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Sheermal: The Sweet Milky Flatbread

sheermal, shirmal

Sheermal is a saffron-infused Persian milk bread that’s popular around the Middle East and Indian subcontinent. The word sheermal literally means “milk-rubbed” from the Persian “sheer” meaning “milk” and “mal” meaning “ to rub”. Having said so, milk is an important ingredient in this flatbread as it gives the bread its signature soft, rich texture. 

It’s believed that the early Persian sheermal variety was similar to roti and prepared from just flour, sugar, and milk. Once this bread was introduced to the Indian subcontinent, the Mughals added a few more ingredients and made it fluffier, similar to naan, and that’s exactly the modern-day sheermal as we know it. 

Image Credit: Flickr user avlxyz ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

What Does Sheermal Taste Like?

Sheermal is a soft, fluffy bread that’s slightly sweet and smells of saffron. However, the salty variety is also sold in specific areas around the Indian subcontinent but is not as popular as sweet sheermal. Besides saffron, some sheermal varieties can contain flavors of cardamom, and cloves. The texture of sheermal is dense, tender, and rich, making it a perfect match for chai and savory curries.

How to Make Sheermal

Sheermal dough is prepared from flour, eggs, butter, sugar, yeast, and spices that are thoroughly mixed and kneaded with saffron-infused warm milk instead of water. The dough is left to rise for a while before being rolled into medium-sized thin circles that are pricked with a fork all over the surface. While sheermal is traditionally baked in tandoor (Indian clay oven), it can be cooked on a skillet or a conventional oven until golden, and fragrant. Once out of the tandoor, shermaal is further slathered with saffron-infused milk or butter and ready to be savored. 

Image Credit: Nadya Spetnitskaya on Unsplash

What to Eat with Sheermal

Sheermal is traditionally served warm alongside Lucknowi kebabs, and Indian meaty-greasy curries like nihari, and korma. It has become a street food around South Asian regions including Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh where the locals enjoy it the same way the Turks treat simits. Sheermal can be savored at breakfast with saucy curries, or a cup of tea. It is also eaten as a snack food and sometimes treated as a dessert because of its rich, milky and sweet taste. 

You can give sheermal a try with any of the following dishes to soak up all the deliciously dripping gravy sauce.

●      Lamb Curry

●      Red Lentil Daal

●      Beef Stew

●      Chorizo and Cheese Stuffed Peppers

In Kashmir, both sweet and salty sheermal varieties are sold. The sweet sheermal is served alongside kehwa, a fragrant tea prepared from cinnamon, star anise, saffron, and cardamom. The salty sheermal variety is accompanied by Kashmiri Pink tea.

Feature Image: Flickr user NA.dir ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )

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