We first encountered faludeh, Persian rose water sorbet, years ago. It was an eye-opening frozen dessert among the many jewels at the ice cream emporium of Mashti Malone, in Los Angeles—to us, the most magical ice cream emporium in America.
We couldn’t believe how good it was—as is everything at Mashti Malone. Transliterated from the Arabic, you may also see it spelled faludeh or faloodeh, and also falude or palude.
A sidebar: The Mashti Malone ice cream shop is owned by Mashti and Mehdi Shirvani, two brothers from the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad. In 1980, Mashti bought an ice cream shop called Mugsy Malone on the corner of La Brea and Sunset in Hollywood. Because he had little money left over for a new sign, he simply replaced “Mugsy” with “Mashti,” and a legend was born.
Faludeh is one of the earliest known frozen desserts; it has been dated to ca. 400 B.C.E. in Persia. Flavored with rose syrup, which also delivers a flowery scent, it’s a cross between shaved ice or granita, and sorbet.
Raw angel hair or vermicelli noodles, made from rice starch or corn flour and water, are mixed in. The result: a unique frozen dessert and sensory eating experience.
We’ve had Asian and Middle Eastern ice cream flavors before, but the rose water sorbet is a truly refreshing experience. The sorbet melts on the tongue, leaving the al dente rice starch noodles to crunch.
Unusual as it may sound, the noodles provides are so delightful that you may try adding them to other granita and sorbet flavors.
In its region of origin, it is a favorite dessert and party food.
We tried a few different recipes in preparation for this article. The recipe below is a hybrid, taking what has worked for us to attain the best flavor with the simplest technique.
Serve it in a bowl, on a plate, in a coupe or Martini glass.
These days, faludeh can easily be made into granita; but we think that churning it into a smooth sorbet makes it even more magnificent.
The rose water and rose syrup purchased for the occasion also are a delicious enhancement to vanilla ice cream.
In addition to refreshing yourself in the heat of the summer, also make faludeh on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. It is, in essence, edible roses.
This recipe is granita-style, for those who don’t have an ice cream maker.
If for some reason you don’t want to use noodles, you can substitute pistachio nuts or just enjoy the rose granita plain.
If you’re a kitchen over-achiever, here are recipes to make your own rice starch noodles and cherry syrup.
Ingredients For 4 Servings
1. COMBINE the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the rose water. Set aside and let the syrup cool completely.
2. PLACE the noodles in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water and let stand until soft, about five minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Cut or tear noodles into two-inch pieces. Next time, if wish, you can try longer longer noodles. When softened, drain.
3. PLACE the noodles and syrup in a shallow pan or metal ice cube tray (anything that works for granita) and place it in the freezer for an hour. Then remove it, stir it with a fork and return to the freezer for another hour.
4. RAKE the granita with a fork, and return to the freezer until the desired consistency is reached, about one to three hours. To serve…
5. RAKE with a fork (like granita), and scoop the faludeh into bowls. Garnish as desired and serve with fresh lime juice or lime wedges.
Faludeh is one of the earliest forms of frozen desserts, with references found as early as 400 B.C.E.. At that time, ice was brought down from the mountains and stored in tall refrigerated buildings called yakhchals, which were kept cool by windcatchers.
The recipe for faludeh was brought to the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal period, the 16th to 18th centuries. Their cooks adapted it into a cold dessert beverage called falooda.
A brief history of ice cream and its predecessor, frozen fruit juice (sorbet), begins around 2000 B.C.E. Around 4,000 years ago, the Chinese elite enjoyed a frozen dessert. The earliest may have been a frozen syrup, mixed with overcooked rice and spices, and packed in snow to harden.
Later, a mixture of snow and saltpeter was poured over the exteriors of containers filled with syrup. In the same way that salt raises the boiling-point of water, it lowers the freezing-point to below zero.
Fruit ices were also developed, prepared with fruit juices, honey and aromatic spices. Through trade routes, frozen desserts were introduced to the Persians about 2,500 years ago.
(The Persian Empire includes the countries now known as Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and portions of western China and northern Iraq.)
The Persians drank syrups cooled with snow called sharbat (“fruit ice” in Arabic, and the derivation of sherbet, sorbet and sorbetto). Alternatively, you can envision fruit syrups poured over a dish of snow
The Macedonian king Alexander III (Alexander the Great) battled the Persians for 10 years before finally toppling the Persian Empire in 330 B.C.E.
In Persia, he discovered fruit “ices” sweetened with honey and chilled with snow, and brought the concept back to Greece—although the early form of faludeh he knew probably had no noodles.
Three centuries later, Roman Emperor Nero’s famous banquets always included fruit juices mixed with honey and snow. At that point, it was granita, roughly-shaved ice. As technology improved, smooth sorbet emerged in Renaissance Italy.
And the rest is sweet, sweet history.
 In India, faludeh was turned into a drink for Mughlai royalty, called falooda (photo courtesy Merwyn’s Fotomac).
Around the same time, during the Mughal Empire in 1526-1540, faludeh traveled to India with Muslim merchants who settled there. There, it was transformed by locals into a drink, falooda (photo #5), a “float” rose syrup, vermicelli, sweet basil seeds and pieces of jelly with milk.
Modern falooda is often topped off with a scoop of ice cream.
By the way, both sorbetto/sharbat and pasta arrived in Italy with the Arab invasions of Sicily, in the 8th century (the Marco Polo story is a myth—see the history of pasta).
Italian granita was born, flavored with fresh citrus, a wide range of fruits and coffee. The Italian cooks left out the noodles.
Here’s more on the history of ice cream and other frozen desserts.