I have been craving this creamy vermicelli Bengali dessert called “shemai” for a few days. I love the traditional version but with my kitchen pantry well stocked with coconut milk, I thought I would substitute coconut milk for milk that I would normally use. But since that might not give it the necessary creamy texture (might also have made the dish too coconutty) that I like, I decided to add in some extra creaminess. I checked my refrigerator and there was just enough milk for our a few cups of coffee. Since I didn’t want to be without milk for my coffee, I decided to see what else was in my pantry. I decided to try a can of thick cream. I know I am piling on the calories but occasionally you just have to give in and have that rich, creamy dessert. I don’t believe in compromising taste for a few calories and no, I am not over weight and never has been in my life (just in case you were wondering). The result of my experiment turned out to be fabulous – just a hint of coconut, super creamy and just the right amount of sweet! Here is how I did my experiment!
2 cups Vermicelli, crumpled to small spieces
1-2 tablespoon Ghee (Clarified Butter) or oil
1 Can (400 ml) Coconut Milk
1 Can (170ml) Thick Cream
1 1″ piece Cinnamon
3-5 tbsp Sugar, to taste
nuts of your choice for garnish (optional)
Pre-heat the oven at 325 F.
In a pot, heat a little ghee or oil. Add the vermicelli and toast for about 2-3 minutes making sure that they do not get burnt. Stir to ensure that all of the vermicelli is nicely toasted and heated through. Place the vermicelli in an oven proof dish.
In the same pot (make sure there are no vermicelli pieces left in the pot), add coconut milk, thick cream, cardamoms, cinnamon and sugar. Heat it and reduce until it is thick and flavourful from the spices. It should reduce about 1/4 of the original liquid. About 10-15 minutes on medium heat. Do not let it come to boil.
Using a strainer, pour the milk mixture on the vermicelli. It should just cover the vermicelli. Now place the dish in the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until done. There should be just enough liquid to coat the vermicelli. It should be a consistency of almost like scalloped potatoes.
Now garnish with nuts of your choice, if using. Serve hot or cold. Can be prepared ahead of time.
- Can substitute coconut milk for a can of evaporated milk and thick cream can be substituted with 10% cream or full cream milk.
- Can add raising to the dish before baking.
- You can flavour the milk with another spice of your choice such as star anise.