|Mixed faloods with rose syrup|
This opens up endless gastronomic possibilities, so for Shabbat dinner last week, we marked the occasion with food that was mostly Persian, Parsi, and Irani. The Parsis are a Zoroastrian community that emigrated to India millennia ago to escape persecution, the Iranis one that left in the nineteenth century. It seemed particularly appropriate to acknowledge the Persian roots of Purim with foods of communities that originated in Persia but fled to escape religious persecution. (BTW, and speaking of escaping or ending religious persecution, you haven't lived until you have seen the St Petersburg Hillel Purim video.)
The main dish was a salmon baked with green coconut chutney, which we served with crusty Persian rice, Indian cauliflower and a dish of black-eyed peas with spinach, dill, curry leaves and dried lime, a very typical Persian spice that smells like an old cathedral. (This is a good thing.) For dessert, we had falooda (also spelled faluda) using the recipe from Niloufer Ichaporia King's My Bombay Kitchen . It is a milk shake with creamy milk, falooda sev (noodles softened and soaked in syrup), basil seeds, ice cream and rose syrup. Amy and I had something similar once in a Pakistani sweet shop in Jackson Heights whose name we forget but which we remember as the Al-Qaeda Cafe, since it was dominated by a huge replica of some mosque or other and Amy and our friend Marilyn were the only women there who were not veiled.
Falooda is sort of a weird dessert, and I was probably the only one who liked it, at least with the original rose syrup. But one of our guests last week was our friend Nancy, who is a maple syrup fanatic -- she and her husband Gary have even tapped maple sap from the trees near their house in the Adirondacks. Just so you believe this, here is a picture which they sent me of how they do it:
|a bucket on a tree with tap|
|a bucket of sap|
We had some cans of maple syrup in the cabinet from our last trip to Montreal, so we tried it and it was far more popular with most of our guests than the rose syrup. And voila, American Falooda. Try it both ways and see what you prefer.
The dish really defies recipes, and is nice made at the table with everyone mixing it to their own taste but here is how you make it. It is sort of like making really weird sundaes.
Falooda, Irani and American style
Shake 2 tablespoons basil seed (sold in Indian groceries as takmuriya -- I have no idea if these are related to regular basil) in a sieve to remove any debris. They are nondescript, small, hard black brown seeds. Soak them in between 1 and 2 cups of cold water for about 15 minutes. They will swell and become gelatinous, squeaky and crunchy at the same time. I prefer the lesser amount of water which I find preserves the crunch and squeak of the seeds and what little aroma there is. They can be a great conversation starter, as people discuss whether they look more like insect larvae, fish roe, or fish eyes. (If you cannot find basil seeds, you can try to substitute chia seeds which are vaguely similar.) After they are soaked, this is what they look like:
|Soaked basil seed.|
If you cannot find falooda sev, you can substitute cellophane noodles: take a small package, soak in warm water about 1/2 hour. If you like them chewy, you can use them now. If you like them slithery, boil them in water for no more than one mine, and drain and rinse immediately. Cut into 1 or 2 inch lengths before using. You will of course no longer be eating falooda, rather cellophanoodla, but it will still be fun. (This of course depends on your definition of fun.)
When you are ready to serve, assemble each serving as follows:
- Put a few noodles in a large wine glass.
- Top with a large spoon of basil seeds, to preference. (I would say to taste but there really isn't any. It is more about texture.)
- Top with about 1/2 cup whole milk, half and half, or a combination of the two.
- Pour the syrup carefully, and it will sink to the bottom as in the picture below. It is hard to give exact quantities and depends largely on the sweetness of the syrup and your own taste. We found that 1-2 tablespoons of the rose syrup that we had was good, but that closer to 3 tablespoons of maple was needed.
- Top with ice cream. This is what they will look like if you have done it right:
|With maple syrup on left, rose syrup on right.|