A milk, sugar and rice tradition

I recently moved into my first house and it brought back memories of my grandmother’s house where I was born, a place that still feels like home despite being a distant memory. There were cows in the backyard of the house that provided milk, and I remember my grandmother describing the Indian tradition to boil milk till it overflows when moving into a new house. It was a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Regardless of the meaning, I thought I should reconnect with the tradition, if not for anything but to associate with the warm memory of my first home.


I did not boil milk. Instead, I decided to do something different using milk.

Here is a simple method to make a milk-based dessert.


Milk (whole milk, the kind that has a thick blanket of cream on the top)


Rice (arborio rice or regular Indian rice)




Vanilla bean cut lengthwise


The quality of milk is key.

Rich whole milk that does not flow out when poured because of the top-layer of thick cream


Warm about three-quarter liters of milk in a heavy bottom vessel and dissolve about 40 grams of sugar in it. In a separate earthenware, oven safe dish, mix about 50 grams of rice and the split vanilla bean. Pour the warm sweetened milk into the earthenware container, mix and place in a 300˚C oven for about three hours or so, checking every 30 minutes or sooner until a dark golden brown, wrinkled, and slightly chewy skin has formed.



My friend in America calls it rice pudding, the tamil word for it is arisi payasam, and the Hindi word is kheer, and it is something one sees commonly as dessert in an Indian restaurant or in an Indian family home. Rice, milk and sugar are the main ingredients of this dish, and I thought it was steeped in the culture of the East. However, the dish from the East doesn’t bake in an oven to form a golden brown skin, instead it is cooked to a creamy consistency on the stove-top.


A few years ago my wife and I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast in northeastern Paris where the hostess took particular pride in the breakfast she served. Over the course of more than a week we had many discussions about French cuisine, cinema, and culture. Most days after breakfast we would walk to the metro station about 15 minutes away, but on some days the host would give us a ride, and we talked more. We rarely spoke in the evening because we returned late. On the day of our departure, we had breakfast, and then the hostess and host brought an earthenware pot that looked like a flower-pot with a brown skin on its interior surface. They asked us to taste it, and guess what it was. The flavors were familiar, but it looked different. Teurgoule, we were told was a Norman tradition of rice, milk and sugar baked slowly in an earthenware pot in the fading heat of a baker’s oven that had been turned-off after the morning’s baking. It was served during celebrations in Normandy, including to a newly wed bride. I didn’t guess the name of the dish but I enjoyed telling my grandmother about the Norman tradition just as much as I couldn’t help think about it now.

Teurgoule at the Bed and Breakfast in Paris



5 thoughts on “A milk, sugar and rice tradition

  1. Jyothi Thomas

    Nostalgic.. what is interesting is Madras Bala you connect the heart (experiences) and the taste buds, that is very special. Wonderful blend of the senses . I remember years ago in Madras Aavin used to supply milk in bottles and it had the same description, milk will not flow out till the cream is popped ... wow.. Interesting Payasam now I guess I must try my luck at this. Will look for the earthen oven safe dish ... this surely is "Sweet filled thought " ! Our very own Pal Payasam with a twist .. Good luck.

    I will write back once, I will try this out for sure. My challenge will be keeping in the oven for that long and how it will turn out here in Madras .. thank you ...

    1. Bala

      Post author

      Mrs. Thomas,

      Thank you very much for your kind words!

      I think the remember the Aavin milk bottles too. I definitely remember the Adyar store on the way to Besant Nagar and the smell of milk - I used to like the pal khova.

      I look forward to hearing what you think about the taste of the teurgoule when you make it.

      Thank you!

  2. nirmala vani

    Very interesting. Different names and forms for the same ingredients with different emotions attached.

    Your recollection of your childhood memories brought back memories of my conversations with my mother. I would want to know why a certain tradition was followed and she would patiently explain it to me.

    In days gone by when joint family system was in practice in India, many household reared cows in their backyard to cater milk to the need of the members of the household.Cow is considered auspicious and is worshiped in India. When one moved into a new home they would first walk the cow inside the house, and cow's milk will be boiled to overflow. Overflowing of the milk signifies abundance, It is believed that joy,good health and wealth will overflow in that household.

    I can well visualize the rice pudding you have so beautifully described and portrayed in your photographs. The Norman tradition of slow baking of rice,milk and sugar mixture is so tempting that it is a must try recipe.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    1. Bala

      Post author

      Thank you!

      Yes, I remember the tradition of the cow and the new house. As a matter of fact, I remember the cows in my grandmother's house and the fresh milk. Thank you for writing about the meaning of the tradition and your memories of it.

  3. Bala

    Post author

    An email comment from a reader who grew up in Normandy:

    Je n’ai pas mangé de teurgoule depuis bien longtemps. C’est amusant que tu aies pu refaire cette recette!!

    By the way, do you know what « teurgoule » means? In case you don’tt, it means « tearing the mouth » ("tord la goule") because people usually eat quickly.

    I also found (on wikipedia) the following song about teurgoule you can try to translate in English (this is norman slang) :

    Presumed author:
    Arthur Marye
    Por' s’empli' la goule
    Y faut d’la teurgoule.
    Y faut d’la fallue itou
    C’est cha qui fait bère un coup,
    Por' s’empli' la goule
    Y faut d’la teurgoule
    Car no s’ra terjous gourmands
    D’nos vieux plats normands.
    Quand no z'a bien mangi du lapin, d'la volaille
    Quand no z'a bien mangi du r'haricot d'mouton
    Quand no z'a bien mangi du bon gigot à l'ail(le)
    Quand no z'a bien mangi du viau et du dindon
    Quand no z'a bu du bère à pleines guichonnées
    Qu'no z'a goûté du gros, du p'tit, du mitoyen
    Qu'no z'est resté tablés pus d'un' demi-jounée
    Qu'no commenc' à chanter, qu'no commenc' à êtr' bien.


I look forward to reading your thoughts...