The Khohanotz: Faloodeh
Among the many things that remind me of the hot Los Angeles summers of my childhood, Faloodeh is perhaps the most symbolic. Summer in a tub, as I like to call it.
Known as one of the earliest frozen deserts (The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks dates it back to at least 400 BC), faloodeh was kept in dome-shaped ancient refrigerators known as “yakhchals.” Made of thin vermicelli noodles that are frozen with rose water, starch and sugar, the flavors of the “Persian Sorbet” are intensely accentuated with a nice, generous helping of lemon juice.
When the lemon juice hits the faloodeh, well, it it’s so much more than just lemon juice – it’s the perfect combination of tart and sweet swirled together to make your taste buds cool off and dance together in the process.
You start to eat it so slowly, in fear that your spoon will hit the bottom of your bowl. And then you wriggle out a vermicelli noodle from its iced cocoon of sugar and lemon, and for a few minutes, everything seems ok with the world.
The responsibility of premiere maker and seller of faloodeh falls into the hands of Mashti Malone Ice Cream, who has been in existence in the U.S., particularly at its home base in Los Angeles since 1980. Mashti Malone’s faloodeh is the stuff of dreams, not to mention the other delectable Persian treats they specialize in including many flavors of akbar mashti, a traditional ice cream that contains specs of frozen cream and is made with saffron and rosewater, eaten between two crispy waffles.
To give you an idea of how deep the obsession with faloodeh can run and to show you that I’m not alone in my faloodeh-infused delusions, here’s a passage from Laleh Gillani’s post on Iranian.com, “For the Love of Faloodeh,” who waits with baited breath for her visiting mother to unleash the treasured dessert from her suitcase:
I am still waiting at the fringes. When all is said and done, she will be mine again. Soon my sons scatter to their rooms or the yard and leave my mother to unpack. By this time, I have lost all self control and want nothing but a bowl of Faloodeh. For nearly twenty years, I have refused to accept my mother’s excuses explaining away why she can’t bring me Faloodeh. She enlightens me with her wisdom at every opportunity: “It is just impossible! It will melt. Faloodeh is prepared on the spot and must be eaten right away!” A few years ago, I even bought a special cooler equipped with dry ice to send to Iran. She was determined to bring it back full of Faloodeh, but evidently, a family friend who runs a restaurant talked her out of it. I am still hunting him down to give him a piece of my mind.
Faloodeh makes you feel like you’re indulging in something that should only be reserved for the gods. It’s not heavy like ice cream and you don’t feel the need to eat enormous amounts at once – best enjoyed on an unbearably hot summer night outside with friends or family, and a few good lemons to pass around.