BANGLADESH: Shemai

Shemai (or lachcha semai) is a Bengali dessert of vermicelli in warm milk with spices, topped with fruits, nuts, or other treats. It’s popular during Eid, and there’s a lot of flexibility on preparation and toppings. I got a packet of imported shemai vermicelli from Bangladesh – they’re supposed to be divided into nice little nests, but these were well pulverized in the bag by the time they got to Canada. Doesn’t affect the taste, though!

The package gives instructions to cover with warm sweetened milk and served topped with nuts or fruit. Other recipes online are a bit more elaborate – I went for a middle ground and warmed the milk with spices in it as well – bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, and cloves (same spice mix as dudh cha). I didn’t bring the milk to a full boil however, just a gentle scald.

I was out of almonds, my favourite nut for desserts, but I topped my bowl with some fresh apricot slices and a dash of rosewater. The semai soaked up the hot milk really quickly, and had a nice soft texture. The spices infused well into the milk, and really worked with the fruit. It made a lovely quick breakfast, and you could get really creative or fancy if you wanted with your toppings and spices.

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