Roasted Vermicelli Pudding: Payasam, a South Indian Dessert

This recipe comes from Janice D'Souza, who grew up in the Manglorean Catholic community of South India. See the notes regarding shortcuts and ingredient sources. Janice says she cooks this, as her mother did, quickly and easily, as other foods for the meal are cooking, too. See other recipes in Janice D'souza's Mangalorean meal made from Kentucky ingredients here.

Ingredients for two servings

Roasted vermicelli, one fistful per person

Ghee (clarified butter)

Handful of cashews

Handful of raisins

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 Tablespoons brown sugar, or more to taste; if you used the optional condensed milk, you don't need the sugar

1 teaspoon cardamom powder (optional)

1 can whole coconut milk

2 Tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (optional)


  1. Please note you will divide these ingredients into two pans that cook at the same time—ideally while you cook the rest of Janice's meal. You will mix the two batches of ingredients together at the end.
  2. In one large saucepan, put enough ghee to cover the bottom generously; heat the pan over medium heat until the ghee is fragrant.
  3. Add the roasted vermicelli, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces if necessary.
  4. Toast the vermicelli in the hot ghee until it is super-roasted to a nice, nutty brown. Add the raisins and cashews to this pan as the vermicelli is getting close to nut-brown.
  5. At the same time you start toasting the vermicelli, in a medium saucepan, over medium heat, warm the coconut milk, turmeric, sugar, along with the cardamom, if using. Omit the sugar if you use the optional sweetened condensed milk, which you add now. Stir or whisk to combine, and keep a close eye on the liquid so it does not get too hot, scorch, or boil over. It does not need to boil, but it should get steamy and very warm.
  6. When the liquid is very warm and the vermicelli is quite toasty, gently add the liquid to the vermicelli pan, stir, and continue cooking over low-moderate heat, stirring often until the mixture thickens. It is done when it is thickened, and not too liquid.


  1. Roasted vermicelli is available at Indian groceries, some supermarkets, and online.
  2. You can substitute regular milk for the coconut milk.
  3. You can use any kind of sugar, including granulate white.
  4. Janice's mother sometimes makes this dessert with tapioca pearls instead of vermicelli.
  5. Split green dal is also an option for this pudding. See