My Ramadan Kryptonite: KheerPosted: June 24, 2014
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On a recent rainy Saturday night, I sat down to eat a bowl of kheer. Just one creamy bite of this traditional South Asian dish made with sweetened rice transported me back to 1994, when I was seven-years-old.
I was fasting for the first time for Ramadan, and my mom was busy cooking up a storm for her impending iftar party. Dahi baras, pakoras, fruit chaat, chicken pulao, haleem and chicken tikka had taken over the kitchen, but there was only one question on my mind: what’s for dessert? I was not fond of the “grown up” desserts my mom made – three milk cake, decadent fruit bowls, or desi ice cream, aka kulfi. I much preferred chocolate, covered in chocolate, with some chocolate on the side.
But instead of my desired chocolate dessert, my mom was mixing milk and rice in a pot on the stovetop. I was intrigued; the lack of fruit in this dessert negated its lack of chocolate. My mom told me how her mom would make kheer for her during Ramadan when she was a girl, and that she wanted to carry on the tradition for me and my sisters. My interest deepened. I just had to try it! Alas, I had six more hours to go until sunset, and I was already dying of hunger. I sneakily watched as my mom poured this mysterious dessert ever so slowly into a serving dish before placing it in the fridge.
This was my chance. I couldn’t wait until iftar, I had to have it right then! Surely nobody would know about my little nibble? I crept over to the fridge and stuck my finger in the kheer. Then I ran away hoping my mom would be none the wiser.
An hour later, my deed came to light. My mom, a perfectionist, checked the dishes one last time and saw a gaping, finger-shaped hole in her otherwise perfect kheer.
Surprisingly, instead of getting mad, she just laughed. And this laughter is my most indelible memory of that fateful roza-cheating, kheer-sneaking day.
While I like to think of myself as a kheer aficionado now, I have yet to make this South Asian rice pudding myself. Making it requires patience and attentiveness, two qualities which I apparently did not inherit from my mom. But now that I’ve managed to snag my mom’s secret recipe, maybe it’s time to put it to good use?
1 Gallon of milk
1 cup of sugar (Adjust to preference)
1 cup of white rice
¼ cup peeled or sliced almonds
Soak the rice in water to soften, preferably overnight.
Drain the rice and pour into a large saucepan. Add milk and cook over high heat until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat. Continuously stir, making sure milk doesn’t stick to bottom of pan. Once it starts to thicken, slowly add sugar.
Once sugar has dissolved and mixture thickens further, remove from heat. Transfer to a dish and garnish with sliced almonds. Let cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate.
Often when my mom made kheer, we took out our clay bowls (brought back in our overloaded suitcases from Pakistan) and poured the kheer into them, letting them set overnight. We served the dessert in these bowls, a practice dating back centuries. Traditionally, after eating the kheer, you smash the bowl on the floor. Ramadan Mubarak!
Zara Malik was born and raised in Houston, TX. After getting married in 2009, she moved to the Midwest before being shipped off to Singapore in 2012. In Singapore, she teaches English at a Japanese school. When she isn’t teaching, she is traveling Southeast Asia, munching on a variety of Asian delicacies, and writing all about it on her blog. No matter where she is in the world, she is still a Texan at heart. You can find her on twitter: @zaramalikhan or read about her adventures: Zaramalikhan.blogspot.com