Farah Khatoon

A month of fasting and feasting on mouth-watering concoctions like Halim ends on a sweet note with sewai – thin strands of wheat flour often cooked in milk with dry fruits like raisins and almonds. Western guides to Indian food describe the sewai as vermicelli pudding! Though many markets are dotted with makeshift stalls selling laccha throughout the month, sewai is bought exclusively for Eid-ul-Fitr. It’s sold in different shades and varieties: Banarasi sewai, Lucknowi sewai and bhuni sewai in colours ranging from green and white to beige. It’s an alluring sight; it symbolises Eid. The sewai was traditionally made manually with hands and was usually a messy affair but the availability of machines has not only made the task easier but helps meet the ever growing demand for the delicacy. Traditionally, women used to first strain the flour in fine muslin after which it was kneaded into small dough. The dough, divided into small balls, was squeezed into an appliance which turned the balls into fine strands resembling angel hair pasta. Though the old method was painstaking, it fostered sisterhood as neighbourhood women gathered on the terrace and gossiped over tea while churning and drying out sewai. Mustaque Ahmed, 56, who has been selling sewai for 15 years said that Kolkata’s appetite for sewai is growing. “For the last 10 days I have been selling 35 to 40 kg of sewai daily. In fact, every year, sales pick up as Eid approaches.” Crisp and brittle the sewai softens when boiled with milk. The wheat flour strands are cooked in a variety of ways and garnished with dry fruits. Sheer khurma, Sewai Biryani and khusk sewai are the most common delicacies made from sewai. Cream, ghee, milk and dry fruits make it tastier. Chef Surajit Jana of Massekah, a restaurant in City Centre, specializes in Afghani food. He shared his recipe for Afghani sewai called “Sherbering” with Postscript. Sewai and rice are boiled together before being cooked in buffalo milk. Ghee and dry fruits give it a special flavour. The Afgani sewai tastes best when brought out of the fridge and eaten as a dessert. Apart from sewai, laccha and Bakarkhani are also special Eid delicacies. As the month of Ramzaan comes to an end, many miss the fasting as well as the wide variety of delicious dishes prepared and consumed during the holiest of holy months in the Islamic calendar