a summer treat for children of all ages
I have fond memories from my childhood of Falooda.. sigh. Every 80+ degree day (or a freezer sale on our favorite ice-cream brand) - is an excuse to reminisce about this muddled and wonderful treat from my childhood.
Every city in India has a fabled local Falooda joint and a copycat street vendor to pair up with the establishment. Some believe that it came to India from Persia - either through Iran (and therefore via the Parsi community), others find that many of these are owned by Muslims - suggesting some connection there - perhaps also because of their preference of perfumed milk or Rooh-Afza, or the use of sev/vermicelli. In some towns like Pune, it is called 'Mastani', in Bombay, much the same way it remains stuck in my memory - it remains Falooda.
Regardless of its origins or name, in its simplest description, Falooda can be dubbed an Indian ice cream float. After you taste this, you will want to add it to your repertoire.
Makes: Twelve 4-oz servings; 330 calories ea.
Diet: Jain, Ritual friendly, Vegetarian
Prep Time: 20 minutes plus time to cool
Cook Time, Ease: 20 minutes, Moderately easy
6 cups whole milk
½ cup sugar
1 tsp green cardamom pods, seeded and finely crushed
½ cup raw pistachio meat, finely chopped
¼ cup rose syrup (Rooh-Afza is a popular brand of rose syrup)
1 cup coarsely crumbled vermicelli pasta, cooked al dente (alt: use Falooda sev or Bambino sev available in ethnic markets)
3 tbsp sabja/sweet basil seeds soaked in ½ cup water
Pistachio ice cream, 2 scoops or more per person (do not use sorbet - it will melt away in no time)
In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a boil, then turn down the heat. While constantly stirring, add in the sugar, crushed cardamom and pistachio meat. Cook for 5-7 minutes while constantly stirring to prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Bring to one last boil and remove from heat. Cool to room temperature and then place in the refrigerator until completely chilled.
The sweet basil seeds need to soak and fluff up in water, about 5 minutes. Strain them with a strainer and add the seeds into the chilled milk. The milk can stay cold until ready to serve.
Soak the precooked al dente vermicelli pieces in the rose syrup. They will take on a pinkish tone; this is normal.
When you are ready to serve, choose a glass that will hold 6 ounces or more of liquid. In each glass place 1-2 tablespoons of the rose syrup soaked vermicelli. Place a serving of pistachio ice cream over the vermicelli. Give the cold milk a quick stir to ensure all the sweet basil seeds and pistachio pieces are evenly distributed. Very carefully pour the milk over the ice cream, being sure not to disturb the bottom layer too much. It will eventually mix in, but this creates an interesting layered look. The ice cream will float to the top. Provide a spoon. Serve immediately.
There can be many variations to this dessert - all permutations and combinations of three (or four) main ingredients - milk, ice-cream and syrup (typically a fruit based syrup) provide endless number of delightful desserts.
Milk: Dairy is a key component of this dish so choose full cream milk. However, if you have dairy/lactose intolerance, use almond milk instead. Coconut milk is far too thick and soy milk will not taste good in this, regardless of the additional flavorings.
Ice-cream: Use your favorite brand of ice-cream with high cream content for the best flavors, as the ice-cream tends to melt in. If you use a mixed flavored ice-cream, pair the flavor with your syrup for a traditional falooda fix, or mix it up with something unusual for a trendy twist. We rely on Hagen Daz for all our desserts. Home-made Kulfi is fantastic too. Often used in Falooda, the best one is made from thickened heavy cream, sugar and flavored with cardamom and saffron. Read the labels before purchasing kulfi - many have thickening agents like corn flour (bleh) and preservatives. Look for a recipe soon - it is a slightly longer process, but well worth your time. Sorbets are most definitely NOT suited for this dish.
Syrup: There are many sugar-based fruit fruit-flavored syrups available in the market-place, try one of those to make your best Falooda. We like the Torani brand, but read the labels before you choose anything - you dont want to add stuff to your body that you dont need.
Fruit: Sweet and juicy seasonal tropical fruits with low acidity are best for this dish - so this is a great excuse to try out the produce section of your markets for some unusual and delectable finds. Stick to fruits that provide a smooth pulp, as opposed to a grainy pulp - the texture can be distracting and therefore unappealing. In addition to the flavors listed below, other fruits popularly used in falooda include: sitaphal (or mix Cherimoya into vanilla ice-cream) or chikko (alternately use Sapota).
Other additions: Small chunks of fruit-flavored jello serve as a popular addition to Falooda. They also represent an interesting textural contrast to this dessert and also help add volume to your serving without adding extra calories.
Here are a few of my 'other' favorite combinations to make Falooda.
Blackberry Falooda: Blackberry syrup with fresh berry compote, saffron milk and vanilla bean ice-cream. (crush the berries with sugar and strain to use only the pulp)
Raspberry Falooda: Raspberry syrup with fresh raspberry compote, cardamom milk and a raspberry-cheesecake ice-cream, topped with slivered almonds.
Mango - Kesar- Kulfi Falooda: Fresh mango chunks and pulp with saffron (also called Kesar) milk, and Kulfi ice-cream topped with pista.
Litchi Falooda: Frozen litchi chunks, nut-free cardamom milk, and Litchi Mochi (!!) or Litchi ice cream.
Rasmalai-Kulfi Falooda: Drained rasgulla (with all juices squeezed out), served with chilled cardamom-saffron milk (also called Kesar milk), and topped with Kulfi ice-cream or vanilla-bean ice-cream.
And like any parent who is asked if they have a favorite child - I dare you to pick one favorite - it is impossible.
This recipe of Falooda was first included in A Dozen Ways to Celebrate (2014). This book is also available on iTunes and GooglePlay books.