Saturday, July 18, 2015

Eid Mubaarak!

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CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 14/07/2015: Rumani Semiya, a Ramzan speciality made of maida, being prepared at a household in Royapettah in Chennai. The finished product is sold on the streets of Triplicane. Photo: R. Ragu

When I read this link in 'The Hindu', I remembered my friend Mrs. R. She and her family were very good friend of ours.  She used to give us their Ramzaan paayasam (a sweet dish made with semiya, milk and sugar) every year.  It is made out of very very thin Semiya (vermicelli).  She had to be very careful while roasting it in ghee, since it tends to burn easily.  Once when she added milk to the Semiya, it curdled.  If it happened like that on a Ramzaan day,  it is not a good omen it seems.  Her husband was a very very short tempered person, so she came running to my house, which was just opposite to hers.  A fresh semiya packet was brought home by our maid, behind her, who worked for both the houses.  Her husband was sitting in the veranda, reading a newspaper! She was sweating like anything.  Then she told the story and asked me to make the paayasam at our home, because she was nervous to do it again.  She stayed for sometime and went back.  I roasted the semiya slowly and carefully.  I was also nervous to do such an important dish for them. Thank god, it came out well.  I had kept it ready in a thookku, a long vessel with a handle like it is in a basket.  When her husband went inside, she came across and took the vessel. So, that year's Ramzaan was celebrated in their house with our (Hindu) paayasam!

Now, to the interesting, newspaper article.  As per the article, vermicelli/semiya making for Ramzaan is very important to them.  Let me quote some interesting lines from the article:

In a tiny flat in the bowels of Royapettah, (Chennai, Tamilnadu), Mushtaba’s family is carrying out a 200-year-old tradition. Seated on the floor, she kneads the maida dough, calling out instructions to her husband Barkath Ali. 

Making the rumani semiya is a back-breaking task and yet, families look forward to it. “It’s been the same routine as long as I can remember,” says Mushtaba, punching a medium-sized ball of dough. “I would knead three to five kilograms of maida with water and salt the previous night and wake up early in the morning to prepare the semiya.”

The fine vermicelli is made entirely by hand. It’s a fascinating process. Mushtaba pinches bits of dough from a clump in her hand, sticks it back and repeats till the mass is almost elastic. She then pulls it apart, holding the length with both hands, folding it in and out, in and out, till she achieves 12 uniform strips. She entwines them and pulls it like a rubber band — in less than 30 seconds, following a series of elastic tugs, the fine, hair-thin vermicelli emerge, which she drapes on a wooden rod that her husband hangs out to dry under a fan. In a few minutes, he rolls it on his palm and places it on a cot to dry further. The vermicelli can be made with rava as well, but even the most experienced makers of rumani semiya tend to falter if rava is mixed to the dough.

 The wife says, " The consistency of the dough is everything, so is the temperament of the person handling it. “If one is angry, for instance, and sits to make it, the semiya will never come out well. I’ve thrown sway several kilos of dough when they didn’t cooperate"

Mushtaba earns around Rs.20,000 every year from the business. “I use it to buy something for the kids for Ramzan,” she smiles. “Shoes, clothes… It feels nice to buy whatever they ask for.”

It tastes very good!

Happy Ramzaan to my friends who celebrate the festival!

6 comments :

Destination Infinity said...

I don't know much about customs in other religions. It's good to know something from your blog post today. Hope to learn more about our traditions/culture, and others... Please write more such posts in the future :)

Destination Infinity

SG said...

I have seen such a cordial coexistence everywhere in Tamil Nadu.

Sandhya said...

DESTINATION INFINITY: This lady was my neighbour for 6 years and became very close to me. They were Hyderabadi Muslims. Very educated. 2 children are doctors. One is a teacher. We had a good time then.


SG: This family was very friendly with all their Hindu neighbours. Yes, it is a good sign.


Zephyr said...

I have seen this feat in Nagpur and have tried making it too with disastrous results :) Orthodox Maharashtrians make semia at home and dry and use it. Nice to read about your saving the day for your friend!

umsreflections said...

How wonderful !! You made payasam for their Ramzan...its the solidarity that matters in all these festive celebrations.
And I want to try makign payasam with that thin semiya once...

Sandhya said...

ZEPHYR: I have never seen anybody making semia at home until now! Great! It is a great skill! Like here, in South India, even wheat is washed, dried and then ground for making rotis. Good to know about Maharashtrian tradition.


UMSREFLECTIONS: Roasting such hair-like semia is tough job! But their kheer is very tasty. They add dates (in small pieces) too!

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