Sawayan / Shir Khurma: Vermicelli Pudding in the Pakistani / Afghan Manner

sawayyan

This is the recipe for the vermicelli pudding my mother, Ami, prepares every Eid, which I wrote about in my post about her on Motherhood: The Final Frontier.

USThis year we were not able to celebrate Eid together, so I tried my hand at it for my husband. This pudding is known as sawayan in Urdu, named after the vermicelli which are the base of this dish; or shir khurma, in Dari/Farsi, shir meaning sweet milk and khurma referring to the dried date with which this pudding is flavoured. Her recipe omits the khurma as we find the fragrance and the leathery texture rather unappealing.

In my ancestral home in Lahore, on Eid-ul-Fitr our table is laid out with a spiced fruit salad; soft, finger-thin sandwiches slathered with a mix of chicken, grated carrots and mustard; a spicy chickpea, tomato, onion and kidney bean salad squirted with lime juice; sweetmeats in kitsch colours and Shir Khurma as the centrepiece. Dainty glass bowls are placed on the table, ready to be filled with shir khurma, which arrives from the kitchen for the guests. Tea is served in my grandmother’s red Russian Gardner cups, which her mother-in-law brought back from Afghanistan in the late 1800s. As the elders of the family trickle in after offering Eid prayers, they present children with “Eidi“; cash gifts to buy enough sweeties to bore holes into their teeth. This celebration marks the end of the period of Ramadan. I spoon the shir khurma into my bowl far before any of the others who, unlike me, have actually observed Ramadan. It is the pull of the vermicelli, you see.

Shir Khurma is not traditionally served on the second holiday of the lunar year, Eid-ul-Adha, but my mother still makes it twice a year for us. Eid is certainly not Eid without her sweet, creamy pudding. Even days later, I am found dipping a spoon straight into the bowl in the fridge. A spoonfull of thick, cardamom-scented cream.

To prepare it, she sautés some cardamom with vermicelli in some corn oil to deepen the bronze colour.

sawayyan

Then she adds the milk, sugar, almonds, raisins and stirs. She whirls and stirs all day till the milk thickens. I took a short cut- adding full cream to the milk, upon her suggestion, as she knew I was not going to be able to stir that pot all day long.

sawayyan

Active Time: 1½ – 2 hours

Ingredients:

*2 tbsp corn or sunflower oil;

*75 g (½ packet) Vermicelli, found in Pakistani or Indian specialty food stores, broken into small pieces by hand;

*5-7 cardamom pods, seeds extracted, pods discarded;

*2 litres full cream milk;

*¾ litre full cream;

*¾ c sugar (you may want to use a full 1 or 1½ cup, depending on the intensity of sweetness you prefer)

*200 g slivered almonds

*100 g golden raisins;

Preparation:

*Having a large, heavy-bottomed pan is a pre-requisite for preparing this pudding as the sugar and milk burns rather easily if using a light-bottomed pan;

*Place pan on medium-high heat and add cardamom seeds and vermicelli. Sauté for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly till the cardamom is fragrant and the vermicelli begins to change colour slightly;

*Add milk, full cream, sugar, almonds, raisins and stir;

*Turn heat to low and let it cook, uncovered, for 1 -1½ hour;

*The pudding will need to be monitored and stirred every 10-15 minutes. Be sure to stir all the way into the bottom of the pan so the base of the pudding doesn’t burn;

*When it reaches the desired consistency, turn the heat off, allow to cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate overnight;

*Serve with a sprinkle of slivered almonds.

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Comments

  1. This looks delicious, I’m looking forward to trying it. Its wonderful to read about the different traditions we all have on Eid, I love it. I do often miss being a kid and how much I looked forward to those Eid celebrations.

  2. This looks so familiar, and delicious. Thank you.

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever had this dish before. I have to try Ami’s Vermicelli pudding. Looks very delicious. Shayma, you and your husband look so good together, that is a lovely picture.

  4. Gosh – how beautiful you are!

    What’s the difference between Indian / Pakistani vermicelli and the normal stuff? It looks like a really interesting recipe.

  5. @Aysegul So true- Eid had a different meaning when we were children. Being the eldest in the family (both my husband and I) we now treat our younger siblings on Eid, which is also a nice feeling, even if it drains the wallet! Thanks for your kind words, as always.

    @Fatima Thanks so much for always visiting.

    @Azita Thank you for the compliments. The dish is a bit of a calorie bomb, but it was Eid, after all.

    @Lizzie Thanks so much, Lizzie :) . The type of vermicelli you find in a Pakistani/Indian shop is thin and extremely brittle, unlike vermicelli found in Italian foodstores, which is slightly thicker. I have also found vermicelli in Syrian/Lebanese/Turkish stores, which is used in rice and soups, but again, this brand is slightly more thick.

  6. What a lovely recipe..Eid is a special time isn’t it?. we have all kind so of traditons too…gifts of money, visiting relatives and special cakes n food that we make year in year out. so fun. :) )

  7. looks delish! shayms i really love the fried sawayan also, the ones without the milk.

    • @Zurin I hope you post something on your site about Eid next year, I look forward to reading about how it is celebrated in Malaysia. Thanks so much for your lovely words.

      @Fati I shall learn that recipe for you and post it next Eid. Much love to you.

  8. What a lovely post, this looks a lot like a popular Bengali dessert my mother often makes.

  9. Such a nice write up! And the pudding seems a nice change up from rice pudding. I just so happen to have an unopened quart of heavy cream in my fridge…

  10. The only other vermicelli sweet dish I have had is the Persian ice cream (which I love-I love all things Persian) so this is a new one to me and very appealing too!

  11. Cardamoms…..Cream….Almonds….Heaven. I’m sure I’d love some orange zest in it too. Sounds absolutely delish

  12. That looks delicious, just like Ami’s – I can almost taste it right now!!! I will expect it in January (sans almonds, of course). Yum!

  13. Aren’t you a stunner! And I can so see the family resemblance (not to the vermicelli, obviously).
    How do you both stay so trim with all that delicious food around??? All I can say is that it’s a good thing for me that I mostly look at your recipes and imagine the food rather than actually cook them or I wouldn’t be able to fit into my clothes.
    Much love
    xo

  14. Hi Dear Shayma,
    Wow,you both look so Beautiful !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)
    I wish you a nice December my Friend

  15. What a fabulous treat! So lovely and the flavors are sublime and elegant. I’d love to try this.

  16. Savaiyyan is my fave dish ever. My favorite memory of Eid is waking up in the morning to eating a dish of this. Yum!

  17. @Gastrogeek Thank you. I think the countries of the Indian subcontinent each have their own special way of preparing vermicelli. Don’t they use saffron in Bangladesh?

    @smallkitchcara Hope it pairs pair rather nicely with all the wonderful dishes you and Phoebe whip up in your kitchen. Congrats on the book deal.

    @Tasteofbeirut Thank you. I am not familiar with the Persian style of ice cream, but we have an ice-cream like dessert in Pakistan called ‘kulfi’, made out of milk, cardamom and nuts. Perhaps it is similar to the Persian ice-cream?

    @Kitchenbutterly It is nice to meet a fellow foodie who also has a love for cardamom. Thanks for your lovely comment.

    @Lipstickmasala errrm, will it be Eid when you visit in January? ;-) Sure, give me the desired menu beforehand.

    @Mothership Ha Ha. Thanks, MTFF, we don’t eat like this all the time. And Zain is a health freak, which I am not. But some of his habits have started to rub off on me. Much love to you, too and thanks for the loving words, as always.

    @Parisa Thanks, dear girl. Wishing you a lovely winter as well.

    @Jamie Thanks Jamie, I am looking forward to reading more about your cake creations, as I am all thumbs when it comes to baking.

    @Kalsoom Thanks, Kalsoomi. Sawayan really does remind us all of Eid as children, doesn’t it (you know that I will always see you as a child/younger sister though, right? love ya’.)

  18. My Dadi Ma (grandmother) used to make it just like that, but would add the raisons at the end, after taking some out for me as I didnt like them. My In-laws make a very different version of Sheer Kurma and I often feel so isolated! Your post brought back memories of Eid in Karachi with a huge family and lots of Eidi.

  19. Shayma,
    This looks so good, and I love hearing about the tradition of how it’s been prepared in your family!
    ps thanks for the support and nice comments on my blog and at Food52…I very much appreciate it!
    Take care and looking forward to reading more of your recipes!

  20. Hi Shayma,
    I found your url on an Italian blog and I’m very glad I followed it! Your blog is SO nice.
    I’m going to try some of your recipes, they sound (and look!) delicious.
    I’m also going to add you to my site favs ;)
    Best regards!

  21. Oh, wow, so you lived in my country ;) That’s good to know. Should you ever be willing to visit Milan, my hometown, let me know: I’d be happy to show you around.

    Ciao!

  22. @Nida That is something so typical of a doting grandmother- perhaps you can introduce her version to your in-laws. Thank you for visiting and for your lovely words.

    @Winnie Congrats on the win and look forward to seeing you on 52.

    @Jasmine Thanks so much, I always wanted to visit Milan, I regret not having made a trip there when I live in Rome. But hopefully, I shall visit and will definitely look you up. Many thanks for your kindness.

  23. Many compliments for your really very interesting blog!
    ciao
    Enrico

  24. I love the way this is prepared during Ramzan. I’m so happy to discover your space here.

  25. Ms. Shayma, You have an amazing and artful way of writing and relating each story…. The collection of your recipes are wonderful. I’m glad to have found your site.

  26. Thank you for posting this recipe. I grew up in a non-Muslim household in Pakistan and our Muslim friends would always bring this delectable dessert over on Eid- fond memories. I have been craving it ever since I left home 15 years ago. Can’t wait to go to the store to buy the ingredients.

    • @Azar Thank you so much. I adore shir khurma and love making it for dinner parties as well, Eid or not :) That is so lovely that you and your Muslim friends in Pakistan exchanged food on special occasions.

  27. Eid Mubarak to you and your family Shayma… came across this post of yours from the past while I was doing some search on the internet for a similar kheer that is made during Eid. Though I’m not a Hindu, we have grown up in Kolkata celebrating all religion. And Shemayer payesh or Semaiya Kheer has become synonymous to Eid celebrations.

    Festive greetings once again:)

  28. My mistake… I meant to write – ‘Though I’m not a Muslim, we have grown up in Kolkata celebrating all religion. And Shemayer payesh or Semaiya Kheer has become synonymous to Eid celebrations.’

  29. Very good material u have said to added and it very easy to make
    thanks
    Frm
    Naila

  30. Hi Shayma,
    Have come across yours and Kulsums blogs and love the way you both write. The recipes from the subcontinent are so familiar, yet differ in detail from family to family.
    Am going to make Yakni pulao for dinner tomorrow.Wish you all the best.

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