My Mother’s version of Cape Malay Falooda milkshake recipe includes rose syrup and full fat milk and is enriched with full cream ice cream for a refreshing and cooling drink after a long and tiring day. Falooda milkshake is relatively simple to make but so decadent and delicious.
As children, having Falooda milkshake at iftar was like having parent-mandated milkshake every day of the week.
Types of Falooda
Over the years I learned that Falooda means different things to different people from other regions of the world. For Cape Malays it is a rose flavored milky beverage that we usually have during Ramadan but it could also be a fruity dessert if you are from the Asian sub-continent.
- My mother’s recipe for falooda uses boiled milk that has cooled, rose syrup and ice cream. Soaked basil (sabja) seeds and set china grass (agar agar jelly) are added for texture. She had been making it even before I was born so her recipe is probably around 50 years old, if not more.
- The Pakistani falooda recipe or Indian faluda recipes that I have tasted in Dubai are usually made using uncooked milk, soaked basil seeds and sev (fine fried noodles). Some recipes include pieces of jelly or crushed dried fruits and nuts and not a drop of rose syrup.
- At Shakeism Milkshakes in Al Barsha they make double thick falooda milkshake with boiled vermicelli and boba pearls filled with rose syrup.
- Many years ago in Abu Dhabi, my colleagues always ordered a falooda dessert made like a fruit salad with ice cream, rose syrup, saffron, pomegranate seeds and nuts.
- A fellow blogger of South African Indian descent makes a rose flavored Falooda set dessert.
- I recently came to know from an internet troll that that there is something called Bombay Crush made by South Africans of Indian descent. I have never heard of it before so can’t really say what it consists of, except that it may be very much like our Cape Malay Falooda milkshake if his rant was anything to by.
What is China grass or Agar agar
Older Cape Malay dessert recipes used china grass in the days before halaal gelatine from animal sources was available, because the Atlantic coast around Cape Town has abundant supplies of sea weed.
- Agar agar or china grass is a natural vegetarian gelatin substitute and gelling agent derived from carrageenan, a substance extracted from red seaweed or algae. This makes agar agar suitable for vegans and vegetarians.
- Agar agar is useful for thickening food or desserts because it has no odor, flavor and is semi-translucent.
- Some of agar agar benefits are that it is mostly fibre, is able to set at room temperature and stay firm at room temperature.
- China grass (agar agar) comes in powder form, threads or flakes. 1 tsp (2 grams) powder = 1 tbs (4 grams) flakes = 12 threads (4 grams).
How to make China grass
- When I tried to recreate my mother’s falooda milkshake recipe, the hardest thing was remembering how to make the china grass jelly after all these years. The first attempt was uninspiring and I realised that my method was all wrong.
- The china grass must be boiled hard and fast for it to somehow activate the gelling effect, unlike gelatine that can be dissolved in hot liquid and used for setting.
- The china grass sets up firmer than gelatine and can be grated.
- I prefer the china grass falooda jelly made with rose syrup because it tastes better and looks more appealing when the falooda is served.
How to make falooda milkshake
When my mum first allowed me to assist her with making falooda milkshake, it was only to soak the basil seeds (these always reminded me of tadpoles) and to make the china grass jelly (like stiff colorless jelly with no flavor). The falooda milkshake was the only one in which we used china grass, although I found a dessert recipe sent by my mother’s friend that also uses agar agar powder to set it.
- Our Cape Malay falooda drink is made with boiled milk that is cooled before adding the rose syrup and other ingredients. I suspect that was because children were prone to upset stomachs after drinking ‘raw’ milk, and especially during Ramadhan when we have to be more careful. In recent years I have experienced really bad cramps after drinking falooda ordered from restaurants because the milk was not boiled.
- Other falooda ingredients include basil seeds and china grass that have little flavor but add much needed and enjoyable texture. Both must be prepared ahead of time.
- There are different brands of rose syrup on the market and the preferred type is one that has no other flavors. Sharbat Rooh Afza, a popular Indian and Pakistani rose syrup used to make an icy cold beverage during summer has a version flavored with rose and medicinal smelling herbs. The one with herbs is not suitable for this falooda milkshake.
- Vanilla or Strawberry ice cream can be used to top this Cape Malay falooda milkshake recipe with china grass.
- Nowadays you can find a powdered falooda mix in supermarkets but that is pure sugar and artificial coloring.
What to eat with falooda milkshake
Falooda milkshake is delicious on it’s own but during Ramadhan it is served at iftar with snacks.
- Daltjies spinach and corn fritters
- Sweet corn and polenta fritters
- Banana fritters with cinnamon sugar
- Cheesy Zuchhini fritters
- Pumpkin fritters with cinnamon sugar
Basil seed garnish
- 5 ml basil seeds approximately 1 teaspoon
- 60 ml cold water
China grass garnish
- 5 ml agar agar powder also known as china grass (approximately 1 teaspoon)
- 200 ml hot water
- 15 ml rose syrup approximately 1 tablespoon
- 5 ml rose water approximately 1 teaspoon
- 1 litre milk whole milk is preferred
- 125 ml rose syrup approximately 1/2 cup
- 300 ml Vanilla or strawberry ice cream
- 5 grams rose petals optional
- Put the basil seeds in a small bowl or cup and cover with cold water. Allow to soak for at least 30 minutes.
- In a small pot add the china grass powder and pour over the hot water. Stir vigorously until dissolved and bring to the boil before adding 1 teaspoon of rose water and one tablespoon rose syrup. Let it cool, then cover and refrigerate until set.
- Boil the milk and allow to cool, then decant into a jug and refrigerate.
- Just before serving add the rose syrup to the milk and mix thoroughly to combine.
- Grate the china grass into a bowl.
- For each serving glass add 2 small scoops of ice cream, 1 teaspoon drained basil seeds and 1 teaspoon grated china grass.
- Pour over the falooda milk and serve with a sprinkling of rose petals.
- Agar agar values: 1 tsp (2 grams) powder = 1 tbs (4 grams) flakes = 12 threads (4 grams).
- I used Middle Eastern rose syrup for this recipe. If you are using a Pakistani or Indian rose syrup check the sweetness after the first 90 ml of syrup as the taste and sweetness may vary. Also ensure that it is not a herbal rose syrup.
Disclaimer: Nutritional information for the recipe is an approximation and varies according to the ingredients and products used.
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