Eid Mubarak to all of you! Festivities bring in lots of varied emotions – emotions of togetherness, memories of childhood and hope for the future. Nothing like being in a city like Dubai, where people from all over the world call them their homes, while the city prepares to celebrate their biggest festival Eid. Incidentally the word Eid means ‘festivity’ in Arabic. And here we are, in the city of bling, readying ourselves to welcome 2 million expected visitors over this weekend!
Childhood memories of Eid brings in the sweet taste of Semaiya Kheer/Vermicelli Pudding, also called Shemaiyer Payesh (above) in Bengali. Payesh or Pudding has a lot of meaning in a Bengali’s life, specially the Rice Pudding. It is the first initiation of solid food as an infant gets ready to embark on his/her momentous non-milk food journey… a journey that I’ve already in earlier posts – Tarditional Bengali Cuisine, Notun Gurer Payesh/Traditional Bengali Rice Pudding. The introduction of Semaiya to the Bengali Cuisine has been organic in nature and this Islamic influence can be traced back to a little history… In 1857 AD after the Awadh kingdom (modern day Lucknow in India) was annexed by the British, the Nawab was exiled to Calcutta (today’s Kolkata). His passion for gourmet food traveled from Lucknow to Calcutta and was nurtured, garnished and fuelled by his special Bawarchis or the Chefs of the Nawab.
Eid in Dubai
With 2 million tourists expected over the this Eid weekend, Dubai is bulging. Cultural programs, various events, special Eid menu in different restaurants – the weekend promises to a whole lot of fun. Leading shopping malls are going to remain open 24 hours. If yesterday’s traffic and crowd was just a sample, I am slightly apprehensive about what’s going to happen over the weekend. The roads leading to the Trade Centre round-about was choc-a-blocked (above left), Meena Bazaar (above right) area was thronging with tourists and the JBR Walk (below) had turned into a carnival. 1.5 million GCC tourists are expected with the largest tourist traffic expected from Saudi Arabia. Hotel occupancy has been touched almost 100% with availability of and hotel apartments being a thing of the past. Click here for all that is in store for you while you celebrate your Eid in Dubai.
And here I am cribbing all the time why are they still constructing hotels in Dubai? When will these construction work stop? So maybe it won’t. To host every visitor that visits Dubai during the festive seasons, we – the residents are generously willing to accept the grilling that comes with the constructions. If Dubai has been cosmopolitan enough to embrace more than 200 nationalities from different orientations and cultural backgrounds, we – the Dubai residents can very well embrace the 2 million visitors that are expected over this weekend. That’s how large-hearted we are!
A long way definitely for a small trading town engaged in pearl-trading and fishing to a multi-cultural hub that it is today. The above picture is taken by me in Dubai Museum – it shows Dubai in the early 20th century. It amazes me really. I tell the Z-Sisters that this is probably the only place in the whole world where they can see a city being built – brick by brick, floor by floor, flyover by flyover! This is also the only city probably where construction takes place every hour of the day and every hour of the night. As if, if the Construction stops, the city will stop breathing.
Eid Al- Adha
Whereas Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan – the Islamic holy month of dawn-to-sunset fasting, Eid al-Adha means ‘solemn festivity’. Today is Eid al-Adha, also known as the Greater Eid or Eid al-Zuha. In India it is called the Bakhri-Eid or the Feast of Sacrifice.
This is an important 4-day religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to honor the willingness of the prophet ʾIbrāhīm (Abraham) to sacrifice his young firstborn son Ismā’īl (Ishmael) as an act of submission to God, and his son’s acceptance of the sacrifice before God intervened to provide Abraham with a ram to sacrifice instead… read more
In Kolkata we have always associated the Semaiya/Vermicelli with Eid celbrations. Vermicelli is ‘worm like’ thin Pasta (above left) and is made almost like the Rice Pudding, excepting that this is sweetened with Sugar and sugar only, never with Gur/Jaggery. Another popular variation of Semaiya is the cold beverage – Falooda which itself is an adaptation of the Persian dessert Faloodeh. The latter is very popular in Iran, Pakistan, North India and Afghanistan. The introduction of Falooda in Indian Cuisine is because of the Mughal influence in India.
The essence of Eid to me, a non-Muslim
Though we are Hindus, we grew up celebrating all festivals from all religion in Kolkata. So Eid would mean that we would flock to the homes of our Muslim friends and pestering their Mums whom we would address as Mashi/Aunt to refill our bowls of Shimuyer Payesh or Semayia/Sevaiya Pudding umpteen number of times. Or ransack their kitchens for home-made Biriyanis and Laccha Parathas, a type of Indian flat bread, triangular in shape with multiple layers lapped with Ghee/Indian clarified butter. An earlier post – Living By The Water With Sunset As Prop – Kolkata & the Ganges talks about this multi-cultural upbringing that shaped my own philosophies in life.
During the last Eid ul-Fitr we were enjoying our summer holidays in Kolkata – a period I like to call my summer hibernation! I took the Z-SISTERS to Mallick Bazar in Park Circus area (above). This is essentially a Muslim neighborhood and the road-side kiosks were full of Samaiya/Semolina, mixed dried fruits, Firni (a dessert pudding made with Rice Powder) mix, glass bangles – absolutely mersmerising the otherwise unperturbed Z-SISTERS. The Semaiya bundles were stocked up high looking quite surreal – as if they were fluffs of cotton wool blown by the festive breeze (below).
A little boy manning the jiosk came running to me – ‘Didi amar photo tulben?/Sister, do you want to photograph me?’ Immediately bombarding me with the next question -’Apni ki kono bideshi magazine theke?/Are you working for any foreign magazine?’ And the heart-breaker was when he got really dispappointed that I was taking pictures just like that – emni emni. He instructed the others - ‘Dhoot char to Didike… ja ja shob byabshay lag!/Forget her… go and mind your business!’
Neither did we buy any Semaiya, nor any dry fruits. On top of that I didn’t even work for any foreign magazine and declared absolutely hopeless. We ended up buying Haleem or Halim (a special Ramadan dish made of wheat, barley, meat) from two popular restaurants in this area – Shiraz and Rahmania. Haleem is a delicacy and it is cooked in large quantities in a huge aluminum cooking pot. In the Park Circus and Mallick Bazar area, there are many alleys and small restaurants where you’ll find long queues for Haleem. We too queued for Haleem and took a container home. And on reaching home, devoured some awesome Firni made by Mum-in-law, all set in small earthen clay pots. A journey, an experience and a discovery that has been unblogged in an earlier post – Firni or Ferni, Ramadan or Ramzan, Mallick Bazar or Karama – It’s The Same Festive Sentiment!
Semaiya Kheer/Vermicelli Pudding or Shemaiyer Payesh
Category – Dessert; Cuisine type – Indian, Pakistani
Following are the characteristics of all recipes doling out of our little hands, big hearth -
♥ Easy to cook
♥ Regular canned products off the shelf may be used (However, we advocate using fresh products)
♥ Goes well both as a regular or party dish
♥ Children can easily help in making the dish (My two little sous-chéfs are aged 8 and 3 years!)
♥ And lastly, guaranteed to be tasty!
For the printable recipe →
Serves 6-8 persons (maybe less if they happen to be sweet-toothed Bengalis!)
Preparation time – 1 hr 30 minutes maximum (Boiling the milk with Rice and thickening it by constant stirring – 45-50 minutes; setting up – 10 minutes; Refrigeration – 30 minutes)
Semaiya/Vermicelli – 100g (Semaiya packets are easily found in most supermarkets around Dubai)
Full Cream Milk – 2lts*
Sugar – 1 cup (if you are using sweetened condense milk then use less of sugar)
Cardamom pods – 4, crushed into powder
Cashew Nuts – 1/4 cup, unsalted
Almonds – 1/4 cup, slivered
Raisins – 1/4 cup, soaked in water
Pistachios – 2 tsp, for garnishing
Ghee/Indian Clarified Butter – 4tsp
Mitha Attar – a drop for the sweet perfumed aroma of Attar (Availability? Well, I haven’t checked on the local supermarkets but had got mine from a little spice shop in the Spice Souk in Deira)
* You may substitute this with Low-fat Milk. Many prefer to use sweetened condense milk – in that case you will need much less milk (1-1/2 lt low-fat Milk, 1/2 cup sweetened low-fat condense milk.
Method of Preparation
- Heat 3 tsp of Ghee in small wok. Break the mounds of Semaiya into smaller portions and stir it in the Ghee for a little while till it turns slightly golden
- Boil the Milk in a Dekchi/a flat bottomed pan (Dekchis are usually used for cooking Rice. Please note that Payesh is always made in utensils meant for cooking Rice or kept separately and hasn’t been used for any other type of cooking. This is because of it’s susceptibility to catching the smell of other cooked items. Stir constantly is required so that the bottom of the pan doesn’t get burnt)
- Add the Semaiya when the milk comes to a boil
- Add the Cardamom, Sugar, Cashew nuts, Almonds, Raisins, sweetened condense milk (if you are using)
- Lower the temperature and keep on stirring until the Milk thickens (this should take about 45 minutes to an hour!)
- Add the Ghee and Mitha Attar
- Garnish with Pistachios, more Raisins, Almonds &Cashew Nuts.
Let the Semaiya Kheer set for a while and refrigerate it. Serve it cold. However, some prefer to eat their Payesh smoking hot, just after it has been taken off the fire!
While a lot of us living in Dubai are lucky enough to be with our friends and family, many of us are not. There are many people toiling in the city just to earn a living so that their loved ones can have a decent life back in their home countries. My greetings and warm wishes to all of them. Most likely, my wishes are not going to reach them I doubt that these people are going to read my post. Writing food posts while taking photo-shots of them in well laid out dining table in the air-conditioned comforts of our humble home, may seem preposterous to some. But I was awake to greet Eid Mubarak to the man who delivers the newspapers daily as early as 3 am in the morning, throwing out the newspapers as he stands inside the lift, aiming them perfectly as they land in-front of the main doors of the different apartments in the floor that we live in. At teh time I had greeted him, he had 30 more floors to go!
I had taken a video on my mobile as I had a conversation with one of the Taxi-drivers of Dubai Taxi. It’s a shame that I’m not techno-savvy enough to upload it to this post. But he was talking about a Rice that is made during Eid in his home in Pakistan where the special Rice is cooked along with the Masalas. He missed the Parathas that are made for breakfast during these days of celebrations and reminisces that his kids refuse to have their normal Subeh ka Chai/Morning Tea without these Parathas. And yes, he misses the Shir Khurma that his Ami/Mother makes. And if you are wondering what is this Shir Khurma – it is the same Vermicelli Pudding that I’ve just written about.
I am hoping that his emotions and greetings reach his children at home. Also hoping that the Eidi (money given to the children for buying gifts during Eid) that he’s sent home is being used by his children wisely and carefully. Their father is doing a greater job of driving some tourist around while Dubai celebrates Eid!
Praying for peace and happiness for people struggling in the war-torn regions all around this region and in the world.
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals. While you enjoy seeing them please don’t use them. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.
My Dubai diary in this blog:
♦ Things To Do In Dubai – Like A Tourist In My Own City - Showcasing the city I love to call my home!
♦ My First Authentic Emirati Food Experience! – Al Fanar Restaurant, Dubai Festival City
♦ Al Maha Desert Resort & Twitterati Lunch – Al Maha Luxury Eco Resort
♦ An Evening of Wine Tasting at Asado Wine Club – Asado Wine Club, The Palace Hotel, Old Town*
♦ The Label Project – Wines Tasted Blindly! – Invite to a Global Wine initiative from Jacob’s Creek
♦ TRIBES Celebrating South African Heritage Day! – TRIBES, the South African Restaurant in MOE*
♦ Zatar Lamb, Crushed Lemon Potato with Chef Ron Pietruszka – Treat 2012, Burjuman World Food Fest + a Recipe
♦ Back To Dubai, Back to Costa –A nostalgic recount of favourite coffee haunt
♦ Searching for Shiraz – Lucknow to Kolkata to Dubai – Nostalgic search for Kolkata’s famous Shiraz Restaurant ends with Siraz opening in Bur Dubai. Exploring some Awadhi/Lucknowy Khana!
♦ Down To Earth Organic Store In Dubai & Mutton Chick Peas Curry – An event + a Recipe*
♦ Mums Who Share @JBR - A charity initiative
♦ Deep Sea Fishing & Fish Barbeque – Persian Gulf off Dubai Coast
♦ The Million Street, in the middle of nowhere – Rub Al-Khali Desert, UAE
Bengali Food Banters you’ll find in my blog:
♦ Traditional Bengali Cuisine… In ‘Slight’ Details! – An etymological explanation to the Bengalis’ food festish
♦ Pickles… Mother (-in-law) Of All Pickles! – My Pickle Nostalgia
♦ Momos in Tiretti Bazar – The Last Chinese Remnants! – A chinese Bazar near Poddar Court
♦ Phuchkas in Vivekananda Park – An ode to Dilipda’s ‘world-famous’ Phuchka
♦ Bengali Sweets That Came By Parcel! – Gujia, Jibe Goja, Abaar Khabo & Jolbhora
♦ Rôshogolla (রসগোল্লা) – Bengali’s Own Sweet – An essay on the most famous Bengali Sweet
Bengali Food Recipes you’ll find in my blog: (Do click on Recipes, Reviews, Events for a complete list of all food banters)
♦ Mutton Kassa With Red Wine And Red Grapes – Bengali Fusion
♦ Khichuri As Harbinger of Hope & Kolkata Soaked In Rains – Traditional Bengali/Indian
♦ Hot Garlic Pickle… The Pickled Diary – Episode 1 – Indian Pickle
♦ Firni or Ferni, Ramadan or Ramzan, Mallick Bazar or Karama? – Indian Dessert
♦ A Tale of 2 Cities & Naru/Coconut Jaggery Truffles – Traditional Bengali
♦ Phuchkas in Vivekananda Park – Indian Street-food/Snacks
♦ Kaancha Aamer Chutney/Green Mango Chutney – Traditional Bengali
♦ Notun Gurer Payesh/Rice Pudding & My Dida – Traditional Bengali
♦ Rasgulla Macapuno – When a Filipina Turns Bong! – Dessert; Bengali Fusion
♦ Mango Lentil Soup/ Aam Dal – The Summer Combat – Dal; Traditional Bengali
♦ Easter Egg Curry – Side-dish; Bengali Fusion/Traditional Bengali/Continental
♦ Mashed Potato Bengali Style/ Aloo Bhaaté – Side-dish; Bengali Fusion
♦ Yoghurt Aubergine with Pomegranate – Side-dish; Bengali Fusion
♦ Purple Haze Yoghurt with Purple M&Ms – Dessert; Bengali Fusion
♦ Icecream Rasgulla with Blueberry Sauce – Dessert; Bengali Fusion