The King of Kerala Desserts: Ada Pradhamam
The term “payasam,” often called “kheer,” is commonly used to refer to traditional, syrupy, milk-based Indian desserts. Every state in India has its own variation of this delicacy, which differs depending on the specific ingredients, the manner of preparation, the type of milk used, and the spices used such as ada, vermicelli, lentils, fruits, etc.
One of the most popular desserts of Kerala in South India is Ada Pradhaman. It is also known as the King of Desserts. A base of smooth rice interspersed with crunchy cashew nuts and thick ghee, swimming in pure coconut milk, is not a delicacy that many can resist. One of the most luxurious payasams and a must-serve during Onam Sadya, Ada Pradhaman is indeed a dessert of joy.
When talking about Ada Pradhaman, Palada Pradhaman can never skip the thought. The main difference between them is that Ada Pradhaman is prepared with jaggery and coconut milk, whereas Palada Pradhaman is prepared with cow’s milk and sweetened with sugar.
Ada’ is a tiny square-shaped rice flake. Ada the basic ingredient used for this type of pradhaman is prepared with Unakkalari(a type of raw rice) powder. A very thin batter is prepared by grinding the soaked Unakkalari. Coconut oil is smeared on a banana leaf upon which the thin rice batter is spread over. Then the banana leaf is tightly wrapped and steam cooked. Once cooked the steamed batter can be removed from the banana leaf and cut into small squares. This is then sun dried. Ada gives a delicate texture and special flavour and taste to this dessert.
Ada tends to stick to each other, and by roasting it in ghee one can retain its shape, and they will not stick together. The pradhaman is slow-cooked, to attain its thick, creamy consistency. The use of three versions of coconut milk with varying thickness is the highlight of this recipe and is the key to the perfection of this dish. Traditionally, freshly squeezed coconut milk is used. The first time it is extracted without adding any water, next time with little water and the third time again with little more water. Adding roasted coconut slices add that extra crunchiness to this payasam. One can even add seasonal fruit such as jackfruit, banana, mango and pineapple. Cardamom and dried ginger powder are used to flavor Ada Pradhaman.
The Ada Pradhaman is normally made in a big Uruli (wide open cooking vessel made of bell metal), which also adds up to the taste. The jaggery is melted and filtered to remove any impurities in it. Color of this payasam may vary based on the color of jaggery. This payasam tends to thicken over time.
If you want to have a taste of Kerala cuisine, get to taste Kerala’s own payasam at Amma’s South Indian Restaurant. You will know why Ada Pradhaman is known as the King of Desserts!