RAWALPINDI: The tradition of eating Kheer on Eid-ul-Fitr in Pakistan is so old, that this first Eid of the Islamic calendar is often commonly called Meethi Eid (sweet eid). This creamy rice based dessert is made by cooking boiled egg in milk and sugar. Nuts such as almonds and raisins are added and for Eid the bowls of Kheer are garnished with beaten silver leaves.
Across the subcontinent, from Dhaka to Kashmir, Kheer remains one of the most popular desserts. In this part of Pakistan, various varieties of Kheer are available which include Gajar Kheer, made with carrots and Sawayian Kheer made with vermicelli.
While Kheer can easily be made at home, many turn to the shops in the downtown specialising in milk-based sweetmeats. Traversing the narrow streets one finds such shops at every corner in Bhabra Bazaar, Sarafa Bazaar, Purana Qila, Jamia Masjid Road, Saddar and Raja Bazaar. Kheer is also available at milk shops and sweetmeat shops in the Cantonment areas.
In Kashmiri Bazaar, delicious cold Kheer known as Thandi Kheer is a garrison city specialty. Mohammad Rizwan, a shop owner said: “The Kheer is put in clay dishes known as Thooti and placed on large blocks of ice. If there was no electricity load shedding, we would probably be using a refrigerator.”
The shop, he said, has been selling Kheer for close to half a century. “Putting Khoya (dried whole milk) makes our Kheer especially creamy and rich. We also serve Kheer in Thootis at weddings,” he said.
Many shops in Bhabhra Bazaar are famous for their Kheer. Haji Ajmal, a shop owner, said his shop has been known for its Kheer, since before the partition of India. “We never put preservatives or artificial ingredients. Instead, we make our Kheer in small amounts so that it does not spoil by evening. With constant load shedding, ensuring fresh Kheer is more difficult,” he said.
A customer at Haji Ajmal’s shop, Mohammad Rizwan, told Dawn, his family loves cold Kheer for Iftar during the summer. “We find it difficult to cook kheer at home as it is very hot in the kitchen and kheer has to be stirred constantly,” he said.
Shahmir Malik, another customer said that Kheer has remained a favourite in his household since he was a child. It is associated with special occasions, especially Eid. “Meethi Eid is not sweet without Kheer. It is also nutritious but since it is a rich dessert, it can be fattening,” he said.
Mr Malik added that while Kheer is sold across the country, few shops compare to those in the old town.
“These shops are masters of milk based desserts and this Eid, I will head here to buy some Kheer to serve to guests,” he said.
Published in Dawn ,July 14th, 2015.