Sunday, 14 August 2011

Varalakshmi Vratam - Semiya Payasam, Pulagam

Varalakshmi vratam is considered an auspicious day for married Hindu women. It is observed on the second Friday in the month of Sravan of the Hindu calendar and Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of wealth and prosperity) is worshipped on this day. The details on how this festival is celebrated is written very well here, so i won't re-write the whole thing again. I would only like to share with you how i have celebrated it in my home with my mother-in-law, what we cooked and recipes for some of those. It is considered auspicious to offer the Goddess five varieties of cooked delicacies and five varieties of fruits. We made Purnalu (Boorelu), Payasam, Garelu (Vada), Pulihora (Lemon Rice) and Pulagam. And the fruits were bananas, apples, grapes, pomegranates and sweet lime.
My mother-in-law made Purnalu as i am yet to learn the process for it and i cooked the remaining four items. The recipe for lemon rice, i have already posted here. Only this time, there were lots of cashews in it. In this post i will tell you how i made payasam and pulagam. And you need to wait till my next post for the recipe for Garelu.
Payasam: This is a sweet milk pudding made traditionally for most festivals celebrated in my state and different ingredients like rice, vermicelli and pearl sago (or a combination of them) are used as the main ingredient. I made the vermicelli version and in my language this is called semiya payasam. My husband doesn't like milk, so i used a cup of water and only 1 cup of milk to cook my payasam. As you can see in the photo, its quite thick and you can hardly see any milk in the final version. But if you want a richer version you can even substitute the water with more milk. Also the pudding thickens when its cooling, so if you want a thinner version, reduce the amount of vermicelli and increase the milk. Below is my mom's recipe.  
Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: Under 15 minutes

  • 2 Tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or oil
  • 2 tablespoons cashew nuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 cup vermicelli
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 pods green cardamom, crushed

Heat the ghee (i used olive oil) in a saucepan over low to medium-low heat. Add the cashew nuts and fry till light brown. Remove to a plate and add the raisins into the same oil. Fry for less than a minute till the raisins fluff up, immediately remove to a plate. Now add the vermicelli into the same oil and fry over medium heat till golden brown. 
Add the water and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the vermicelli from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the water is all absorbed, add sugar and cook for two minutes. Add the milk and cardamom. Stir frequently until the vermicelli is soft. You can check for sweetness and add more sugar towards the end if required. Payasam is delicious served hot, warm, or chilled.

Pulagam: This is a very simple preparation and hardly has a recipe. It is considered a favourite of Goddess Lakshmi. I got this recipe from my aunt, mom's sister, who is very good at cooking festive dishes.
  • 1/2 cup rice (any variety, i used Basmati)
  • 1/2 cup moong dal/ split green gram/ pesara pappu
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch of turmeric
  • salt to taste (about 3/4 teaspoon)
Wash the rice and dal together a couple of times until the water runs clear. Add the water, turmeric and salt and cook on medium heat in an open pot. Remove any foam formed during cooking and stir occasionally. It may take about 15-20 minutes for the rice to cook through. Remove from flame and transfer to a serving bowl. This can be served with mango pickle or peanut chutney or any gravy curry.
There is a similar dish called Katte Pongali (Ven Pongal) that can be prepared from Pulagam by adding a tempering. For that heat 2 table spoons of oil in a pan, add 1 teaspoon of cumin, 2 sliced green chilies, 1 teaspoon of peppercorns, 2 sprigs of curry leaves and saute for a minute. Mix this with the pulagam above and serve.


  1. Yummy food! We (mallus) make almost all of this preparation; but call it by different names.

  2. For the first time on my blog, i resisted giving the English names :-) I guess a lot of South Indian dishes are similar..


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