temperature. The concept of a cold semiya payasam (kheer semolina) or paal payasam (kheer milk) probably took off in the 1970s and 1980s when refrigerators became more common in urban areas of southern India. A traditional South Indian payasam usually contains rice or lentils and is usually slightly sweet without too much spice infusions.
The first time I tried the Elaneer payasam was at Southern Spice (see recipe below) at Taj Coromandel, Chennai. This restaurant debuted in the late 1990s and eventually the Elaneer payasam became one of their signature desserts. Restaurants like Southern Spice are fond of Pollachi coconuts (near Coimbatore) for the extraction of coconut milk and almonds. The tender flesh inside the coconut is also known as “Vazhukkai” in Tamil. It is also called an elaneer. This adds a wonderful light texture to the elaneer payasam. Elaneer is also used to refer to the tender coconut water. Elaneer’s health benefits have made it a staple of summer diets in South India. It has a high concentration of electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals (like calcium, potassium, and magnesium). It is also rich in amino acids known to repair tissue and are building blocks of protein.
The unique textures and subtle flavors of tender coconut or elaneer have now made it a popular ingredient in Western desserts in cities like Chennai and Bengaluru where tender coconut mousse or ice cream. tender coconuts are no longer exotic. The payasam Elaneer has also gradually become a staple of South Indian restaurants and wedding menus. And just like the Mysore Pak, it has acquired classic status despite its recent origins.
Recipe Elaneer Paysasm:
(Recipe courtesy – Sujan Mukherjee – Executive Chef, Taj Coromandel, Chennai)
This payasam recipe is the perfect balance between reduced milk, coconut milk, jaggery and coconut kernel. While it’s relatively straightforward to do, the key is to balance the sweetness and use the softer pits as well. The Southern Spice team believes this dish should be eaten immediately (within 6 hours from the time it is prepared).
Number of servings – 6
Fresh coconut milk – 600 ml
Tender coconut – 200 grams
Jaggery – 100 grams (can be increased or decreased according to your personal taste)
Reduced milk – 150 ml
Scrape the flesh of the tender coconut and finely chop it and set aside.
Refrigerate all ingredients except the jaggery.
Reduce the jaggery to a fine powder.
Add the thick, cool coconut milk, mix the mixture well and sift.
Now add the reduced milk) and the tender chopped coconut almonds, stir and mix gently.
Serve as fresh.
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About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie – a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are generally the start of our culinary discoveries, this curiosity has not weakened. It was even stronger that I explored culinary cultures, street food and gourmet restaurants around the world. I discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motives. I am also passionate about writing about consumer technology and travel.