Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Winter Desserts

লাচ্চা সেমাই
Laccha Shemai

Laccha shemai served with raisins. Well, a raisin - the rest sunk!

Despite being such a small country, Bangladesh seems to be home to a unending variety of food. Every time I've moved back home or just dropped by for a visit, I've discovered something new to take back with me and attempt to recreate. Laccha shemai is one such dish, which I first came across while at school in Dhaka during the early 2000s. I'd grown up on another form of the dessert - dudh (or milk) shemai - but I'd never been a big fan. For those of you unfamiliar with the dish, shemai is a form of dried or fried vermicelli, and may be tricky to get your hands on unless you live near an Asian supermarket.

Shemai or fried vermicelli, as seen pre-soaking

However, if you do manage to procure some cooking laccha shemai is the most simple thing. The recipe below essentially calls for boiling some milk, sugar and spices before soaking in the shemai and serving the dish warm. It's the perfect dessert for a cold winter, and its traditionally eaten during this season in my family. It's a casual dessert, served after dinner on a normal day. On the odd occasion its eaten separately as a snack or during tea, but that might just be me. I prefer laccha shemai to dudh shemai as it doesn't call for boiling the vermicelli along with the milk, leaving the strands with a chewy "al dente" quality. This in my opinion makes for a more interesting texture than the mush you're often left with for dudh shemai, but it does mean laccha shemai has to be consumed almost immediately after its prepared.  


  • 120.00 g of laccha shemai (aka fried vermicelli)
  • 900.00 ml of whole milk
  • 150.00 g of sugar, or to taste
  • 3 to 4 pieces of cinnammon, each 2.00 cm long
  • 6 or 7 pieces of cardamom

  • Bring the milk to boil in a saucepan 
  • Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve 
  • Add the spices, then leave the milk and sugar mixture to simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes until it starts to thicken
  • Taste for sugar, adjusting by adding more if necessary. Bear in mind that the shemai will bring down the level of sweetness slightly
  • Take the spiced milk off the heat, leaving it to cool for 5 to 10 minutes depending on ambient temperature before adding the vermicelli. Make sure the milk is still hot, as it still needs to cook the vermicelli

  • Leave the shemai to soak for 15 minutes 
  • Transfer to a bowl and garnish with raisins before serving immediately to experience that chewy al dente texture I mentioned earlier
  • Note that the shemai can be refrigerated for up to a week, but it is best eaten fresh as it will lose its chewy texture the longer it soaks
  • If you do intend to store the cooked shemai, I suggest removing the whole spices before refrigeration as their flavours can start to become overpowering 

Additional Info:
Substitute the raisin garnish with crushed pistachio and experiment with the spices and flavours. I have rosewater in my cupboard and some left over shemai in a pack somewhere, and I intend to try this combination out next. 

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