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Who's Cooking: Mariam Munawer, Syosset

Mariam Munawer with Sweet Vermicelli, a Muslim tradition

Mariam Munawer with Sweet Vermicelli, a Muslim tradition for the celebration of the holiday Eid. Credit: Alejandra Villa

A homemaker, Mariam Munawer lives in Syosset with her husband and three children.


What is your cooking background?I'm from Pakistan, and I love the flavors of traditional Pakistani dishes. But I don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I've revised old recipes to make them quicker and more modern, but still like what our moms used to make. Recently I began taking classes at the Institute for Culinary Education in Manhattan.

What is the Muslim holiday Eid? On Oct. 26, Muslims will celebrate Eid Al Adha, a time to appreciate what we have been blessed with. It is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice and marks the end of Hajj pilgrimage. Traditional food, clothing, henna tattoos, gift exchanging and gatherings with family and friends are the highlight.

What is special about this Eid dish? One of the foods prepared in every Muslim household is sweet vermicelli noodles. It's just a "have to eat" breakfast before leaving for Eid prayer. One of my childhood memories was waking up to the enticing aromas of sweet noodles wafting from the kitchen.

Do you make it the way your mother did? My mother's dish had a more porridge-like consistency. I use less milk, and the result is a fluffy texture with separate strands of pasta.

Where do you shop for spices?Apna Bazaar in Hicksville. The spices are imported from Pakistan and packaged in airtight bags so they stay fresh.


Seviyan (Sweet Vermicelli with Saffron and Cardamom)

Munawer says that the secret to fluffy vermicelli is in separating the small strands with a fork. Eid Mubarak! (May you enjoy a blessed festival!)


3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

10 cardamom seeds, crushed, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 7-ounce packet of seviyan (Indian whole-wheat vermicelli noodles), crushed

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of saffron

Handful of raw, sliced almonds

Shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

1. Melt butter and olive oil in a large nonstick pot over low heat. Add 5 crushed cardamom pods and sauté for 2 minutes. Add vermicelli and cook, stirring constantly to avoid sticking and burning, until light golden.

2. In a small saucepan, combine milk, sugar, 1/2 cup water, remaining 5 cardamom pods, and saffron. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, stirring, to dissolve sugar and bring out the color and aroma of the saffron, about a minute.

3. Add the saffron-milk mixture to the vermicelli slowly. Don't pour all at once, or it might splatter.Mix well, cover and cook the vermicelli at very low heat for 2 minutes. Turn and fluff with a fork. Cover, turn off heat but keep the pot on the hot burner. Let the vermicelli steam until it has absorbed the liquid and is completely tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Transfer vermicelli to a serving bowl, sprinkle with almonds and coconut to taste, and serve immediately. Makes 4 to 6 servings

Note: For the best flavor, buy cardamom seeds in the pod, remove frin the pods and then crush them with a mortar and pestle or a rolling pin. Cardamom seeds, seviyan and saffron are all available at Indian or Asian markets.

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