Illustration by Ren Rader
New year, new me, as they say. When I logged onto Twitter on New Year’s Day, everyone was announcing to the world their resolutions for the new year. As your resident Aquarius, I’m here to say that time is a social construct and that resolutions should not be constricted to the new year, but rather whenever you feel like making a change.
But to finally conform to society, I decided to make my own. This year I decided to reduce my dairy intake. Am I lactose intolerant? Probably. Aren’t we all? According to the National Institute of Health, about 65 percent of the human population is some form of lactose intolerant. At that point, we should just make it a government initiative to reduce dairy intake, but that’s for a different opinion column.
I always knew I was some form of mildly lactose intolerant; I remember arguing with my mom because I hate eating yogurt and milk and cereal for breakfast because it made me feel like crap all day, but like any other South Asian, I was forced to drink it to build “the strength in my bones.” However, a study published in 1997 by Harvard found no significant difference in the numbers of arm or hip fractures between those who drank one glass of milk a week or less and those who drank two or more. I hope my mother reads this.
Although this column will reach no one, I hope I can inspire at least one person to also start giving up dairy (I’m looking at you, kid who stood in front of me at Coates drinking a bottle of full-fat whole milk).
I’m a firm believer in not labeling your food habits. There is no reason to constrict the food you want to eat because of a label. Growing up, my mom had a whole list of food rules — no meat on Thursdays, fasting on Mondays, no meat on certain Hindu holidays, no onions and garlic on other days, no red meat at all. It’s because of these traumatic food habits that whenever someone asks me if I’m a vegetarian, or if I have any food restrictions, my mind shuts down and I don’t know what to say. I love shrimp. I don’t eat red meat. I’d like to avoid dairy. I HATE cauliflower. Food is a tough subject, and we’re all unique and complex enough to choose whatever we want to eat.
Vermicelli is also an interesting food that has been used in Vietnamese culture and a lot in South India. Kayla has also taught me to make fideo with vermicelli, and I noticed the process between fideo and kheeri was very similar: toasting vermicelli in a pan and making a broth (oat milk for kheeri or tomato for fideo, which sound gross when compared together) to cook it into.
So here is some vermicelli in a dairy-free pudding, for those few of you who resolved to eat less dairy this year.
Semiya Kheeri (Vermicelli Pudding)
1 cup vermicelli (about ½ bag)
3 tbsp ghee/butter/vegan butter
3 cardamom pods
4 cups almond milk
½ cup sugar (more or less to your preferred sweetness)
¼ tsp cardamom powder
¼ tsp nutmeg powder
1 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp chopped almonds and cashews (optional)
1 tsp rosewater (optional)
Heat up half the butter in a pot on medium-low heat. Add cloves and cardamom pods.
Add the vermicelli and roast until golden brown.
Reduce the heat to low and slowly add your milk. Stir occasionally so the vermicelli doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Bring the milk to a boil and then add your sugar, stirring until it dissolves.
Add your powdered spices and rosewater and stir.
Cook your kheeri on low until the vermicelli is fully cooked and the milk is thickened.
In a separate pan, put the rest of your butter and toast your raisins until plump. Add these along with the cashews to the pot.
Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with more chopped nuts and a sprinkle of rose water.