Kheer is a chilled South Asian wet dessert made from slow-cooked rice, milk, and jaggery or sugar, much like a rice pudding.
It is typically flavoured with saffron and/or cardamom.
It is garnished with raisins, and/or various nuts, notably pistachios, cashews, and almonds.
Yes! Kheer can also be made with cracked wheat, tapioca, or vermicelli instead of rice.
On what occasions is Kheer prepared?
Kheer is particularly popular in India, and it is commonly served at Muslim and Hindu festivals and special occasions.
There are numerous regional names for kheer, and in southern India it is sometimes called payasam, which is from the Malayalam word peeyusham, meaning “ambrosia” or “nectar.”
To make kheer, rice must be toasted in clarified butter or ghee first, and then added to an already boiling combination of milk, cream, and sometimes condensed milk and sugar.
This mixture must be allowed to simmer as the milk reduces, and flavouring such as cardamom, or saffron can be added.
When the milk has reduced to half its original volume, you add chopped almonds, cashew nuts & raisins.
The thickened pudding is then allowed to cool before chilling in the refrigerator and is usually served cold.
Kheer is believed to have originated in the Lord Jagannath Temple in Orissa almost 2,000 years ago. Traditionally, it was served as a special offering to the Hindu gods.
The practice of offering kheer spread to all corners of the South Asia region to a multitude of Hindu temples – the exact recipe was altered a bit depending on local traditions and tastes.
Currently, there are significant differences in Kheer from Southern, Eastern, and Northern India.
In Southern India, this rice dish is known by its Hindi name, payasam, and due to an ancient legend, it is served at temples as part of a treasured tradition.
The story originates from the Ambalappuzha temple and describes how Lord Krisha cleverly disguised himself as an old sage and challenged a local king to a chess match.
The king accepted the offer and for the bet, the king would owe a grain of rice for each square of the chessboard, but with one catch—each subsequent square would have double the grains of the previous.
The sage wins and the king realizes his mistake as he owes trillions of grains of rice. Krishna reveals himself and instead of forcing payment, he institutes a tradition that at the local temple, kheer shall be served freely to anyone who entered.