Ramadan is a perfect time to enjoy lavish Iftar with friends and families. I have always seen people flock the dessert stations more than they are towards the entrée selection, that is why all the places in Doha have a very lavish dessert buffets. So lets start this Ramadan with a sweet note and I will share my knowledge about a popular sweet retreat Kulfi Falooda. If you grew up in India like me then I am sure you must have memories of Indian summer. If you remember the summer, then there must also be kulfi somewhere there. Well! I have some fond memories of those summer evenings. In our town, like any other town of India, we had a street where all these vendors would come and line up in the evening selling street food. Aloo chat, gol gappe, sugarcane juice and then there were falooda kulfi stalls.
Kulfi falooda as the name suggests- is comprised of mainly two parts. One is kulfi - the traditional frozen dessert available in many flavours. The second part is falooda which is the sweetened cornflour vermicelli served along the frozen kulfi. Then the dish is drizzled with rose syrup and is garnished with basil seeds and dry fruits like almonds and pistachio. I always say that falooda is a dessert disguised as a drink because as you indulge in this delicate dessert the melted kulfi along with rose syrup and sweetened falooda accumulates as a great drink in the glass bottom. That is why kulfi falooda is served with a spoon and a straw to enjoy the dessert and drink at the same time. When it comes to falooda though, the whole is always greater than that of its parts. Sweet, refreshing, smooth, cool, crunchy, and velvety, it engages the palate on many levels simultaneously and is a perfect antidote for summers.
It is believed that falooda began its life journey a decadent concoction in the royal courts of Mughal Emperor Jehangir, Akbar’s son. He had a great curiosity and interest about anything novel and unique. A favourites among other dishes was falooda, a rich jelly like drink made from the straining of boiled wheat mixed with fruits and cream. Others say that king Nader Shah brought it with him when he came to India. Of course whichever way you look at it, this was a royal drink meant for a royalty. Soon the dish escaped its gilded cage and began its journey across the nation, which is where it transformed into the cool, colourful dessert- drink as it is today.
Other versions of falooda are common in other parts of Asia too. Halo Halo, the traditional Philippines dessert is a similar combination of ingredients, evaporated milk, coconut, yam ice cream with tropical fruits. Singaporean condolence is made up of shaved ice in a lake of coconut and condensed milk with a golden brown palm sugar syrup drizzled over it. Malaysia ups the ante with its ice laccha good that adds jelly, red beans, fruits, peanut, ice cream, sweet corn and ore to candol. Mauritian bubble tea is made of milk, basil seeds, agar agar, strawberry or vanilla syrup and is called alouda.
Rich creamy kulfi topped with falooda and rose syrup is a dessert which finds a place only at special occasions at Indian buffet counter. Kulfi is our very own Indian ice-cream made from thickened and reduced milk flavoured with saffron and cardamom. With so much innovative chefs, hybrid versions of the falooda have sprung up. You can try new-fangled types made with chocolate sauce, strawberry and butterscotch kulfi falooda, kesar-flavored falooda, paan-masala falooda, the Shirazi falooda with pistachio ice cream, and a profusion of nuts and falooda laced with seasonal fruit, my personal favourite is the mango and is widely popular. A perfect falooda needs a perfect balance, not too sugary, they should be thick and creamy enough to fill stomach. Another version of kulfi falooda is the rabri falooda . Rabri is sweetened and reduced milk laced with dry fruits, cardamom and saffron and is perfumed with rose water.
The Modern Falooda in India
In fact, so beloved is the falooda that even the latest and the hippest restaurants serve it. Sucres des Terres has created a sundae version of it for Bombay Canteen, with layers of vermicelli, strawberry jelly, basil seeds and rose ice cream topped with candied pistachio and a sweetened milk foam. Monkey Bar serves a Gadbad falooda with three scoops of ice cream, rose milk, praline and candied papaya. And Soda Bottle Opener Wala offers an Irani falooda, what they call a ‘classic Bombay falooda flavoured with strawberry’.
It is really not that hard to make a falooda, since all the ingredients are available nowadays in shops. Buy the delicate cornflour vermicelli or falooda sev, some basil seeds, rose syrup, milk, dry fruits and nuts and ice cream. To prepare it, cook the vermicelli in boiling water until translucent but not too squishy. Soak the basil seeds in water till they swell up. Meanwhile, sweeten some hot milk with sugar, then chill the mixture. Pour into a tall glass, the rose syrup, the seeds, the falooda sev, the chilled milk and then throw in a scoop of ice cream. Garnish with the nuts and dry fruit. Of course, ideally, you should prepare the falooda sev and ice cream at home, but failing that, you can always turn to your neighbourhood grocery store. Some people put cubes of fruit-flavoured jelly, khus syrup or kulfi, but to my mind, that is all by way of gilding the lily.
Kesar mango falooda
For The Kesar Kulfi
Milk full fat 1 lt
Saffron few strands
Cooking cream ½ cup
Corn flour 1 tbsp
Sugar ½ cup
Cardamom powder ¼ tsp
Mango pulp 1 cup
Rose syrup 4 tbsp
Falooda sev 1 cup
Pistachio powder 1 tbsp
Rose syrup 2 tbsp
Basil seeds 1 tbsp
Combine the saffron and warm milk in a small bowl, mix well and keep aside
Combine the corn flour and ¼ cup of milk in a bowl, mix well and keep aside
Heat the remaining milk in a non stick pan and boil on medium flame and bring to boil, while stirring
Reduce the milk to almost half and add cooking cream, mango pulp and stir
Add the corn flour and sugar mixture, mix well and cook on a medium flame while stirring and scrapping the sides
Switch off the flame and allow the mixture to cool completely
Once cooled, add saffron milk mixture and cardamom powder and mix well
Pour the mixture into kulfi mounds or a set them in tray, freeze overnight
Boil the falooda sev in water till they turn translucent, remove from flame and refresh in ice cold water
Soak the basil seeds in water for 10 minutes to allow them to swell up
To demould rub a kulfi moulds between your Pam’s and then unmould it, if you set the kulfi in tray, cut the kulfi in square and place in a martini glass
Place the chilled falooda on top, drizzle rose syrup
Sprinkle chopped pistachio and place some basil seeds on top and serve cold
* Chef Tarun Kapoor, Culinary Mastermind, USA. He may be contacted at [email protected]
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