What Is Sheer Khurma And What's It Taste Like?

In just a few days, 2021's Eid al-Fitr will begin. Eid al-Fitr, according to The Conversation, is one of two eids throughout the year. Eid translates to "festival' or "feast" in Arabic, and Eid al-Fitr — celebrated by Muslims all over the world — means "the feast of breaking the fast." For Eid al-Fitr, per The Conversation, that fast refers to Ramadan, which "requires Muslims to fast from sunrise to sundown for a month." 

Eid al-Fitr consists of two to three days of celebrations, which often include special morning prayers and involve cooking and sharing sweet dishes. One of those sweet treats, and an Eid staple, is called sheer khurma. This creamy, rice-pudding-like dish, according to Cook with Manali, is "often made during Eid in the Indian subcontinent, Afghanistan and also parts of central Asia." So what exactly is this traditional, popular dessert? Here we explore how to make sheer khurma and what it tastes like. 

What is sheer khurma?

Sheer khurma is a rich, rice pudding-like dish made primarily with milk, vermicelli, sugar, and dates, according to Curious Cuisiniere. Often, nuts like pistachios, cashews, almonds and even coconut are added to the dish. While the dish is extremely popular, and a main event for Eid, it can be made slightly differently by each household. But even among the variations, milk, vermicelli, and dates are always staples in the dish. 

Vermicelli, known as "Seviyan" in Urdu/Hindi (via Cook with Manali), are long, thin noodles often made out of rice flour, says Greatist. They also come in slightly thicker varieties. The vermicelli acts as the base ingredient in sheer khurma, softened by the milk they are cooked in and sweetened by the dates and sugar. Even as the starch, and backbone of the dish, sheer khurma is actually named for its other ingredients, Curious Cuisiniere says. In Persian, "sheer" means milk and "khurma" means dates.

What sheer khurma tastes like

But what does Eid's sweet staple taste like? According to Curious Cuisiniere, while the sugar in the milk adds a nice sweetness to sheer khurma, the dates are responsible for a lot of the dishes' signature sweetness. Cooked in sugared whole milk, the vermicelli noodles — which have been broken up into smaller pieces — become soft, creating a rich, creamy dessert, says Cook with Manali. The nuts add variation to sheer khuman's texture, creating crunch, while dates and other optional dried fruits add chewiness along with sweetness. 

The milk can also be flavored with more than sugar. Cardamom and rose add flavor to Cook with Manali's version of the dessert. Curious Cuisiniere's sheer khurma recipe adds one more aromatic to the milk, saffron, to create an even deeper depth of flavor in the comforting dessert. Sheer khurma can be enjoyed both warm or chilled, depending on personal preference.

How to make sheer khurma

Even as the ingredients vary, the process for making sheer khurma is often similar, and simple. According to Cook With Manali, the whole cooking process takes just over 30 minutes. To start, ghee (a form of clarified butter, according to Medical News Today), is heated in a pan with the nuts and dried fruits of your choosing. The vermicelli, according to Cook with Manali, needs to be toasted and should be cooked until it has a slightly golden color. Note that for sheer khurma, the long thin noodles of vermicelli should be broken up into smaller bits, says Curious Cuisiniere

The next step is to add the milk to the noodles and slowly bring that mixture to a boil. It will thicken as it cooks. The final steps are adding the fruit and nuts back in, along with any spices or aromatics like cardamom and rose water. The Economic Times notes that while the singular ingredients in sheer khurma are decently healthy, there are substitutes if you're looking for a healthier version of the dessert. Try substituting alternative milks for full-fat whole milk and lessening the quality of ghee for a lower-fat version of the dish, suggests the Economic Times. But be warned, as Cook with Manali says that without full-fat milk, the dish loses some of its delectable richness.

Whatever version of the dessert you're making, you're in for a heart-warming, rich and delicious treat.