Sevai is a delicious and simple-to-make sweet noodle dish spiced with cardamom and saffron. For many North Indians, the traditional sweet for Holi is gujiya, for Gujaratis, it is sevai.
About the Recipe
Sev is an Indian noodle dated as far back as the 1st Century AD. It can be made with many different grains, from rice to wheat or ragi. In Gujarat, where wheat is plentiful, we make it with wheat, and this sweet sev is traditionally made with wheat sev.
This type of sev is essentially the same as Italian vermicelli. You can make it with vermicelli from the Indian store, or Angel Hair pasta from the supermarket.
This is my mother’s recipe which was given to her by my grandmother. My parents have stories of their mothers and grandmothers making sev by hand. They would pull sev with an extruder device attached to a chair. They would push the dough through it, and long strands of sev would come out.
Vermicelli – you may find this pre-roasted and save yourself a step. You can do what I do and use Angel Hair pasta instead of vermicelli. There are lots of dishes made with sev in India. South Indians make sev upma, and there is also sevai kheer, which is milkier. South Indians usually make their sev from rice, so theirs is a rice noodle.
Sugar – this is usually made with refined white sugar. Adjust to your tastes. I’m offering the ratio my mom uses. Some people add much more. I prefer it with less.
Saffron (Optional) – often added to sweets for color and flavor.
Cardamom – “Indian vanilla”
Nuts (optional) – can be any mix of your choosing.I like to use chopped pistachios, cashews, and almonds.
Nutmeg (optional) – I don’t add nutmeg, but my mom likes to add some to hers.
Sevai is served for Holi in Gujarat, but it can be served at other times as well. My grandmother loved sevai, and my mom would make it for her regularly. It could be served as part of a thali at any time of year.
A complete thali should always have a sweet, and sevai is a simple sweet that can easily be put together in about 20 minutes. Serve with a couple of Gujarati shaaks, some roti and a simple rice, like jeera rice.
I made it a few times to work out the timings. My mom doesn’t measure or time things, instead going off what she sees and smells. The first time I followed her recipe, I overcooked the sugar. That is my biggest caution. If the sugar is allowed to cook too much, it will make the pasta chewy and spoil the texture.
- Overcooking the sugar: If you cook it for too long it will harden and make for an unpleasant texture. Leaving the heat on while trying to absorb the syrup will cause the sugar to overcook.
- Using too much sugar: People have different preferences for the amount of sugar they use. I find this recipe is quite sweet, even though some people would add more sugar. You can add more, but I don’t recommend it.
- Not toasting the vermicelli: If you buy toasted vermicelli, you can skip that step. If your vermicelli is raw, it won’t have the right taste or texture, so be sure to toast it.
- Milk instead of water. This recipe can be made by replacing water with milk for sevai kheer. The traditional recipe is not made that way, but it is a delicious variation.
- Leave out the saffron.
- Add nutmeg – 1/8 teaspoon at the end.
- Use a different type of noodle – I haven’t tried it, but I think lentil noodles or chickpea noodles might work well for this recipe.
Meethi sev will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It’s the type of dish that can taste better the next day as the cardamom and saffron is absorbed by the noodles. You can heat it, but it’s delicious cold from the refrigerator.
Sevai | Meethi Seviyan | Sweet Vermicelli
- 1 cup angel hair pasta or vermicelli broken into 1” pieces
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp ghee
- 1 ½ cups water or milk
- ½ tsp cardamom
- 1 pinch saffron
- 2 Tbsp chopped nuts of choice
- Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee in a pan. Add nuts. Toast until lightly golden. Remove the nuts into a bowl, keeping the ghee in the pan.
- Add pasta and toast until golden. Remove the pasta to a separate bowl..
- Add water to the pot and add saffron. Bring to a boil. Add the toasted pasta. Cover and cook for 7 minutes under low heat.
- Add sugar. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add cardamom and 1/2 of the nuts. Mix well, cover, and allow to cool for 20 minutes. This will allow the sugar to soak into the pasta.
- Garnish with remaining nuts.