Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Mitthi Seviyaan (Sweet Vermicelli)

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This dessert is a variation of the seviyaan kheer and is also especially made at Hindu, Sikh and Muslim festivals, just as many other dishes that are associated with the Punjab. It is a fast, easy and tasty desert to make, and considerably less calories than the kheer which uses richer ingredients.

These seviyaan are made from the small grain vermicelli, about the size of large grains of rice. The way these were made in the old days is an art by itself. I remember when my mother (everyone affectionately called her biji) would sit around with other women, gossiping while making the dough out of maida (white enriched flour). They would then make a small roll and pencil it out between their fingers; the small pieces would fall out at the end and dry quickly. Often you would see ladies sitting together making these seviyaan grains or peeling dried cantaloupe seeds!

These days you can buy the cheaper readymade variety sold in supermarkets, but some small family-run stores still sell the handmade ones which are slightly thicker and coarse, but are much softer when cooked. Some people take shortcuts and break regular long-string vermicelli into small pieces.

Mitthi seviyaan is not as popular as the kheer variety, but in North India it is a made in many homes as a quick, inexpensive and fast dessert which is really appreciated because it is so tasty.

1 cup seviyaan (handmade variety) or use  broken vermicelli pieces
1 cup garam pani (warm water)
¼ cup chinni (sugar)
1 tbsp tael (vegetable or olive oil) – you can also use salt free butter
¼ tsp ilachi powder (cardamom powder)
¼ tsp kesar (saffron) – if desired or you can omit it too
Dry fruits to your taste: kishmish (raisins); bad am (almonds – peeled and slivered); piste (pistachios – halved or pieces)

1. Warm the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and then throw in the seviyaan. Stir till they are golden brown.
2. Add the warm water and bring the mixture to a boil. Throw in the saffron for taste.
3. Add the sugar, mix gently with a spatula, then cover and let it cook for 5 minutes.
4. Check to see if there is no more water, then turn the heat off and let it stand to cool down
5. When the seviyaan are cool, then stir and separate with a fork for best taste.
6. Now add the dry fruits and stir in. Sprinkle the cardamom powder on top before serving.



One of the most common beans cooked in India are chole (chickpeas or garbanzos). There are three very popular ways to cook them: with a yellow curry; with a brown thick gravy to eat with bathure or kulche (fried breads) or dry with a tangy coating, to be eaten with small thin rotis. The yellow curry chole are the most commonly made and served in may mandirs and gurdwaras after religious services.

But the trick is to cook the chole so that they come out soft. Most people take the easy way out and bring the chole to a boil in the pressure cooker. But those who don’t have one will often cook them in a large pot and throw in some baking soda to hurry the process of softening the beans. I do not recommend this as the baking soda will leave an after taste. It is better to soak the chole overnight and then letting them boil in the pot as they will take less time to become soft and have no after taste.


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Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.