Tag Archives: Memory

Payesh : Rice pudding from Eastern India


It is 1 am. You are listening to this. You are flipping through his web album, staring at his pictures. So many He-s. You cannot decide which one is your favourite. The one where he is at the TT table, his eye on the ball, the one where you can see the filigree of veins on his arm. Or the one where he is looking out at the sea, his body framed by a fossilised tree.

And then…

R is engaged to R

176 people like this.

So you sigh and sigh and sigh and sigh.  You wish you had said something. Something other than “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps

And then you get up. You walk to the refrigerator. You open it and you say something that rhymes with luck. You curse yourself for having been greedy. For having munched down your last bar of Lindt 85% Cocoa. Curse yourself even harder because you are on a diet.

So you make this. You make this because you know it will take an hour. And you want something to comfort you. You break some rules.  You want to be a good girl no more. You don’t want to soak the rice. You don’t want to boil the milk. You put the water on boil and you add the rice. You add the milk. And you stir and stir and stir and stir. You think about your first memory of this. Of you and your sister. Of that big house with big people. Their big laughter. Your father’s people.

You remember your little sister and her big frown. You remember how she screwed up her face when people called you twins. You remember sitting cross-legged on the terrace with her. With your other cousins. Waiting for the bhojji to start. Waiting for someone to place a leaf plate in front of you. You are hungry. You have been running up and down the house all day. Up and down and up and down and up and down. It is May. Your cousin is getting married. You have lost your first tooth.

You think all this and you stir and stir and stir and stir. You add the cashew-nuts and raisins. And you sigh. You remember the array of dishes in front of you. How the dali almost scalded your tongue. How your sister lifted the khajuri from her tamata-khajuri khata (date and tomato chutney) and placed it on your plate. How you wondered why that leaf bowl beside your plate was still empty. How you saw a steel balti swinging by you. You remember the balti stopping before you and  this being dropped into your bowl. “Paaess“, he had said. You lick the dali-bhata off your fingers and dip your fingers inside the bowl. It is hot. You do what your mother does before she plunks those tiny spheres of dalma-bhata into your sister’s mouth everyday. You blow on it. Phu-Phu-Phu. You love this stuff. You love its velvety texture. You love the fact that your sister picks out all the kaju in her bowl and places it in yours. You ask for a second helping.

You turn off the heat and add the jaggery. And you stir and stir and stir and stir. You sigh. You decide to taste a spoonful of the payesh. And you smile.


Rice : 3-4 tablespoons

Milk (full fat) : One litre

Sugar : According to taste, plus some more for making the caramel

Date jaggery : A small piece

Cashew nuts : 8-10

Raisins : 8-10

Cardamom : One pod, crushed

Ghee : One tablespoon


-You can make this even if you don’t have date jaggery available. Add some date syrup at the end. Or do what my mother does. Increase the amount of caramel. You will end up with a payesh that looks and tastes almost like the real thing.

-You can use normal basmati rice in place of gobind bhog. Just make sure you cook it till it breaks down.

-You can boil and reduce the milk to a  half, cook the rice till it breaks down, and then combine and cook them together. This would be quicker, I think.

-Some professional cooks in Orissa add creme as a shortcut. I wouldn’t recommend that.

Tap on the first picture to see a step-by-step demonstration. There are typos in some of the pictures. I have not been able to edit those. Do overlook them.


Manda Pitha : Steamed Rice Cakes from Orissa


The dishes that were put out on our dinner table were determined by three things. One, what caught my father’s fancy during his daily morning trip to the haat (the local market). Two, by the Panji (the Oriya almanac, see this ) , which was kept with my mother’s puja samagri ,  and was consulted every so often. And three, by the day of the week. Since we were practicing Hindus, this meant we could have non-vegetarian food only on “meat days” of the week. If you like me were brought up in a Hindu household, you will know what I am talking about. How Monday was dedicated to Lord Shiva (and therefore was a ” no-meat” day), and Saturdays to Shani (also a “no-meat” day). So in our household there were only three days in a week that were earmarked “meat-days”. On all other days we would eat vegetarian meals. But the Panji always had the last word. So, if a small batch of prawns caught my father’s eyes at the haat one morning, and he promptly brought them home hoping to find a hot prawn curry in his lunch dabba, and the Panji had ear marked that day for a specific fast, my mother would glare at him and say “I have a fast to keep today. How could you forget? How could you bring these home today ?” Ofcourse, the prawns would be thrown inside the freezer compartment of our Godrej refrigirator. Ofcourse by my father. My mother wouldn’t touch them. Not when she was fasting.

It was on the days that she was fasting that she would usually make pithas. Pithas are a broad category of fried or steamed (and sometimes baked) cakes (for the want of a better word) made with a variety of flours usually with a sweet filling inside. Though these are sweet, they are not considered desserts and you will not find them at the mitha dokan (sweet shop).  They are made exclusively at home, usually during festivals or certain fasts. And with most things cooked during the day of the fast, these would first be anointed with tulsi leaves (holy basil) and offered to the Gods, and only then would we be allowed to have our share. Manda pitha is a steamed pitha made with rice flour (or paste, as I have done here) with a sweet coconut filling inside. The recipe for the filling  that I have used is the most basic one. Every home has its own signature take and sort of builds up on this, embellishing it with a variety of things. So in some homes they add a handful of channa dal, cooked al dente to the coconut mixture, while in some others they add some crumbled chhenna (paneer/cottage cheese). Some even spice it up with some crushed pepper which, if you ask me really adds some kick to the mixture.  These pithas can be had just by themselves, or as a part of a whole meal.  They go well with the quintessential Oriya dish called Dalma. You could even serve them with some kheer, or even team it up with a hot curry.


-I have used jaggery here. You can replace it with sugar by all means. But make sure you caramelize the sugar.

-You can use just water instead of a mixture of water and milk while making the dough.

-Let the pithas rest for a while before you remove them from the steamer. They will break if you remove them immediately. Slide a spatula and lift the pithas gently.

-The amount of time the rice will need to cook will depend on the type of rice, and the time it has been left to soak. It will help if you keep a cup or two of boiling water ready, in case you need more.

-While making the dough, start whisking the mixture first with a whisk, and then fold with a spatula. This will prevent lumps. If you have made upma before, this wont be a terribly difficult step to master.}


Rice : 1 1/2 cups

Milk: 1 1/2 cups

Water: 1 cup


Coconut (grated)

Salt : a pinch or two

Cardamom : 2-3 pods

Cashewnuts : 5-6

Raisins : a small handful

Ghee: 2-3 teaspoons

For a step-by-step instruction click on the first picture. You can also see the slide show here: