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MEETHI SEVIYAN: THE SWEET SOUL OF EID

Here's what makes this sweet treat the most amazing aspect of Eid.

By Madhulika Dash

With its smorgasbord of delicious dishes, Eid, clearly is a day of visual delights and palate jubilation, and yet when it comes to that single its significance, nothing stands out like MeethiSeviyan. A simple yet outrageously delicious (not to mention addictive) dish made of vermicelli, milk, sugar and dates. It is the one dish that has been called the spirit of Eid – and would often find in every home.

In fact, it is a common believed that much like cinnamon in Christmas, MeethiSeviyan – and variety of it- taste the best on this day.

But what makes Seviyan, a rather simple dish to the lavishly orchestrated kormas, biryanis and kebabs, the star of EID? Is it the easy palate appeal – it is hard to find someone who doesn't enjoy one of the 10 varieties of this treat? Is it the rusticity that lends a certain charm to this four-ingredient wonder? Or, is it the history? Legend goes that MeethiSeviyan, which had its genesis as Sheer Kormain Persia and later as Dum kiSeviyan in Mughal Court, was among the few dishes that adorn the feast table as Prophet Mohammad celebrated Eid. Another story says that the creation of MeethiSeviyan has its roots in Zoroastrian rituals. Jews and earlier Persian inhabitants valued local produce when it came to their food culture. And dates, dairy, dry fruits and wheat formed its foundation. Incidentally, the first iteration of the MeethiSeeviyan used the very same ingredients – handrolled wheat vermicelli, dairy and of course dry fruits.

According to history, Persian Empire in fact had adopted both vermicelli and noodles as part of their diet around the early years of Achaemenid dynasty. Foodlore has it that Cyrus the Great and Darius later enjoyed a light but filling breakfast of rolls of thread thin seviyan that were soaked in milk (some say goat milk) with cheese, date syrup, fruits and dry fruits added later. Such dishes were popular for yet another reason: they travelled well.

Being local and the ability to travel may have been the two reason that MeethiSeviyaan, a dish that existed since ancient time, became a part of the Eid feast. After all, it was a benchmark of a good dish that it could be made anywhere with minimal ingredients. And Seviyan Kheer, a delicate treat, just fit the bill.

While it is difficult to say when and where it became a part of EID, but Seviyan Kheer was one dish that travelled the world – and each place it went had its own version. In India, under the Mughal rule, seviyan took many versions – the richest of all being the Dum kiMeethiSeviyan, which used jaggery and rose flavoured syrup to puff up the handrolled seviyan (which looked like longer Biyrani rice) after they were roasted to fragrance in ghee (clarified butter)with khoya added for richness before it was smoked (dum) on a griddle.

It is said that Emperor Shah Jahan ordered a special sunset coloured varq to go along with their offering of seviyan to celebrate Eid. It was a tradition that lived up to the time of Bahadur Shah Zafar who is said to have handrolled his own seviyan from soft wheat doughs during the fasting days.

Incidentally, MeethiSeeviyan's popularity and widespread existence across Asia to Middle East can also be contributed to another hobby that became a Ramadan staple: that of hand rollingseviyan. Every household had a few people curling out these little strands of vermicelli that was sun dried later Ramadan period. At the end of the period, every household had enough to make a reasonable amount that could be had to one’s fill and be shared. In fact, the seviyaan kheer was the one thing that became a great equaliser – and while being so presented Islam’s (and any religion for that matter) biggest lesson: which is hardship always leads to a fresh, sweeter beginning.

And the best example of this was (and is) the MeethiSeviyan, a dish that was hand made from scratch. It is a dish that not only helps us appreciate the simple things of life, but understand that life is all about the amalgamation of these little things, some fancy, some outright essential, in the right proportion. Much like a bowl of Seviyan.

Little wonder, Eid is often called Meethi Eid.