New Year's Milk Shake (Falooda)
Faludeh in Iran is a frozen dessert of wheat-starch noodles in a pre-scented syrup. Falooda in northern India is a dish of kulfi (rich ice cream) and wheat-starch noodles. Falooda in Bombay is a glorious milk-shakey affair in a tall glass. At the bottom, there's a layer of soaked basil (Ocimum basilicum) seeds, tukhmuriya ni biya, with a slippery-crunchy texture that's like nothing else. On top of the tukhmuriya ni biya is a layer of translucent noodles made of wheat starch. Both of these layers are seen through intense pink rose syrup, although amber-colored saffron syrup is an option. Milk appears to float over this foundation without disturbing it. For extra luxury, there might be a scoop of vanilla ice cream or kulfi. To eat the Falooda, you stir everything up with a long spoon.
Falooda is supposed to be eaten on March 21, Navroz, the old Persian New Year's Day, but that doesn't mean you can't find it or eat it for the remaining 364 days.
The best places to find Falooda outside someone's house is in Bombay's beloved Irani-run restaurants, often named after British or Iranian royals. Rustom Jeejeebhoy, fountainhead of Parsi lore, used to tantalize me by describing the delights of his favorite Irani restaurant, the King Victoria, hidden away on the edges of the mill district, but he never found himself able to take me there or even come up with the address.
To make Falooda in the United States you need two common things, milk and ice cream, and two slightly more esoteric items, rose syrup and basil seeds. Rose syrup can be found in Indian or Middle Eastern groceries. I suggest the Middle Eastern brands, for a truer rose flavor. For total extravagance, look for exquisite organic rose syrup from Italy. Read the labels to make sure you're not getting an entirely synthetic product. The basil seeds come from Indian or Southeast Asian markets. Buy the Southeast Asian ones; the Indian basil seeds are often sandy.
At Chez Panisse March 21 dinners, we serve Falooda in small glasses as a dessert drink. Instead of ice cream we use ice milk, which keeps things refreshing. Serves 6.
1 tablespoon basil seeds
2 cups (or more) water
3 cups (about) chilled whole milk or half-and-half
1/2 cup (about) rose syrup
1/2 cup (about) vanilla ice cream or ice milk
• Soak the seeds in the water for 1 to 3 hours. A tablespoon doesn't seem like much, but the seeds swell up enormously.
• Line up your glasses, tall or short. First put a spoonful of soaked seeds in the bottom of each glass, 2 teaspoons or so for small glasses, 1 to 2 tablespoons for tall glasses. Then pour in the milk to within an inch of the top of the glass. Follow that with 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons of rose syrup, depending on the sweetness of the rose syrup, the size of the glass, and your taste. It doesn't seem likely, but specific gravity will cause the syrup to sink below the milk in a neat band. If you do it the other way around, the syrup and milk get mixed and the dramatic banded effect is lost. Last, put a little ice cream in every glass.
Excerpted from My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking Copyright © 2007 by Niloufer Ichaporia King.
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