A sweet, milky pudding fragrant with spices and synonymous with breakfast in Bengali homes. The recipe calls for a soft, airy type of vermicelli called Lachcha Semai. The Pran variety is the best type to use and is available in Bangladeshi shops; however you can easily substitute this for the same amount of Pakistani or Indian vermicelli which is readily available in Asian stores. Just make sure to cook the vermicelli for an extra five minutes in the milk and adjust the sugar to your taste. You can use butter instead of ghee, but keep in mind it won’t give you that delicious nutty flavour.
In a pan heat the milk, sugar, cinnamon, bay leaf and cardamom. Gently simmer on medium-low heat for five minutes so that the spices infuse the milk. Keep an eye on the pan and stir occasionally to stop the milk burning or boiling over.
Heat the ghee in a frying pan on medium heat, then add the vermicelli and fry for a minute until very lightly golden. Add the toasted vermicelli to the spiced milk and cook for four to five minutes on medium-high until the milk has been almost completely absorbed and you are left with a moderately thick, custard-like consistency.
Serve the shemai hot or cold, garnished with chopped nuts. If you want to re-heat it, just add a dash of milk to lighten it a little and warm through on the stove over low heat.
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