Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bottle gourd pudding/ kheer - sorakkai payasam

Change.org|Start Petition

My first introduction to the ambiguous nature of poppy seeds was through a Seinfeld(a TV show) episode where Elaine (one of the characters) failed a drug test because of poppy seed muffins she ate for breakfast. It stuck in mind as something to remember as I also knew first hand that even small quantities did induce sleepiness. I don't much care for poppy seeds on top of muffins, bagels, cookies or whatever, ground into a paste and used in a chicken curry or this coconut curry is another matter altogether. The last time I went for a drug test (for a job), I made sure I did not go near poppy seeds the previous day - True story.

If there is a chance you could be a transit passenger through UAE(Dubai) poppy seeds might land you in serious trouble if you transport them.

When I heard the news it reminded me of another poppy seed story. A while ago, I saw a recipe using a fairly large quantity of poppy seeds in a very popular blog and left an innocuous, but seriously curious comment asking if it caused intoxication or drowsiness. The word intoxication was used in a humorous way. What exactly made me pose the question? My most favorite paal curry kuzhambu a constant in my grandma's house, it induces drowsiness a fact that everyone using poppy seeds in the kitchen seemed to be very aware of, and in my kitchen I relegate them to being a weekend treat. For the longest time I thought and I still do think that non-veg (chicken, mutton) are cooked mostly on the weekends because the usage of spices poppy seeds included cause drowsiness. A heavy meal followed by a satisfying nap used to be a Sunday ritual for a lot of us.

The blogger took exception to the question. The comment section became a battlefield. The humor missed its mark big time and the comment was misconstrued to be an insult. But it did teach an important lesson regarding blogging, tradition and recipes. One, people bloggers take this thing way too seriously, two what is tradition to me is not exactly tradition for the reader and lot of bloggers seem not to be able to differentiate humor from insult. Recipes and traditions vary from family to family. It is fair to expect respect from a commenter, it is my blog after all, but if a comment casts some doubts or questions about say my grandma's recipe, is it an insult to my grandmother or my tradition? Of course not.

With that I will put an end to poppy seed talk and move on to this really tasty recipe. Also want to clarify poppy seeds has been used in Indian cooking for a long time and drowsiness is perhaps its most serious side effect.

I just barely tolerate bottle gourds for the most part. The only recipe where they seem to fit nicely is a combination of black eyed peas and bottle gourd (replacing the brinjals with bottle gourd). Last week my neighbor gave me a bottle gourd in a shape that I have never seen before round and stocky, I was more familiar with the long one. I thought of making the above mentioned curry but decided instead to make the bottle gourd payasam, which I had tasted in another neighbor's house a while ago. A phone call later armed with the recipe I set out to make the payasam. My neighbor suggested using ricotta cheese (a substitute for paneer) but I did not have any and substituted with ground almonds. Poppy seeds would have given another level of richness and taste but I did not think of it then.

Bottle gourd pudding - sorakkai payasam
1. 2-3 cups of grated bottle gourd (discard the spongy insides and peel the skin)
2. 1/4 cups of almonds soaked in hot water and skin removed and blended to a paste (optional 1/2 tbsp of poppy seeds soaked and grounded to a paste)
3. 3 cups of milk
4. 1/2 - 3/4 cups of sugar
5. 2-3 tbsp of roasted pistachios and almonds roughly chopped
6. 2 cardamom pods powdered
7. 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese (optional, I used almond paste)

1. In a heavy bottomed pan add the grated bottle gourd and milk and set it to cook (alternatively use a pressure cooker to cook the bottle gourd) till the bottle gourds is completely cooked and the milk thickens (about 20-30 minutes)
2. When the bottle gourd is completely cooked add the ricotta cheese or the almond paste, sugar and cardamom powder
3. Cook for 3-4 more minutes
4. Sprinkle the nuts just before serving


  1. I didn't know that poppy seeds cause to drowsiness. We use it liberally in our kitchen too.

    And that bottle gourd, even I have never seen this shape ever. Give me bottle-gourd and I'll give you a yummy curry back! :) I love bottle-gourd and can use it in various dishes.

    Love your kheer and looks so beautiful in handsome bowls. I like your recipe for black eyed peas and bottle gourd too. :)

  2. I have not had this kheer in a long time. Looks delicious!

  3. My mom's sister always want to take poppy seed to Abudhabi as for using in non veg dishes but she can never take saying they will say it is drug.
    I agree about tradition vary in home etc.... look at me my place is always a mix and match of everything, i am sure when S is my age or older she will make something and tell it is traditional and some one will say hell this is not traditional at all :-)
    Some ppl take everything so serious.
    Love the kheer it is ages ago i made any kind of kheer here.

  4. I found about poppy seeds from that Seinfeld episode too and was very surprised. That's when I understood why that was banned in Singapore... didn't know that Dubai is on that list too. I think it lends a really nice touch to south indian kurmas thought I don't use it a whole lot.. just a bit. I've never used it in payasam though I remember seeing a payasam made with poppy seeds on someone's blog.
    Must try payasam with bottle gourd sometime... why don't you try making koftas with bottle gourd.. ?that was how my parents first converted us into liking this veggie.

  5. Sonia, yes it is used in kitchens all over India. For me it induces sleep and hence use them only during the weekends :) Thank you, for the lovely compliment.

    Usha, maybe it is time?

    HC, absolutely. Tradition is ever malleable and that is why it has survived.

    Laavanya, it is kind of funny that Seinfeld has perpetuated this myth.
    Oh yes! I forgot about koftas completely. Well next time.

  6. Hey Indo.. yes I too remember that episode! :) Somehow I am not a big fan of poppy seeds regardless. Funny about your comment episode. I often worry about my own tone and jokes in comments or posts... but whachugonnadoo.. whatever will be will be.

  7. Beautiful kheer, am just drooling rite now here..

  8. Bottle gourd kheer looks very inviting, my mom too makes but more of halwa :)

  9. Nice blog! Bumped into it thru google.

  10. I know that sorakai, great favourite the shape. Don't see it much nowadays.

    A certain level of relaxation and a certain level of comfort with the language in which we're communicating are both necessary to assess what was intended - they could counter that you're only an anonymous blogger and not a friend to joke around with them. Too bad there aren't as many easygoing ppl as we like in the world! :(

  11. I so agree with you: years ago, my aunt was a bit heavy-handed with poppy seeds while making coconut curry for Sunday lunch, and boy, the whole family crashed into a long siesta :) Totally know that poppy seeds can have a mildly narcotic effect.
    Funny- I have a bottle gourd in the fridge (first time I bought it in years) and your kheer looks so wonderful. I might have to try it.

  12. HI ISG, hope you are doing good. That Seinfield episode was hilarious, but a little over the top. A special kheer made poppy seeds called ghasghase payasam is a Karnataka speciality.
    Apparently poppy seeds removes heat from body according to Ayurveda.
    I like this simple and easy payasam.

  13. Really? - poppy seeds created such a big scene?? time to lighten up me thinks!

  14. wow! sounds so yummy.... you know what puzzles me.. I've never noticed the sleep effects of khasa khasa till now.

    mom makes khasa khasa halwa... no idea where the original recipe came from... but this one is real yummy.. I've never made it though.


  15. I didn't know poppy seeds caused drowsiness! It is used in small quantities in cooking to bring thickness to gravies or for decoration. I do know it is banned in Uae- a local grocer told me so.

  16. I have heard about poppy seeds inducing drowsiness from someone who had made a poppy seed kheer (south indian style) for us. I had never thought about this effect even after knowing that poppy seeds is used almost as a drug (not medication) in certain parts of the world, including India; and we bongs eat so much poppy seeds. but it does make sense in inducing drowsiness.

    in bengal we eat lau(lauki) kheer too, but this one here sounds rich and beautiful.


Thanks for stopping by. Appreciate you taking the time.
Comments embedded with links, spam and in poor taste will not be published.