This is the payasam of my childhood. My mother would make it on festival days. For me, all other payasams were just wanna be’s. This payasam always was the real thing. Amma never showed me how she made this. I have tried to recreate it from childhood memories and without fresh coconut milk
The key to all payasams is to carefully cook the milk till it thickens and forms layers of creamy texture. This requires stirring constantly over a low to medium heat so it does not scald. If it does, the flavor of the payasam will be marred by the taste of burnt milk.
In a large heavy pot bring the milk to boil while stirring frequently and lower the heat and continue to cook the milk until it reduces and start to thicken. Rich cream will float on top in layer. Be sure to stir constantly lest it scald. Continue to cook the milk for 30 or so minutes and then add the cooked rice and lentils and cook
Tinned coconut milk is available in many grocery stores in the asian section or at asian food markets. The light version is not very good for making payasam. If you want to make it light, have buttermilk instead of payasam. If you have access to fresh coconuts you can make your own by grating fresh coconut and grinding it in a wet grinder with some water and then extracting the coconut milk with a strainer.