Falooda doesn’t need any introduction to many. It’s a cold drink/dessert popular in India, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia and parts of the Middle East. Served either just as a drink or as an ice cream float, it is extremely pretty to look at and tastes even better!
Falooda is believed to be yet another Persian culinary legacy via the Moghuls. Are we even surprised at that anymore? The Persian’s Faloodeh/Faludeh goes as far back as 400BC, during the reign of Artaxexes II but this original version was a dessert of cornflour vermicelli noodles with a semi frozen rose syrup. Pretty similar to today’s version, as you will see.
The Indian and Pakistani Falooda is also made with said cornflour noodles called Falooda Sev, easily found in shops specialising in Indian foods. I have, on many occasions, just used standard rice vermicelli that are used for other Indian desserts. If you have an Indian grocer near you, take a wander through and see if you can spot them. Or just ask the shopkeeper! Of course, if you don’t, go online! Here in the UK, we not only have fantastic online specialist shops but Amazon and Ebay stores are also great options for “exotic” stuff.
What is different in the South Asian Falooda recipe that I present to you today is the addition of milk and Holy Basil seeds. The basil seeds, also known as tukmaria and subja seeds (selasih in Malay and Indonesian – being multilingual has its advantages!), are soaked for a couple of hours before being used, to allow them to soften and take on a gelatinous texture which blends in well with the rest of the falooda ingredients. At this stage, I’m afraid they resemble frog spawn! I’m not kidding! Basil seeds, you should be able to get at health stores, near the in trend chia seeds.
Similar desserts to Falooda can be found all over Asia, from the Singaporean/Malaysian Chendol to the Thai Nam Manglak, they all bear a slight kinship with with one another.
Optional Falooda Ingredients/Serving Ideas
Make some rose syrup jelly. Follow the instructions on your gelatine or agar agar packet with some diluted rose syrup. Pour the liquid rose syrup into your serving glasses and leave to set in the fridge. Then pour the falooda mix over when the milk is cold. That’s what you see in the images here.
Add the noodles, basil seeds and rose syrup into the hot milk and leave to cool. The noodles will absorb the flavours and taste even better.
Add some raisins to the hot milk and leave to plump up as the milk cools.
This needs a little advance prep as you need to cook the milk, then chill it, which will take about 4-6 hours, depending on the amount. The larger the serving, the longer it will take. I like to soak the seeds for a couple of hours too.
- 2 tsp holy basil seeds
- 1 handful Falooda sev/vermicelli for Indian desserts
- 550ml/just over 2 cups fresh whole milk
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 2 cardamoms, split
- 2 tbsp rose syrup (any make)
- 2 scoops vanilla ice cream
- crushed toasted pistachios or almonds
- rose petals (optional)
- Place the milk, sugar and cardamom in a milk pan and bring to a boil, keeping a close eye on it, as it will suddenly rise.
- Cook on a gentle simmer for 15 minutes.
- Scoop the cardamom skin out and pour the milk into a fresh bowl/jug. The cardamom seeds will be at the bottom of the pan for easy removal. Place in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours.
- Soak the seeds at room temperature water for 2 hours.
- To soften the sev/vermicelli, cook in simmering water for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.
- Essentially, we'll divide everything up into 2.
- Place a tsp of seeds into each glass
- Vermicelli, half a portion in each glass
- 1 tbsp of rose syrup each
- Gently, pour the milk into the glass, not quite to the top. Pouring the milk over the back of a tsp ensures as little disturbance to the syrup as possible.
- Top with a scoop of ice cream.
- Scatter some nuts and rose petals.
- Add the noodles, the basil seeds and the rose syrup to the milk and stir well.
- Divide the mix into 2 glasses.
- Top with ice cream.
- Scatter the nuts and rose petals all over the top.
- Serve immediately.
Total time does not include chilling and soaking times.