A worker dries vermicelli, a specialty eaten during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. — Reuters Photo
LAHORE, Aug 8: The otherwise forgotten traditional vermicelli (swayyan) are once again the essential food item for Eidul Fitr and being bought by those who love to stick to their past.
“We call Eidul Fitr the Meethi Eid because we offer vermicelli to our men to eat before they go to offer Eid prayers. This is our tradition which I want to transfer to my children,” a woman who was buying vermicelli at a store in Shadman said.
For the people of Lahore, vermicelli is traditionally an Eidul Fitr item. It was basically produced and sold inside Lohari Gate near Chowk Jhanda. Now it is produced and sold everywhere in the ever-expanding city.
Inside the Lohari Gate, producing vermicelli was like an art known by a specific family. Everything was manual. Fine would be knead into dough and placed in a big wooden bowl having very small holes in it. The bowl would be covered with a wooden lid and two men would sit on it. And very thin Roomali vermicelli would start emerging from the holes. They would be dried under the sun and baked in an oven and offered for sale.
Now it is machinery that has helped produce the item in bulks. There is a bowl where the dough is placed but no men sit on the lid. Electric motor runs the machine and vermicelli are produced in tones.
There are many factories around Shahdara and Shadbagh. Vermicelli too are made by big companies and sold by a number of mega stores. Brand names do satisfy the modern minds.
But those who know what the real quality is still visit the Walled City’s Lohari Gate to pick the best. Here members of the specific family do sell vermicelli but do not produce it the traditional way. Modern machinery is what they also use for the manufacturing.
But still, the ingredients and finesse are the same. There are plain fine vermicelli and semolina (suji) vermicelli (those having an insight seek the latter). Handmade small vermicelli called “pota swayyan” too are bought but by a few families who know how to cook it.
“Yes, our local sale starts near Eid. We think vermicelli an Eid specialty. But it is a regular low-cost and easy-to-make food item in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir. And the demand from there too has led to mushrooming of the factories around Shahdara,” said Muhammad Jamshed of the old vermicelli producing family of Lohari Gate.
“Many health conscious people too eat it regularly because it has no fats and fewer carbohydrates,” he said adding “we still are the best”.