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Trini Halwah Recipe

Rice HalwahThis is generally regarded as a traditional Muslim dish for the Trini and Guyanese communities of Indian descent. When I came to Guyana, I learned that people traditionally made this for the birth of a child – I found this out when my landlady, not Muslim herself but having grown up in a close village with Muslims in Guyana, was really hoping for some when my niece was born :-) I think in Guyana it is called sirnee. In T&T, any sweet that is served after a religious function tends to be called sirnee, whether it is halwa, kurma, or even storebought sweet biscuits, if no one was able to make anything for Juma (the Muslim Friday congregrational prayer).

Halwa is somewhat similar to parsad, which is associated with the Hindu Indian community in T&T. They both generally have a flour base, cooked with ghee/butter, milk, sugar and spices. The textures are different, however, parsad being heavier and moister, usually with a gluey feel. But then, as with any dish, different cooks can produce radically different goods and you may have halwahs that taste like parsad and vice versa. And it isn’t just Muslims or Hindus who make one or the other anymore.

Halwah can be made from plain wheat flour, rice flour, semolina, or even Cream of Wheat. If you take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Halwa, our halwa is most similar in concept to the Semolina version from India mentioned there ( I also love the tahini halwa, which we -our family- call halawi). While I don’t mind regular flour halwah, I absolutely LOVE rice or cream of wheat halwah, partly because of the grainy texture but I also think that they have an extra flavour, a nuttiness that the plain flour can’t match. So of course, when I was away from home, and Eid ul Fitr was approaching, I requested a rice halwah recipe from Mom. Mom generally whips up the halwah on her own, even if we have been given prior notice to lend assistance, we often find it already made when we weren’t looking. So I had never made this on my own, and in fact have only made it twice. (Recipe at the end)

I had to particularly request a SMALL recipe, not the full family-for-Eid size. And so Mom sat down and worked out a recipe with suitable proportions. And when I made it, I was a bit surprised that it was just so yellow. I thought, ok, maybe it’s because I am using real butter…but then I tasted all the butter. Some of my kitchen mates loved it, and although I hid it away in the fridge to forget about it, they kept nabbing bits. Ewe was convinced it was like cookie dough and asked me if it needed to be baked or something (this didn’t stop her from repeat sampling of course). Upon relating the tale to Mom, she hurriedly checked and advised that she had scaled down everything…BUT the butter… So she scaled the recipe properly, and did a test run to double check before she sent me the recipe again. While I wondered if I should have put this stress on her to provide a recipe to serve less than 50 people.

So here you have it. The recipe from my mother, as tested by her. Enough to fill a regular cookie sheet, if you choose to spread out the finished product and cut into squares (and this is a good idea – easy storage and serving). Alternatively, you could roll it into balls.  A very traditional way of serving however, is parceled off into a little bag :-) and served at functions. Or a bowl and spoon when you’re at home and pigging out indulging.



  • 4 ounces rice flour
  • 2 ounces white flour (for gluten-free, just use 6 ounces of rice flour)
  • 1/4 cup or 2 ounces butter
  • 1/2  of large tin evaporated milk
  • 1 cup water or more if needed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • whole spices- elaichi, clove, cinnamon
  • ginger (grated)  to taste, about a tablespoon if you like it that much!
  • Extras – raisins, nuts or almonds (sliced or ground), maraschino cherries (very traditional ingredient here…in anything)


Rice Halwah- Boiling the Milk* In a deep pot (milk boils over) add milk, water, sugar and ginger and allow to boil slowly on low heat

* While the milk mixture is cooking, on medium heat in a separate heavy-bottomed pot, add butter and spices and allow to come to a boil

After a couple mins, add your nuts of choice

Fry until golden brown

* Add flours to pot stirring well until all butter is mixed into the flour mixture. Stir constantly until flour-butter mixture is lightly browned – DO NOT BURN – Mom calls this the raham mixture – this is also called parching (sounds like patching) the flour

* When raham mixture is brown, add raisins and cherries (IF desired) and then slowly add milk mixture to pot stirring constantly until it starts to thicken, then lower heat and keep stirring until no longer gooey and is firm. At this stage is mixture looks a bit dry then a little water can be added. In the photo on the right, the halwah needs a little more drying out before being done.

Rice Halwah - Adding Milk to Flour Rice Halwah - Almost Done

* Butter cookie sheet/pan and spread halwah out evenly. Allow to cool and then cut into square. Alternatively roll into balls and serve.

Note – condensed milk (plus the equivalent tin of water) can be used instead of the evaporated milk, but you would need to reduce the amount of sugar.


The number of searches for Trini halwa in the last couple weeks has just skyrocketed. I believe it’s because Ramadan is around the corner. The way barfi searches were tops last year. So I hope this recipe is timely enough to catch the hopeful googlers who want to practise this sweet before Eid ul Fitr!

I do apologise for the not quite in focus state of some of the photos – these were taken with my old Nikon CoolPix 7900 (before I tragically lost it in Gatwick) and not so great lighting at night in my flat in Barbados last year. Mom made this batch while visiting 😀

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28 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. Hmmm….. coming to think of it I have promised to make cream of wheat / semolina Halwah for the Saudi visitors and I have not done so as yet… should make this weekend then Insha’Allah …as your Dad loves it as well…..

    1. trinimom on August 16th, 2008 at 7:26 am
  2. i hate halwa
    i like halawi tho

    2. Lilandra on August 16th, 2008 at 10:55 am
  3. And you like Basboosa as well…Lilandra

    3. trinimom on August 16th, 2008 at 7:41 pm
  4. Different cooks do produce very different results for halwa and parsad but I like both especially when just of the stove. I prefer plain flour to Cream of Wheat though. Thinking about this makes me hungry :)

    4. aka_lol on August 18th, 2008 at 1:39 pm
  5. Love the halwa recipe!

    P.S: In India, prasad is referred to as any stuff they give out to eat at Hindu temples. It could include anything sweet or savory. Looks like things are different t your place.

    5. Nabeela on August 26th, 2008 at 4:50 pm
  6. ahhh, the way we use sirnee for Muslim stuff we give out at the masjid, but in Guyana they call this one thing sirnee. we have a strange mixture sometimes of hindu and muslim indian cultures, since people merged things out of solidarity when they got to the Caribbean – it makes sorting out what is religion versus culture a bit difficult for some!

    6. Chennette on August 26th, 2008 at 4:59 pm
  7. That is the joint. I never new what exactly you call it, but when it is Eid, that sweet (halwa?) ranks up there with barfi. You should rename this blog, ‘Dishes and delicacies to expect from a Trini Indian wife (Muslim i.e.) if she is in touch with her culture (and deen).’

    7. umar on September 10th, 2008 at 5:12 pm
  8. or maybe, Helping the Trini Muslim husband to make these delicacies for his family…

    8. Chennette on September 10th, 2008 at 5:46 pm
  9. i dont understand this bias against single people

    we not indian

    we mixed!

    9. Lilandra on September 10th, 2008 at 8:13 pm
  10. “i dont understand this bias against single people

    we not indian

    we mixed!”

    Well is your family, not mine. And my bad, include dougla in d equation too since Trinidad is such a callalloo country. As ah say that, how come ah doh see yuh putting no recipes fuh coo-coo, ital, macarone pie, bena ball, blue food, an’ ting? Like is ah culinary version of Mastana Bahar? :)

    10. umar on September 13th, 2008 at 1:12 pm
  11. tsk tsk Umar, assumptions again – like you like trouble nah? :-)
    We part Syrian, so you will see recipes for basboosa and kibbe and stuff. And I have pelau. And Lilandra has more than one macaroni pie recipe. I have only ever bought benna ball. I have no idea how to start making it other than buying sesame seeds…
    Truthfully, my aim was to put up family recipes that were scarce to find online in the way I like – people have great recipes for coo-coo and oildown and thing, so I don’t need to compete until I find something different to add 😀

    11. Chennette on September 13th, 2008 at 2:14 pm
  12. ha
    the aim was to make brother salivate with the eid cooking

    12. Lilandra on September 13th, 2008 at 2:22 pm
  13. what? it was to SHARE!! the siblings appreciated the SHARING

    13. Chennette on September 13th, 2008 at 2:23 pm
  14. ok ah now see d connection. Mashaallaah, that is interesting because I always thought that all Trini Syrian or Lebanese were christians as I never met any Muslim from amongst them. In any event, it would be good if you can post some recipes for the breakfast stuff those Syrian/Lebanese make because I really like foul and hummus with pita but the few times I tried to make foul it was no where close to that of the way Palestinians make it. Also do you all eat that type of butter fat cream (custa?), and if so what should do you eat it with?

    14. umar on September 15th, 2008 at 4:41 pm
  15. no problema 😀 and may I direct you to the relevant post, out of shameless self-advertising?
    You are right, the majority of syrian/lebanese that came to Trinidad were in fact Christian, but a very few were Muslim, like my grandfather and some of his relatives.
    I can post a hummus recipe soon, but we didn’t really grow up with foul. Mom will have to advise whether she made it with/for her father.

    15. Chennette on September 15th, 2008 at 5:00 pm
  16. Thanks and tell yuh umm yeah is I-man from TM. What about butter fat cream (custa?) or that is more saudi? btw do you all do eggs with onions and potatoe? Also I tried making falafel (box ting nah; add water and presto) but it was a flop.

    16. umar on September 15th, 2008 at 5:08 pm
  17. it crumbled didn’t it…
    yeah she was wondering who you were

    17. Lilandra on September 15th, 2008 at 7:20 pm
  18. The Syrians who were Muslims settled mainly in St James, Woodbrook or San Juan , my father chose in San Juan and this was many moons ago….

    Butter fat /cream is not a Syrian original dish but over the years it has become one.
    Yes I grew up with eggs and onions and potatoes and another tasty addition is the thinly sliced strips of cooked beef.

    Falafel is made from scratch in our home at home.. check chennette for a recipe.

    I do not like foul or fava beans that is why I never made it at my home but I grew up with it. It is made just like the black beans and red beans but it was always made when I was growing up as it was my father’s breakfast dish.

    My Indian mother learnt how to cook the syrian dishes from my father’s first cousin who was an excellent cook and baker and many people use to line up on Abercromby street to buy her pita bread and shanklesh and laban etc… about 50 odd years ago

    18. trinimom on September 15th, 2008 at 8:31 pm
  19. Shukran. Real good info. So when is the restaurant gonna open up? Or allyuh already does cater from home?

    19. umar on September 18th, 2008 at 6:17 pm
  20. I have not had Halwa in years but i remember that it looked sort of on the yellow side and was a bit spicy yet sweet and creamy (i’m not to sure, but i think a bit of geera was added). I always thought that Sirnee (recipe above) was different from Halwa ( which is sweet but spicy) Another thing is that Hindus in TnT and in Guyana do not refer to sweets as Sirnee but as Methai.

    22. Anita on August 14th, 2009 at 3:51 pm
  21. Oh, just remembered that Muslims in Guyana, in most instances, add a red soft drink to their Sirnee recipe which gives it a pinkish colour and added falvour.

    23. Anita on August 14th, 2009 at 3:56 pm
  22. Hi Anita – are you from Guyana? because I know there will be differences as to the names and actual dishes between Guyana and T&T. Halwa, as far as I know it in Trinidad, usually would not have geera or be particularly spicy (although I have had other halwas from Indians or Pakistanis, made from carrots or other ingredients that do indeed taste spicier). I recall my landlady referring to the Halwah might have mentioned different flavours – so maybe it is different in Guyana.
    It is different colours depending on the flour/base used (wheat flour, rice flour, cream of wheat etc) and how particular cooks might brown it. The picture at the top is a bit pink because Mom added maraschino cherries with some of the liquid that coloured it. I don’t know that Trinis would add any red drink to it though…interesting.

    I see kurma being labeled as methai/mittai here in Guyana – didn’t realise it was the usual term for the sweets.Thanks for visiting.

    24. Chennette on August 14th, 2009 at 6:32 pm
  23. Thanks for your postings they have been very helpful. God’s blessings to you.

    28. Akida on August 17th, 2012 at 9:21 am
  24. i love your recipe it was the best of all the ones i tried tell your mom thanks

    29. fatima on January 26th, 2013 at 11:31 am
  25. Please clarify for me… rice flour and flour in the conversion charts are equivalent to more cups than what is stated in the recipe. Are you sure I should use 3/4 cup total?

    30. Nadia Mustapha on November 3rd, 2013 at 12:29 pm
  26. Hi Nadia – I double-checked with my Mom and she uses the weight rather than the cup measure. Cup measures of dry weights just vary so much I should have stuck with the weight! So use the 6 oz total of flours – this is a small batch.

    31. Chennette on November 4th, 2013 at 2:20 pm
  27. i am confused, isn’t halwa a Hindu thing alongside lapsi and Serni a Muslim thing… when I was pregnant and in Guyana i had halwa it was more of a greenish look with excellent taste of milk and had a bit of a spicy taste not sure if is Ginger or some sort of halwa massalla but both times was from Hindu folks and they made it to help me produce breast milk…i had it with Puri

    32. Nafiza on November 3rd, 2015 at 7:01 pm
  28. Hi Nafiza and welcome. The confusion may be because Trinis and Guyanese use different terms. In Trinidad, we use “sirnee” to mean the sweet served at mosque or functions. “Halwah” is the dish Muslims make from flour/rice flour etc as in this recipe. “Parsad” is the similar dish made by Hindus for their religious functions.
    From being in Guyana, I thought that “sirnee” is used to mean this Halwah-like dish, which is made when a baby is born, or apparently for pregnant women and sometimes contains other ingredients NOT like Trini Halwah. I don’t know whether this practice is Muslim or Hindu in Guyana. I really can only speak with certainty to Trinidad 😉

    33. Chennette on November 11th, 2015 at 1:42 pm

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