As the crescent moon appears in the night sky, the preparation for Eid-ul-Fitr will begin. The house is decorated, last-minute gift-shopping is completed, and the kitchen is stocked with ingredients for a celebratory feast.
Eid-ul-Fitr is also known as meethi Eid. In my kitchen, there are four to five variations of seviyan; two of my favorites are the milky sheer khurma and the dry kimami seviyan.
The trick to making excellent seviyan is picking the right vermicelli. There’s Banarsi, moti or the regular packaged seviyan. My family reserves the packaged vermicelli for upma. A nice hearty bowl of sheer khurma must be made using the Banarsi seviyan, a whitish, very thin and delicate vermicelli. For kimami or other kinds of seviyan dishes, we use the moti (thick) brown version.
Sheer khurma or seviyan kheer is one of the most well known Eid specialties. Vermicelli is cooked in thickened creamy milk, to which dates (khurma), dry fruits, sugar and kewra are added. Kimami seviyan is semi-dry, full of ghee, laced with dry fruits and has extra sweetness. Ammi used to add orange juice and zest to balance and enhance its flavor.
My father—I call him Abbi—recalls helping his Ammi make seviyan from scratch in his childhood. It's more back-breaking and laborious than cooking it for sweet dishes. Think of it like making pasta or noodles with slight variations. Knead flour (wheat or refined flour) with water, a little ghee and a pinch of salt (optional). The dough should be slightly hard, like puri dough. Cover it with a damp cloth and allow it to rest overnight. In the morning it’ll become soft and stretchy. Take a small ball, stretch it like noodles, and keep working on it until you get fine thin strings. Abbi also had an iron machine with brass blades to make similar and finer seviyan. Dust with flour and hang them under the sun for drying. When the drying process is complete, shallow or deep fry in ghee or Dalda.
Purists have a few unsaid rules: the dough must not change hands; it is treated like a living entity and is believed to be influenced by the mood of the maker. If one is not in a good mood, it’s best to stay away from the dough. The intention of the chef matters.
Now, we have succumbed to the convenience of store-bought Banarsi seviyan. If you are craving for a recipe of sheer khurma, here’s an adaption of my mother’s foolproof version. I have been following it for several years and it has not disappointed me. Don't forget to share your bowl of sheer khurma. Eid Mubarak!
200 gm seviyan (preferably, Banarsi)
2-3 tbsp ghee
Half cup sugar
5-6 tbsp khoya
10-12 dry dates, sliced
One-fourth cup pistachios, sliced
1 tsp cardamom powder
1 and half litre full cream milk
3-4 strands saffron
4-6 drops kewra or rose water
Take a heavy-bottomed pan or earthen pot to boil and reduce the milk to one litre.
While the milk boils, place another pan on low flame and melt some ghee.
Crush seviyan and add it to the pan. Roast on medium to low flame for about two-three minutes
Keep it aside and let it cool.
Once the milk is reduced, mix in roasted vermicelli, sugar, khoya, almonds, dates, pistachios and cardamom powder.
Cook for 10-15 minutes on medium heat till it thickens.
Stir in saffron and cook for 5 minutes or till your dish is fully prepared.
Take off the heat. Let it cool completely.
Garnish and serve with pistachio, almonds and a silver warq.
Sadaf Hussain is a chef and author of the book Daastan-E-Dastarkhan.