Payesh (Rice Kheer)

Payesh (Rice Kheer)

Just like a birthday is incomplete without cake, for us Bengalis, birthdays are incomplete without Payesh. Every Bengali mom mandatorily makes payesh for their children on birthdays, and the entire family feeds the birthday boy or girl one spoon each and blesses them for the coming year. Payesh is a very common dessert that is prepared in Bengali households to celebrate any kind of occasion. Well, even I have carried forward this tradition of making payesh on my children’s birthdays, this makes me feel connected to my cultural roots. 

What is Payesh or Rice Kheer?

Payesh is a traditional Bengali sweet, and it is difficult to imagine any special occasion or festival without it! Payesh, one of Bengal’s most popular dessert recipes, is here to take the crown. This sweet rice pudding embraces all types of celebrations and festivals, making them even more joyful and euphoric than before.

Payesh, like kheer, is made with love from simmering milk mixed with rice, sugar, and a pinch of cardamom powder, topped with a dazzling garnish of chopped pistachios, cashew nuts, and almonds. There’s something about authentic Bengali cuisine that we can’t get enough of. Payesh is primarily made with a special rice called Gobindobhog rice, which has a distinct aroma that enhances the flavour and sweetness of this dessert. However, you can use regular basmati rice or whatever is readily available and still have a superbly delicious indulgence before you.

During winters, my mom used to make payesh with gur or jaggery, which I was deeply fond of. This milk rice pudding with jaggery tastes exceptionally amazing. But, I have mentioned winter here because, in Bengal, the purest and most authentic gur is available only during the months of winter. There is a special gur known as nolen gur. Payesh with nolen gur is like a dessert directly from heaven. But, nolen gur is not available here in USA, so I mostly prepare it with sugar and sometimes with jaggery. 

Notable Ingredients At A Glance 

Milk – For a creamy and rich texture, use whole milk (full-fat milk). If you are a vegan, you can use any plant-based milk, but the texture of the payesh won’t be much creamy. 

Rice – This traditional dessert is made with Gobindobhog rice, a special small-grain rice with its own authentic aroma that adds to the dish’s flavour and aroma.  If you can’t find it, substitute any short-grain rice.

Bay leaves – Bay leaves add a mild aroma to the dish that isn’t overpowering while still providing a pleasant aroma.

Sugar – Adjust as per your taste.

Jaggery (patali gur or palm jaggery) – As I mentioned earlier, the addition of jaggery makes the dish exceptionally tasty. Hence, I have used jaggery but it is totally optional. 

Dried Nuts & Fruits – To add a nice crunch to the otherwise creamy payesh, add dried nuts like cashews, unsalted pistachios, almonds, and golden raisins. 

How To Prepare Payesh or Rice Kheer?

Begin by washing and soaking the rice for 30 minutes, then drain well.

Now, take a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the milk to it and bring it to a boil; keep stirring frequently. Add the bay leaves to the milk at the very beginning.

Once the milk is boiled, lower the heat and add the washed rice. Cook on low or medium-low for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

When the consistency of the milk has reduced, and you have acquired the required consistency of the payesh add the raisins and nuts, and keep simmering the milk, so the rice is cooked well.  

Add the sugar at this stage. Keep stirring because we don’t want this pudding to catch at the bottom and burn. 

After 10 minutes, check if the rice is cooked well and is mushy. If not, keep simmering on low, stirring frequently.

Once the rice is cooked, turn the heat off and add the jaggery. After adding the jaggery, DO NOT heat the payesh as it might curdle. 

Let the patali gur or jaggery melt slowly and then stir to incorporate. If you don’t have gur, just increase the sugar to 4 tablespoons. 

Your payesh is now ready to be served. You can garnish it with some more dry fruits and nuts before serving. 

Some Expert Tips for Preparing Payesh or Rice Kheer

  • If you are a beginner and are unsure about adding the jaggery directly to the mixture, keep some warm milk aside and let the jaggery melt in it. Instead of adding the jaggery directly, you can add this jaggery milk later.
  • You can add some ghee for an enhanced flavor and aroma. 
  • Only add the sugar when the rice is nicely cooked and near the end of the cooking time. Adding sugar before cooking prevents the rice from cooking.
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