Nani Ami’s Sawayyan- Vermicelli Pudding in the Punjabi Manner

sawayyan

It looked like a tangled mess, those sawayyan; vermicelli, lying in a mound in the silver-gilt rim white porcelain dish on Eid morning in Nani Ami’s home. Next to it lay dainty matching bowls with silver spoons, a large carafe of fresh, raw milk, a sugar bowl and several bowls of dried nuts, slivered, whole and crushed to a dust-something for everyone’s preferences in the family.

Nani Ami & Daddy

My maternal grandparents- Nani Ami and Daddy

As soon as my maternal Uncles and grandfather returned from their Eid prayers it was time for tucking into Nani Ami’s sawayyan- a vermicelli pudding typically made in many households in Pakistan to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

Nani Ami would scoop up the sawayyan with her fork and plonk them into my bowl.

sawayyan

Then she’d add some of that warm, raw milk- the smell of which is undeniably creamy and fresh. And the tangles of vermicelli would come undone, mingling with the milk. When it was time to add the sugar, I had to take over from Nani Ami. I’d sprinkle the sawayyan with one, two, three teaspoons of sugar, and then twirl my spoon in it and watch the sugar melt into the warm milk.

The best part was dusting the sawayyan with neon-green crushed pistachios and adding pinches of crunchy almond slivers.

sawayyan

That amorphous mass of vermicelli was transformed, as if by alchemy, into a creamy, carb-rich, sweet pudding. This was the taste of Eid in my grandmother’s home. I still remember those days in Lahore, in the dining room, sitting around the table with my Ami and the rest of the family, watching my Uncles and grandfather in their perfectly starched white kameez shalwars, slurping the sawayyan down, just like me. Except I am pretty sure I was the only one who had sweetened milk running down my chin with each greedy bite.

sawayyan

Last night, for Eid, Ami prepared her version of Afghan sawayyan, similar to the way they are prepared in my Baba’s home.

sawayyan
Afghan version of sawayyan with chandi ka varak; edible silver leaf- Shir Khurma

But today we were missing my Nani Ami and craving her Punjabi-version of the same dish. We called my maternal Uncle, Mamoo M, (aka, ‘Bruto’- I am ‘Bruta’ to him) in Pakistan at 1am. We needed to know how Nani Ami made this dish, we had already failed with one batch of vermicelli. Half-asleep, he relayed the recipe to us- and Ami got it just right. My Unc’ really is the best.

Spoonfuls of it transported me right back to that dining room in Lahore at my Nani Ami’s home on Sunderdas Road, near the canal with the weeping willow trees.

As soon as my husband comes home from work, we’ll be devouring both versions of the dish- my Nani Ami’s and Mader’s. What better Eid can there be with two puddings, made in honour of my two grandmothers?

Eid Mubarik to everyone.

sawayyan

Serves 8-10
There really isn’t a set recipe for this- you should add as much milk and sugar to the dish as you like, and then adorn it with the dried nuts you love.

Ingredients:
*1 packet 120g sawayyan or vermicelli bought in a Pakistani or Indian grocery store
*water
*milk, warm or cold- suited to your taste
*sugar
*dried, unsalted nuts of your choice
*crushed cardamom seeds

Preparation:
*Place a large pot of water on the stove and when it comes to a boil, add vermicelli (don’t add in stages, it must all cook together).
*Remove after 20 seconds (test for doneness first) and strain immediately.
*Transfer to a dish.
*Serve alongside warm or cold milk with sugar on the side, crushed nuts and cardamom seed powder.

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Comments

  1. this is a stunner! can’t wait to try this lovely recipe. and your grandparents’ outfits are fantastic!

  2. Your grandmother is so beautiful. I am just learning about this month’s Ramadan significance. I was raised strict Catholic (but am no longer) so I do find it interesting and important to have insights in other cultures celebrations. The dish looks delicious. I’ve never tasted anything like it.

  3. Such posts always make me nostalgic,happy Eid :)

  4. I was just talking about this on twitter last night, someone confirmed that sawayyan is same as what I know as senvian, which my mum uses in senvian kheer. I’m not fluent in any of the Indian languages let alone knowing some of the words in the other ones…

    Mum has included senvian kheer in the two cookery courses she’s done for Mamta’s Kitchen fans recently. The students have loved it, and just 3 weeks after the first one, one of the students told us she’d already made it SEVEN times since the course!!!

    I didn’t know it was associated with Eid until yesterday’s twitter conversation.

    x

  5. Thank you for highlighting the best bit about eid- savayaan! Two gorgeous recipes of my favorite dessert. Your grandmother is a style icon. I want her coat :)

  6. This looks amazingly simple and delicious – and I love that I won’t need to stand over a pot stirring for ages!

  7. @Leela Thanks, lovely- supereasy recipe. x s

    @Snippets of Thyme Thank you so much. I wasn’t fasting this Ramadan, and this Eid truly is for those who fast- but pudding is for everyone!

    @NotYet100 Thank you.

    @Kavey Indeed, the word sawayyan or seviaan refers to the same thing- both words are used in Urdu. It is a very popular dish prepared on Eid in Pakistan and Afghanistan- I would dare not say it is prepared there in all households because milk is very expensive- as are nuts; I don’t think most of the population who lives on less than $2/day can afford to make this, unfortunately. Eid is also a time for us to feel grateful for everything we have. Am sure your mum’s kheer is a hit.

    @Zaheen Thanks, Za. I have a similar coat of hers- I’ll have to bring it with me to London next time round to show you. x s

    @Best Salads Thank you- but the other version, which requires you to stand at the stove and stir for ages is quite decadent and delicious. (Not to mention, a calorie bomb!).

  8. Dear Shaima,

    Everything you write you do it with your heart.

    You can’t imagine how much I love to read your blog!

    I embrace you tenderly from Portugal

  9. Gorgeous, Shayma. I ate two different versions of this at Eid celebrations yesterday in Old Delhi – where they call it Sheer. At the fist house, the man who made the dish showed us the blisters on his hands from stirring the pot for three hours. The second version had finely shredded fresh coconut. They both tasted amazing – I can only imagine how much better if you’ve been fasting for a month. Px

  10. Eid without Sheer kurma or a heavy milk pudding is not Eid is it? Love love how you relate your recipes to the past as always, I feel like I’m there with you. Beautiful!

  11. @Paula Your message made my morning- that is a really sweet compliment- many thanks.

    @Pam How lovely to be in Delhi for Eid- well, you lucky gal, you live there. My Ami stirs the sheer khurma for hours, too, it is so labour-intensive. x s

    @Kulsum Eid, whether it is bari Eid or choti Eid- there must be sawayyan, even though Ami would disagree- she says sawayyan are only for Eid-ul-Fitr. Hrmph. x s

  12. What a wonderful photograph of your grandparents. You write so evocatively, it is lovely to read. GG

  13. Curryqueen says:

    Eid Mubarak to you Shayma. I love your cookery Blog, and you have just posted my most favourite of Punjabi desserts.
    Writing to you from Cairo Egypt – I recently moved here from the UK.
    My connection with the Indian Subcontinent? No connection at all, just a love of delicious food, haunting beautiful music and beautiful landscapes. I do hope to visit one day! Insha’Allah!

  14. eid mubarak! this truly is a wonderful eid delicacy! =)

  15. What a lovely recipe! I am always so amazed to find the similarities across the continent for a basic recipe; in Lebanon, vermicelli is sweetened with a syrup, with a sprinkling of pistachios, but no milk. Love the other versions you presented today, so comforting and beautiful.

  16. I’m a huge fan of rice puddings, and I’m guessing that this dish tastes a bit like one. I like the fact that it is made with milk and not heavy cream, gotta watch the fat in my diet somewhere. Lovely. – S

  17. saimaa sheikh says:

    Beautifully described.The description of days gone by is as sweet as the sawayyan.On Eid did make the sawayyan in your nani ami’s style .Incredibly delicious they were but hers were always better,i suppose it was that special magical touch that she was blessed with.
    Anyhow, keep writing like this.Look forward to your next addition.

  18. Wow, that sounds properly delicious – if fairly labourious to make. I love the way something that I would consider to be savoury (vermicelli) is transformed into something so comfortingly creamy and sweet.

  19. @Glamorous Glutton Thank you for the kind words. I miss them a lot.

    @CurryQueen Thank you so much. You’re living in Cairo? How lucky to be in such a rich, vibrant city. I do hope you get to visit Pakistan one day- at the moment our country is not doing too well.

    @Zainab Thanks- hope you had a lovely Eid.

    @Taste of Beirut Thanks, Joumana. We have that version, too, I must learn how to make it. Have you posted the Lebanese version on your blog? Would adore to read about it. x s

    @Oui Chef Thanks, Steve. It doesn’t have fat, but I can just imagine how good it would taste with heavy cream. I know, totally decadent.

    @Saimaa I am sure the version you made was delectable, too. I hope to be there one day to celebrate Eid with you. x s

    @The Grubworm Thanks- actually this dish is the very opposite of laborious- all you have to do is boil the vermicelli- pour milk over them- that’s it- easy peasy. Welcome back! Haven’t seen you online in aeons- lots of traveling, yes?

  20. It is so wonderful to get a glimpse of your life and family with every post.

  21. Just catching up with my rather neglected blog reading, and was so delighted by this post. I LOVE that picture of your grandparents. What elegance. What tailoring. :)

  22. I know I say this every time I come here but I am always taken down memory lane with my own nani/nana and aunts and uncles after reading your posts. I used to love it when my nani made sawayyan when we would visit her, I would always get an extra portion of the vermicelli and nuts. Shayma I love the picture of your grandparents – I now will spend some time digging into the box in the attic where I keep pictures of my own grandparents. Thank you!

  23. Love your recipes! Please add more recipes to your website. You’re a very beautiful woman with equally beautiful recipes.

    Warm Rgds,
    Roopa

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  1. […] white dresses and I didn’t eat chicken casseroles made with Uncle Ben’s rice at home. We celebrated Eid wearing silk tunics and glass bangles adorning our wrists; we ate basmati rice with spicy, […]

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