Some things in life are beautiful in their simplicity. Palada does this for deserts. Just a few ingredients – rice , sugar, milk, a little ghee and a pinch of cardamom – that is all it takes to make this popular Kerala sweet treat. Bakeries along the streets of Ernakulam usually displays “Palada” signs. The number of signs multiply during the festival seasons. This being a milk based desert gets spoilt easily in the tropical heat and humidity. So a fresh batch arrives every morning and is usually sold out before noon , especially during Onam and Vishu. Even my lactose intolerant MIL finds it difficult not to buy a container.
You can make these with fresh homemade ada or store bought ones , in a pinch even use broken rice noodles. Each option changes the texture and taste a little, but all are delicious. I prefer homemade fresh Ada , and here is my recipe for quick and easy fresh homemade Ada .
The first step is to prepare the Ada. If using fresh , rise and strain. If using store bought follow the instrictions on the package or just soak in warm water for 20 minutes, rinse and drain.
In a heavy bottomed pan heat the milk. Once it is hot add the drained ada. Stir every now and then to prevent the bits from sticking to each other. Once the milk has come to a boil add the sugar and keep on medium heat till the milk has thickened a little, about 20 to 30 minutes. I like it be medium thick, so 30 minutes is usually sufficient. Keep stirring every few minutes to prevent the milk from boiling over as well as getting stuck to and burnt in the pan. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Keep the heat on low.
Remove the cardamom seeds from the pods and crush into a fine powder using a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a small pan (kadai) and fry the cashew nuts. Once it has browned evenly remove and set aside. If adding raisins repeat the same process with them as well.
Add 1 tsp ghee to the kadai. Once the ghee has reached its smoking point add 2 Tbsp sugar and reduce the flame to low. Let the sugar caramelize. Once it is fully melted and the brown caramel is formed pour a few tablespoons , about a 1/4 C or so, of the hot liquid from the palada over it. Be careful at this step , it could splutter and splash all over. The caramel solidifies in the pan . Keep the heat low to medium and stir until all the caramel is dissolved and pink/brown solution is formed . Add this liquid back to the palada . Sprinkle the cardamom powder and half the fried raisins and cashew nuts . Turn off the heat .
Let the ad cool for at least 30 minutes. It will thicken a little more as it cools. Transfer to the serving dishes , garnish with the remaining nuts and raisins and serve.
I like my palada to be white in color with hint of caramel, the same flavor it acquires after long hours of stirring and thickening in large Uruli. If you prefer it to be a bit more pink increase the amount of caramelized sugar .