Falooda. Photo: Junaid Rashid/ Getty Images
There’s no denying the strange thrall of a falooda. The part shake- part dessert is a full medley of colours and textures: slippery vermicelli noodles, bubblegum pink rose syrup diluted in milk, jelly, crushed ice and pistachios, sabja and vanilla essence. It’s decidedly OTT, and yet, it’s delicious. Sweet, refreshing, crunchy and satisfying, it is the perfect antidote to a hot summer day.
Where did the falooda come from?
Like many of India’s fantastical culinary inheritances, falooda is believed to be an indulgent drink of Turkish or Persian origin, and was once the favourite of Mughal emperor Jehangir, according to food historian KT Achaya. The Persian Faloodeh or Paloodeh is served cold, with thin vermicelli noodles, a semi-frozen rose flavoured syrup and sometimes, lime juice and pistas. While Irani cafes, Udupi restaurants and high-end establishments across India all serve their own renditions of this creamy drink-dessert, versions of dessert similar to falooda are found across South Asia. Scan through images of these sugary delights and the likeness will leave you astounded. The Burmese falooda contains bread pudding and vanilla ice cream; the Filipino Halo Halo features coconut and purple yam ice cream, the Singaporean Cendol stars green rice flour jelly, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup, while the Malaysian ice kacang version has ice cream studded with sweet corn, red brands and jelly. In China, Baobing is a hodgepodge dessert of condensed milk, fresh fruit, mung brands and tapioca balls, while in Colombia, Cholado is made with crushed ice, condensed milk, chopped fruit and sometimes, a cookie and shredded cheese.
In India, the falooda enjoys two distinct avatars: the kulfi falooda is a whole dessert served on a plate with kulfi, vermicelli, jelly and rose syrup, while the regular falooda is almost always presented in a tall glass, with all the sugar trappings minus the kulfi. An essential ingredient that most falooda makers in India swear by is Rooh Afza, a ruby-hued syrup concocted from 22 ingredients including spinach, carrot, mint, and the distillate of damask rose.
India’s most famous falooda joints
When in Mumbai, pick from more than 12 options of falooda at the iconic century-old Badshah Falooda in Crawford Market. The steady supply of fresh fruit produce doubles as eco-friendly decor here. At Badshah, the mango, a summer speciality across India, is available throughout the year. Depending on the season, you can pick from an Alphonso from Ratnagiri or a Neelam from Chennai. The Royal Falooda is the store’s signature, made with in house rose syrup and ice cream, vermicelli, sabja and milk. It’s thicky and creamy, immediately coating your tongue and cooling your insides. Other popular haunts in the city to enjoy a falooda include Irani cafe Kyani & Co in Marine Lines and Worli’s Haji Ali Juice Centre. In Delhi, head over to Giani’s Di Hatti in Chandni Chowk for a tall thick falooda and when in Hyderabad, the city of nizams, head to Shadab Hotel in Ghansi Bazar, which is as famous for its biryani as it is for its falooda.
Or, you could try your hand at making it at home with this recipe.