By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Middle East Correspondent
The month of August is one of the hottest in the Middle East, with temperatures sweltering, in many parts of the region, to well above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping cool is at the forefront of everyoneâ€™s mind and the best way to do that is with a delicious bowl of ice cream. Forget about Baskin Robbins and all their 31 flavors. For centuries, frozen Faloodeh has graced the palate of many an Arab ice cream connoisseur. Faloodeh is one of the earliest known frozen desserts, with historians dating its creation prior to 400 BC in Persia. Back then the people would collect ice from the mountains and build special freezers known as yakhchals specifically to freeze Faloodeh.
The Faloodeh is primarily a concoction comprised of water, cornstarch, limejuice and rose water. It is often garnished with chopped pistachios, cherries and a splash of cherry juice. The method is simple. A cup of cornstarch is dissolved into three cups of boiling water. That mixture is left to thicken and then placed into a strainer. With a spoon, the mixture is forced through the strainer and into a large bowl of iced water so that thin noodles are formed. The noodles are left in the water until firm. Once they are drained, they are mixed with the rose water and limejuice and frozen for 5 hours, with intermittent stirring. Prior to serving, the Faloodeh is sometimes colored with food coloring. It is divided into three portions. And each portion is colored red, green, or yellow. It is assembled on the plate in a horizontal bar shape.
The result is amazing. Perfect little frozen noodles that are flavored with just the right amounts of both sweet and sour notes. Faloodeh is popular everywhere in the Middle East however, it is a staple item in Afghanistan, Iran, India and Pakistan. And based on which country you are in, the Faloodeh is culturally morphed to fit in with local cuisine. In Pakistan and India, for example, the Faloodeh is served as a garnish for the traditional Kulfi ice cream.
The Faloodeh was no doubt born out of necessity. Even today, rich cream and sugar are expensive commodities in many parts of the developing world. Whipping up a bowl of rich and creamy ice cream would break the budget of a family in Afghanistan or Iran. Faloodeh is so economical, requiring so few ingredients, that even poor families can indulge the frozen dessert on a regular basis.
Faloodeh is not the only unique ice cream in the Middle East. Some of the most popular ice creams in the region would make most Americans turn up their noses. Unlike in America, where cake, cookies and candies are what make premium ice creams popular, Middle Eastern ice creams are typically flavored with teas, spices, fruit and even vegetables. Some of the most popular ice creams include saffron ice cream, which is a deep yellow and tastes as pungent as the spice itself and beetroot ice cream which is crimson red and flavored with just a hint of rose water. Another favorite is avocado ice cream, which is a best seller in the scorching summer heat.
No matter which way you scoop it, ice cream is popular all over the world with each country putting their own twist on the frosty treat.