Tuesday, March 29, 2011

'Show' - Indian Sweetened Angel Hair/Vermicelli Breakfast & A Life Story

I hear often on food travel shows about cheap peasant foods and offal meats, traditionally and historically affordable for the impoverished. Although vegetarian, this brings to mind, our breakfast rituals growing up, very basic, simple and wholesome, less than handful of ingredients. Maybe another key to families in dire circumstances are key basic ingredients, one being milk. Growing up as most families in Israel, we had a milkman deliver the milk in what today we look at as vintage glass bottles. Then again I don't recall when that tradition stopped or maybe my mom just couldn't afford?! As she might not have had two 'pennies' (agorot) to rub even if we dug in between the couch cushions.

'Show' made with angel hair
I was never a fan of milk, didn't like it much growing up. Even when I came to the States, foods and cuisines had to grow on me and needed time getting used to, until my palate matured and developed a bit more of a taste for local cuisine, and a general well rounded sophistication, everything tasted as I used to say, like MILK. I was used to pungent, bold flavors of Indian and middle eastern cuisines, but one subdued, simply developed contrast of textures and delicate flavor, an exception throughout, was my my mom's breakfast angel hair/vermicelli, and it had, yes shocking, MILK as one of the key ingredients.
Egg noodles
Five o'clock in the morning, at the crack of dawn, a street sweeper truck, street cats with thievery and trickery scavenging through trash, and an eight (or was I nine?!) year old with her mother are witness to a rare, magical Mediterranean morning. Snow. The girl has noticed and lit up at the sight of snow, the mother, I doubt, as she was preoccupied with providing breakfast for her flock. Pretty little thing like snow was furthest from her mind. By the time the first rays touched the ground, the snow 'mirage' melted into h2o.
I was the 'lookout', sounds like a bank robbery plot, I was always the 'lookout' for people who were familiar, neighbors, friends or relatives. In fact on the watch out for anyone descending on that foggy morning at five. When stripped of all other dignities and reduced to being destitute, honor is all you are left with. As my mom grabs some empty plastic bags from the kitchen we collect empty bottles from trash cans for deposit. Coke bottles were worth some 'pennies', others were useless, and with that deposit cash we got milk, as we needed it for our sweetened breakfast angel hair/vermicelli.
Sounds like the children's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, we so revered reading to our son countless times while he was growing up, this, only, is the pauper version. :) While I always had a strong sense of self this business of hating milk and liking sweetened angel hair/vermicelli needs to go to analysis. While I no longer hate milk, I still to this day cannot drink a pure, tall or short glass of milk all by itself. Pasteurized, whole, skim, zero fat or otherwise.

The contrast of the sweetened angel hair/vermicelli dish, I loved the crispy golden bottom crunch. You can make it more liquid like cereal but then you won't get the crunch. I even saw it served as a pudding for dessert. Traditionally, we let the liquids evaporate and the milk particles become condensed and visible through the super skinny noodled. Just came to mind a stove top Indian sweet noodle kugel I wonder what other dishes from other cultures does it resemble?!

I will give you the base recipe you can always dress it up with nuts, saffron, cardamon, raisins and tailor fit this basic recipe to your liking.

Show, Indian Sweetened Angel Hair/Vermicelli

Basic recipe:
8.8oz Angel Hair, super thin vermicelli or thin egg noodles (Manischewitz-regular or kosher for Passover) can work as well
2 Tablespoons canola, ghee (Indian clarified butter) or butter
1/2 Cup plus sugar
1 1/2 Cup milk (or more for pudding)
1 1/2 Cup watern (or more for pudding)

Optional:
1/4 Teaspoons ground cardamon or a pinch of saffron
Handful Golden raisins
Handful of almonds and pistachios, ideally raw, blanched and peeled and slivered or for a short cut crushed roasted (Those with tree nut allergies substitute with slivered edemame)
*Note: All optional ingredients should be added once milk is added.

Directions:
1. Heat up oil on low/medium in a wide, deep skillet or frying pan.
2. Break angel hair into smaller pieces and add to oil, mix occasionally until deep golden.
3. Add milk, water, sugar and desired optional ingredients, mix, taste liquid for desired sweetness and adjust if necessary. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low.
4. At this point the noodles cook very fast, taste for doneness and if you want a more puddingy like breakfast or wish to serve for dessert, take off the heat immediately. If more drier consistency desired, cover with a lid and let liquids evaporate.
5. For crunchy bottom effect let vermicelli sit few minutes longer to caramelize at the bottom.

This is my all time favorite Indian breakfast!!

25 comments :

  1. you posted this at the time of my craving. This weekend I was wanting this so bad that i made it with the thin macaroni I had at home:-) Yours looks perfect and so delicious!!

    I hate milk. Never could drink a glass of milk, but was forced to when I was a child. It is still a nightmare how I got that inside me :-)

    Time I get proper vermicilli and make it again.

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  2. Shulie, your story just drew me in and touched my heart. Your memories of this special (and unique to me!) breakfast and your girlhood were beautifully captured :) I feel like giving you a big hug!

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  3. love your story ,and my kids would love this

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing this! It's a great recipe... definitely one I want to try.

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  5. Great recipe and lovely photos!

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  6. This sounds at once delicate and filling. What a lovely post.

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  7. We had carabao (water buffalo) milk delivered twice a week when I was little. It wasn't in a "classic" milk bottle, but in a recycled palm vinegar bottle instead. My siblings and I liked the carabao milk over RICE (of course) and a little sugar. I shall open up to new things and try your version.

    Fortunately, recycling is finally catching on here in the States. We are pioneers, Shulie!

    Your childhood story is keenly felt. Many people do not realize how lucky they are. My aunt would start a similar story with..."During Japanese occupation..."

    Lovely post, as usual you never disappoint.

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  8. Shulie, my heart hurts for the little girl in your story. I can so relate to the lonely feelings of "honor" when you are close to destitute (I have been there a couple of times, although not in childhood).
    We also had a milkman bring fresh milk to our door and pour it from a metal canister in a green enamel pot my mother left on the parapet. Nothing tasted that good, but I liked milk:)
    I have never heard of this dish, but I can imagine how wonderful and comforting it would taste in the morning, after the unexpected miracle of snow.
    Great post, my friend!

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  9. Thank you Soma, you won't believe how many times I were in your shoes and didn't have the super thin vermicelli or angel hair at home. Funny I can picture you drinking a tall glass of milk reluctantly:).
    Thank you Liren and Annapet for your profound responses. Often times people, understandably, don't know what to say and appreciate you finding the words it deeply moved me although I am same person but life then seems like such a separate entity.
    Thanks Alison and Bri. Definitely it is a kids' favorite and well as adults'. I hope you try it and let me know your thoughts.
    Thank you Maria and Molly, I sometimes over think the shots so means a lot. Yes, it is in fact, Molly you put it beautifully, delicate! :)

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  10. Such a beautiful story Shulie. I LOVE when you share with us these moments from your childhood. This looks so delicious!! I am like Liren and want to give you a hug:)

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  11. Aww Lana, As we were chattering on twitter about hard exterior soft interior I was writing this post, I am happy it resonated with you and that you liked it. I feel for kids who go through similar often harsher realities, just breaks my heart. Those hardship character marks are overrated especially when kids are involved.:)
    Amazing to hear yours as well as Annapet's and others reminisce about childhood 'milkman' accounts. I find it fascinating and always curious!

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  12. I totally want to try this for a dessert. Wonderful storytelling.

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  13. Going to start by giving you a big hug!! Great post. I love it that with each post i know more and more about you. :)

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  14. I am so happy this post is back up. As @LalaPiggy told me the other day, if there's no story, it's just another recipe. She said it more beautiful though.

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  15. Shulie, what a beautiful, moving recounting of your childhood. You are quite the writer. Your site is so unique, and I thoroughly appreciate and enjoy it. Thanks for sharing your story and recipe!

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  16. Very poignant, Shulie! And, your childhood has made you the strong and compassionate woman that you are! 'Show' sounds like a dry (and crunchy?) version of shevayachi kheer that we make.

    Many hugs to you!

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  17. Thank you Kat, An, Annapet, Bonnie and Manisha, speaking of Poignant Manisha, I am humbled at everyone's beautifully articulated responses. You all are risking encouraging me to write further:).

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  18. We have many sayings, Shulie, and the first that came to mind when I read this is, "You are the sum total of your experiences." Your experiences have made you the strong and creative woman you are today.

    On another note - I never liked milk, on it's own, either. As long as it was in sugary cereal, that was okay. To get me to drink it, my mother made me coffee. Seriously! She would put a few spoonsful of coffee in a big cup with some sugar and fill it up with milk. Guess that's where I became the coffee freak I am, today. :-)

    And on a third note, I actually have some Indian vermicelli in my pantry, right now. Guess what's for breakfast, this weekend? xox

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  19. What a touching post. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I've never heard of this dish.... I wonder if my older daughter, who also doesn't like milk will enjoy it. We will have to try it out.

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  20. Shulie, I admire your strength and courage in sharing with us your hardships growing up. I'm sorry, it must have been hard on you as a little girl. This dish sounds like the perfect comfort food to me. I'm not a plain milk drinker but I like it with other things like cereal or rice pudding so this sounds just wonderful.

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  21. How wonderful that you have good memories of such hard times. Food has such a strong link with memories. I'm sure my family would like this dish too.

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  22. A simple dish with such history, and a touching memory. Food so often is such a key ingredient to memories, thank you Shulie for sharing both!

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  23. So true Renee and beautifully put 'total sum of our experiences' and if we all throw our baggage up in the air, coming down, we will go and try to catch our own package & no one else's. :)Thank you flaming for your wisdom!
    Thank you Lael, Sylvie, Barbara and Orly, you guys are all awesome ladies!! The dish is so delicious especially if your kids or you don't like to drink milk like I do. If you do you doubly like it either dry or as a pudding as well.

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  24. Shulie, you warmed my heart with this story. Reading this post had me go through a range of emotions in a short time, but above all of them, I felt the strong bond between mother and child, the determination to provide and most of all love & hope. Wow. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    This post reminds me of a breakfast dish from childhood. Hot rice would be drenched in hot cream and would be eaten with salted fried fish on the side. I don't even know what it's called but I remember it being comforting. I imagine your vermicelli with milk is exactly the same thing. :-)

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