This earthy, aromatic dessert is a close relative of rice pudding, and one that conjures up vivid memories for Dey. “I’d eat it chilled after lunch on hot summer afternoons as a school kid, or warm it up for a soothing treat on cold days,” she recalls. The Vermilion restaurant owner and sometime chef, who has lived in a dozen different Indian cities, notes that each region has its own spin. Her version — a go-to when her daughters want a sweet treat — takes cues from multiple regions and enlists a secret ingredient, compliments of her mother.

Makes 8 servings

6 cups Whole milk, plus more for serving, if desired
30 Green cardamom pods (Dey says you can use fewer for a mellower taste, but she prefers a “strong essence”)
6 Large dried bay leaves (“My secret ingredient, passed on by my mother”)
8 oz. Roasted vermicelli (available on Amazon)
2½ cups Sweetened condensed milk
2 Generous pinches whole saffron threads
Chopped dates, peeled almonds, and brown sugar, to taste

1. Heat a heavy nonstick saucepan over medium. Combine the first six ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Stir in dates, almonds, and brown sugar halfway through cooking.

2. Add more milk to thin, if desired. Remove bay leaves and cardamom pods (or do like Dey’s family and leave them in and just pick around them) and serve warm, or refrigerate and serve chilled.