Fenni (feni or pheni) is a white flour vermicelli fried in ghee and it is very different from a regular white flour vermicelli or seviyan ...
First, the thickness of the vermicelli is not uniform and it seems to be flattened and rounded irregularly.
Secondly, it is not made in a bunch of straight thin vermicelli, it is made into a circular bunch of vermicelli which stays together if you lift the disc like fenni in your hands.
Thirdly, it does not need cooking as it is pre cooked, and it is just dipped in hot milk and enjoyed with sugar and nuts....
Fenni is available in Banaras and old Delhi (and many old cities of India) during the holy month of Ramadan and I think it is a Muslim specialty. But interestingly, it is valued on the day of hartalika teej for Hindu married women too. You will find very interesting amalgamation of the two cultures in old cities of India, where Hindus and Muslims have lived together for centuries and adopted each others food and culture as if their own. This is thee way I understand it, would like to believe it to be true.
This year when teej was approaching I was talking to Arvind how husbands cook meals for their wives when they break the fast next day. Teasing him.
I know he can't make anything in the kitchen except coffee. He makes malai wali coffee adding a lot of cream and claims to be a great coffee maker :-) and he certainly is.
Since he could not cook and I was successful in teasing him, he brought a lot of fenni for me. Some people know how to compensate the lack of cooking skill.
But to be honest I almost fainted seeing the amount of fenni he brought. A kilo of fenni is just too much. There were 4 packs of 250 gms each.
Now I had to find good ways of using the fenni as just fenni soaked in milk is a bit boring if you ask me. And such a rare commodity needs to be treated well too. I tried making sookhi sewaiyyan with it, just the way I had tasted in my Muslim friend's homes.
In fact fenni is served with hot milk on the eve of teej which is called sargi which a gift from the MIL to the bahu. Sargi includes some material gifts along with sweets and savories for the bahu from the saas. I think these traditions must have been made to create bonhomie between the saas-bahu (MIL-SIL) and the trick still works. I have fond memories of my MIL arranging these for me during the first few years.
The sewaiyyan I made with the fenni looked something like this.
2 rounds of fenni about 125 gm ( as 250 gm pack had 4 rounds)
sugar 5 tbsp
ghee 2 tbsp
assorted dry fruits chopped roughly
12 strands of saffron mixed with a tbsp of warm milk.
Mix sugar with 120 ml water in a pan and boil for about 5-6 minutes to make a thick sugar syrup (one thread consistency).
Heat ghee in another wide pan or kadai and fry the chopped nuts on low heat slowly. Add the broken fenni and fry some more (2 minutes on low flame)...
Now pour the sugar syrup over the fried fenni and stir quickly to mix and within 30 seconds put off the flame...
Keep mixing the strands of the fenni with the help of a fork. Sprinkle the saffron milk, mix and serve hot, warm or cold.
Fenni or feni is an evolved version of sewaiyyan. Isn't it?