I am back with another Mangalorean traditional sweet dish - the Vorn, Mangalore's very own version of the North Indian Kheer! Famously called as 'Payasa' in Karnataka and 'Payasam' across the rest of South India. It is typically a sweet dish made out of cooking broken rice or wheat or vermicelli in flavoured and sweetened milk and garnished with dry fruits and nuts. However, while milk is the most common base for the Payasa, coconut milk is used in places where coconuts are in abundance. Ok! I won't go on and on about the various uses of the coconut, but yes, the Vorn or Payasa has a distinct flavour and richness that can come from coconut milk alone. Score!
Vorn as we call it in Konkani used to be made for special occasions only. When I was a kid, special occasions always meant grand food - a feast which of course had a grand finale, the sweet dish. Every grandma had her own version of the Vorn, the recipe of which she handed over to her daughter who then passed on to her's (well, mine is pretty much the hand-me-down too, tweaked here and there).
The term 'ghasa ghasa payasa' in Kannada means - piping hot payasam and that is exactly how I remember having Vorn during my childhood. Literally a huge vessel with boiling Vorn, bubbling over. Fresh, piping hot and delicious. Some foods in life will never let you forget the people or incidents associated with it. In this case, it is my mother. I can still remember the large Indalium thoplen (vessel) in which she made huge quantities of Vorn whether it was for a large number of people or just for immediate family members (keeping in mind the second and third helpings they would come back for). Vorn, somehow miraculously never got over, the Indalium vessel was something like an 'akshayapatram' ('akshaya' in Sanskrit means inexhaustible and 'paatram' means vessel). We often had leftovers stowed into the fridge to be eaten the next day. Vorn tastes great whether it is eaten fresh and hot and even when it is nice and chilled.
When I tried my hand at making the Vorn for the first time last week, I was wondering if it was a healthy bet at all. But then, unlike other sweet dishes, this one wont kill you. There is no ghee or oil involved and no refined products. Just Green Gram boiled in water and then flavoured with coconut milk and cardamom, sweetened with jaggery, thickened with powdered rice and garnished with raisins and cashewnuts/almonds (which ofcourse you can limit). My version is with reduced sweetness, if you prefer your sweets extra sweet, add some generous amount of jaggery.
Yield: 8 medium size desert/custard bowls
- 1/4 kg split green gram without skin (dhuli moong dal)
- 30 gms raw rice (Kolam/Surai/Belthige) (less than quarter cup) * see note
- 1/4 kg jaggery (gur) * see note
- 4 pods cardamom (elaichi) powdered
- 1 large coconut grated
- 25gms cashewnuts (kaju)
- 25gms raisins (kishmish)
- pinch salt
1. Extract thick and thin milk from the grated coconut. It should yield about 1-1/2 cups of thick milk and 2 cups of thin milk. Set aside. Soak the raw rice for 15-20minutes, grind to a fine paste with a little water.
2. Wash the green gram 2-3 times and place it in a thick bottomed pan with sufficient water (about 3 cups). Cook till half done. Add the thin coconut milk, jaggery and salt and cook for a further 3-4 minutes
3. Add the ground rice paste and stir to continuously to avoid it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. You will notice that the mixture has thickened. Cook on slow fire for a few minutes.
4. Add the thick coconut milk, powdered cardamom, raisins and cashewnuts. Cook for another 2-3 minutes
5. Remove from flame. Serve hot. The Vorn tends to thicken up when it cools down so reheat to make it thinner before serving.
1. The rice powder is used to thicken the Vorn. If you want thicker consistency add upto 60gms rice (about quarter cup)
2. Jaggery is usually the same quantity as the green gram - I have used just 175gms as I prefer it less sweet. You can use 1/4kg jaggery if you like it really sweet. It also depends on how sweet the jaggery is - the one we get in Mumbai is less sweet and includes some amount of salt. So add in small quantities till you are satisfied with the level of sweetness.
The main ingredient here - Green Gram is one of the most wholesome pulses with its origin traced back to India. It is consumed in the form of whole dried seeds, split as a dal (lentil) and sprouted moong beans are highly nutritious. Moon Dal is very beneficial for the sickly, infants and is a laxative when given in large quantities. The moong dal is also used as a beauty aid - effective to clear blemishes and dandruff. So why don't we incorporate this lovely source of protein in your daily diet?