Indian cuisine is mainly associated with Mughals and Persians. If you look back at the history of culinary finesse you can find that the Persian, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines have so much in common. The Mughals who looked to Persia for their cultural models invariably got influenced by their taste and food habits too. The Mughal Emperors brought in changes to these dishes according to their taste and that is how the Indian version of these dishes were born.One such dessert is Falooda. Different versions of Falooda can be seen in almost all the countries in the Indian sub continent. But the base is same everywhere, corn starch vermicelli or vermicelli made with arrowroot and basil seeds are used for this. I found normal vermicelli more tasty. Sago/tapioca pearls is my addition. Basil seeds are soaked in water so that they swell up. This will have a jelly-like consistency, transparent outside with the black seed inside. It serves as a textural component because it doesn’t really have a flavour of its own. I think these were added due to its health benefits (as healthy as a calorie-laden dessert can get, anyway). In the olden days when ice was costly and refrigerators didn’t exist, natural foodstuff like these aided in cooling the body down. Popularly known as Tukmaria in India, these seeds help in cooling the body and aids in digestion.
Sago is very starchy and sticky in nature. To reduce this, wash this several times. Once cooked, drain it with ice cold water twice and you will get crystal clear pearl like sago. It will not stick to each other and have a gooey but firm consistency. This gooey nature usually spoils the milk faster but my falooda stays fresh as ever in the fridge for a week because I use long life milk for desserts because it lasts longer.American ice-cream soda essence is the secret ingredient of this falooda. It imparts a nice aroma and flavour to this dessert. Combined with rose syrup you get that extra flavour and punch which you crave in a dessert. I have not found this essence anywhere other than my hometown Aluva (anyone heard of Kamat’s?). We have a store over there which sells different varieties of essence including a biriyani essence. This store has also a story tell which I will be doing it in my future posts.
There is a particular way also to serve Falooda. The vermicelli, milk, tapioca pearls, basil seeds are all layered into a tall glass then topped with ice-cream, rose syrup and nuts. Instead of adding milk and vermicelli separately, I boil milk and reduce it a bit. Then add condensed milk, vermicelli, sago and basil seeds to it. Layering can be done according to your preference. Some people add fruits, some different types of nuts. We can also fry cashews and raisins in ghee (clarified butter) and top the falooda with it.Since nuts are crunchy, its not fancied by my family, I avoid them. So go and make your own combination according to your taste and preferences. Festival seasons are the best time to go with traditional recipes with a twist here and there and thats the reason i preferred Falooda for this post since its festival time in India.
Soak sago in 2 cups water for half an hour. Boil 1 litre of water. Add the soaked sago into the boiling water. Cook till done and jelly like. Drain the water and add cold water and drain again. Keep till all the water is drained.
Soak basil seeds also in 200 ml of water till it becomes swollen and jelly like.
Boil 11/2 litre water. Add the vermicelli when the water is boiling. Cook till just done. Drain and keep aside. You can add cold water if you feel that it is sticky before draining. This will also help in not overcooking the vermicelli too.
Prepare both the jellies as per instructions given on the packet. allow it to set in fridge.
Boil the milk with sugar adding condensed milk when the milk is hot. You can add sugar according to your taste. Allow it to reduce a bit till you get a creamy colour to the milk and thicker in consistency. Let it stand for sum time until the temperature is reduced half. Transfer to a bowl.
Now add the vermicelli and sago to the milk. When the milk mixture is cooled down, keep it in the refrigerator for chilling.
Once the falooda mixture is chilled, add the ice-cream essence and soaked basil seeds. Give a generous mix.
Now we are all set to go. Start layering a tall glass with Raspberry jelly first.
Then add a ladle full of falooda. Above that layer the lime jello. Then the falooda again
Finally top it with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and rose syrup.
Garnish with nuts or fruits of your choice.
Happy festival cooking to all!!!!