Even die-hard fans of falooda agree it is a ridiculous concoction. The milkshake-meets-dessert is a riot of textures: slippery vermicelli noodles and ice cream layered with crushed ice, jelly, vanilla essence, soaked tukmaria (basil seeds), nuts, and rani pink rose syrup.
And yet, it works.
In Mumbai, falooda is served at no-nonsense Udupi restaurants, ice-cream parlours, juice centres, and even five-star establishments. The drink’s introduction to the city is a little hazy, but many believe it was brought here by the Iranis in the 1940s, when they set up a string of cafés in Bombay. Versions of the drink are also popular in other parts of India, as well as Pakistan, Mauritius, Burma, and the Middle East. Faloodeh, a popular dessert in Persia, combined chilled vermicelli, with grated ice and rose water. The updated version is slurpier: a cheap, cheerful concoction that offers respite from the heat and is heavy enough to count as a meal.
For a classic falooda, slip by the charming Kyani and Co., an old Irani café in Dhobi Talao. Here, twinkle-eyed children and wobbly grandpas slurp up the drink on marble table-tops while watching the world go by. Badshah Cold Drink House in Crawford Market has built its reputation around falooda. Supposedly the best in the city, Badshah ups the ante with scoops of ice cream in all sorts of flavours.
It’s a pop artist’s dream. Swirls of pink (rose syrup), green (khus flavouring), and yellow (just for colour) fill glasses that are topped with pistachio. Some, like the chocolate-flavoured falooda, add cream and too-sweet chocolate sauce to the mix—the classic kulfi is a tamer, but safer bet.
You’ll see it on the streets too. In neighbourhoods like Bhendi Bazaar and at beachside stalls in Juhu and Chowpatty, hawkers sell plastic packets of falooda chilled in Thermocol iceboxes. Take them home, or simply stick a straw in for an instant brainfreeze and sugar hit. So loved is the Bombay falooda, that it has been immortalised in local lexicon: “Izzat ka falooda ban gaya” means to have one’s reputation shredded to bits (like the vermicelli)