Saturday, 24 September 2016




          In the wild, bamboo clumps burst into bloom once in a dozen years or a few decades. Once a clump starts the flowering process, it spreads like a chain reaction across the whole forest, often culminating in the drying up of all the bamboo clumps, but not before they leave us with their wonderful gift of bamboo rice.

          This grain, the size of rice grains, but having the colour and texture of wheat is perhaps the hardest of cereals and is believed to possess medicinal properties which can boost health and induce rejuvenation. The blooms soon fade to give way to tons of bamboo rice, a tiny fraction of which germinates to bring forth new bamboo colonies.

Much of the grain is devoured by rodents and other forest critters, a good portion washed away by the rains and a small part collected by the tribal population. The ground beneath the clumps is swept clean and the ripe, dry grains strewn therein are swept together daily. The grit and chaff are removed and the grain brought to the market where it fetches a good price.

My mother used to make mulayari payasam at home when I was quite young. Neither my brothers, nor I would care to touch it for the grains were so hard to chew even after hours of cooking. It was decades later that I came to know of the technique of making superbly delicious mulayari payasam.

Last year, one of my husband’s friends had come here, wishing to visit the famous Tirunelli temple. The millenniums old temple nestles on top of a hill with the breathtaking view of the majestic, forest-clad Western Ghats (Brahmagiri and Nilgiri mountains) where an ancient stone aqueduct brings fresh, cool mountain water into the temple.

My husband took his friend to the temple. Behind the temple is a hotel and a curio shop run by the son of the temple priest. There, they had a couple of glasses of mulayari payasam. The payasam turned out to be delicious and my husband purchased a packet of fresh bamboo rice.

The shop owner was kind enough to share with him the technique of making this wonderful payasam. I soon made mulayari payasam at home and from my husband’s expression as he sipped it, I saw that the payasam had indeed far exceeded his expectations. Since then, I have cooked mulayari payasam several times, making subtle adjustments here and there, the result each time improving upon the previous one.

I joyously share with you my finest recipe for this gem among payasams. Do cook and enjoy!

Ingredients (to make 1.5 litres of payasam):

     1)    Bamboo rice (cleaned, washed and sun-dried) – 200 gm. (see note)


     2)    Grated coconut – 645 gm. (from two large coconuts)
     3)    Coconut kernel – 15 gm.
     4)    Cashew nuts – 10 gm.
     5)    Kismis (sultanas or seedless raisins) – 10 gm.
     6)    Jaggery (unrefined cane sugar) – 350 gm.
     7)    Cardamom pods – 6 Nos.
     8)    Ghee – 2 teaspoons
     9)    Water – 1525 ml.

To prepare:

          Put all the bamboo rice into the dry-grind jar of your food processor. Grind it on low speed (the first notch) for 4 seconds. Stir and repeat twice more (a total of 12 seconds). Take care not to exceed the time as you need plenty of broken rice for getting the right texture (see picture).

          Put the grated coconut into a food processor. Measure out and set aside 1500 ml. of water. Grind the coconut to fine paste in 2 or 3 batches using as much of the measured water as may be necessary. Pour the paste into a stainless sieve set atop a fitting vessel. Squeeze out the thick coconut milk and set aside.

          Soak the pomace (coconut solids) once or twice more in the remaining water, knead well, sieve out the thin coconut milk and set aside separately.

Put the broken bamboo rice together with the thin coconut milk into a pressure cooker. Set on high heat. As soon as you hear the first whistle, lower the heat and cook slowly for 5 minutes. Now switch off the heat. By the time the cooker depressurizes normally, the bamboo rice should cook to perfection.

In the meantime, put the jaggery together with 25 ml. of water into a pan. Set it on low heat. Stir occasionally till the jaggery melts fully. Sieve and set aside.

Peel the cardamom pods and crush the seeds to powder. Chop the kismis and the cashew nuts separately to fine bits and set aside. Chop the coconut kernel too likewise and set aside.

Put the contents of the pressure cooker together with the melted jaggery into your payasam vessel (use a thick bottomed vessel or pan if possible). Set on high heat and stir frequently. As soon as it comes to a boil, turn down the heat and let cook for 5 minutes so that the bamboo rice sweetens as it absorbs the jaggery.

          Now turn up the heat and pour in the thick coconut milk. Stir continuously as you do not want the payasam to burn at the base. As soon as it starts boiling nicely, tip in the cardamom powder and switch off the heat.

          Set a skillet or small pan on low heat. Pour in the ghee and tip in the coconut bits. Stir continuously till the coconut turns a light brown in colour. Now throw in the cashew bits and stir till the cashew turns the same colour. Tip in the kismis bits, stir once and switch off the heat.

Pour the sizzling contents into the payasam, stir and cover with a lid. Your supremely delicious mulayari payasam is now ready to enjoy. Serve hot.

As you drink the payasam and munch on the delicious bamboo grains, the fried coconut pieces and the cashew bits, you are in heaven!

Bon app├ętit!


          Peanut lovers try garnishing mulayari payasam with a handful of skinned, fried peanuts (ground nuts) and enjoy!


          Please do not confuse original reddish brown bamboo rice with the green (paddy grown white rice soaked in bamboo juice and dried) rice sold in markets under the false name of bamboo rice.

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