Could this be the best one…? (FF-part 4)

Falooda quest #3 was not only disappointing, it left Amu a little worse for wear. If you recall, while we waited for the strange pineapple falooda at Flamingo, we ordered a couple of plates of mixed chaat. That chaat was lethally spicy, even though die-hard Flamingo chaat-eaters will say ‘But the mix plate at Flamingo is the best!’

If there is anything I have learned while on this bizarre mission, it is this. Nothing is consistent.

So poor Amu was up all night, not only throwing up, but also with …….(she’s going to hate me for divulging this)……diarrhea. The next morning, looking decidedly woebegone, limp and listless, she looked at me with mild accusation and asked me if I knew how it felt to want to use the loo for two purposes at the same time.

While I had managed to let the chaat pass through my system incident-free, the offspring’s paternal side of the chromosomal components disallowed her digestive system from being blase about extra spices.

We decided to give ourselves a break and lay off street food for the time being……but Fate had other plans for us…..

The next night, Huz’s brother O.D and my lovely sister-in-law Tah dropped in for a visit. They had been away for two weeks, vacationing on some beautiful beaches in Thailand and Malaysia this summer, and Tah brought me back some very pretty Thai crockery. We listened to their stories and in my mind I was momentarily transported back to the time we were there a couple of years ago….

In our turn, we told them what we had been up to and described the different faloodas we’d been guzzling. They were amused but I could tell their interest had been perked. There are very few things that enthuse Odie….(vacationing in Thailand/Malaysia is one. Collecting expensive rubies is another) so when he asked if we had tried the falooda at Lighthouse, there was a tiny glimmer of a spark in his eye…

Tah was surprised we hadn’t heard about this one. She told us about family falooda outings and mentioned a decrepit old aunt whose cravings for falooda at Lighthouse surfaced every few months and she would implore Tah’s brother to take her there.

Huz and I were, OF COURSE, most game to try it out and we wondered if bro and SIL would like to show us where the shop is accompany us.

Amu politely declined the invitation, but I could tell she would have preferred to throw a shoe at me.

So off we went, leaving Amu behind this time, but picked up O.D and Tah’s daughter Fati on the way. She digs faloodas too.

So it was around 11 o’clock at night that we made our way past the Pakistan Chowk roundabout and crossed over into the oldest areas of Karachi, which is populated by old old buildings, once quaint and beautiful, now just quaint and in various stages of disrepair. It is heartbreaking to see these remnants of British-era structures being taken over by ugly new commercial buildings, criss-crossed by ugly wires and cables, dotted with unsightly shop signboards.

Perhaps it is just as well that I couldn’t take pictures as we drove towards Lighthouse. The streets were too dark…

Now before you start conjuring up images of an actual lighthouse at the water’s edge, the Lighthouse I’m talking about is actually a very old commercial area on the far end of M.A Jinnah Road, the end closer to West Wharf than the Quaid’s mazaar. It is known as Lighthouse because there once used to be a cinema in this area by that name. It is also the most renowned flea market in Karachi.

And this was the place we were seeking there…

Jeddah ice cream and falooda

There were two kinds here as well…..regular and special. Regular falooda is made special by the addition of nuts and fruit and jelly and unsurprisingly, Huz succumbed to the lure of of such richness…

The rest of us ordered regular faloodas, and while we waited, Tah recommended dahi baray from the tiny little shop next door…

It was the best plate of dahi baray ever, topped with chana and papri….mmmm…

dahi baray in Tah's elegant hand

It didn’t make a difference if we ordered special or regular, the price was still the same….90 rupees for a huge glass of falooda.

If you recall, I was very eager to find a place that made a concoction using basil seeds…..

Ta-da! See the little black tadpoley looking things? Basil seeds! (tukh malanga in Urdu)
and an angle that shows off more of Tah's elegance
and my lack thereof :p
the view from our car
looked like some sort of meeting

I loved the falooda. It had the perfect rose ice cream, the perfect amount of tukh malanga (I adore the subtle crunchiness) and was rich and satisfying, with a few pistachios and figs when I worked my way to the bottom. I could have done with less vermicelli and more milk, but still, I think this was the best one so far. Huz should have had the regular one, cos I don’t think he ended up having the same falooda experience I did.

O.D and Tah were happy to see our enjoyment and enthusiasm and were glad they got to be an inadvertent part of the falooda quest. Fati was just baffled by it all, but enjoyed herself too, nonetheless. She never thought Huz and I were the sort who’d enjoy doing stuff like this, which tells me we need to work on our image….

Perhaps we come across too….la dee dah…?

We need to show her we can have as much street food as the next person!

Karachi Port Trust by night....
KPT.....1918.

Finding falooda part-3

this is what we see as we go down our quiet street and turn left....
the boy watches me, alert and on guard, as we stop alongside long enough for me to grab a picture of his family buying chadars for Shah Ghazi's grave
and as we ease into the traffic and crowds on the main road...

It’s party time 🙂

Funny how we seem to be gravitating towards this time of night, you could even say we’re gearing up for it, in anticipation.

It’s funny because we don’t DO stuff like this normally. We’re what you’d call stay-at-homers.

There are a couple of reasons behind the reluctance to get out and go somewhere.

1. Roads. Uncouth drivers.

2. Jaywalkers. Beggars. Windshield cleaners.

3. Side-view mirror thieves. Parking fee collectors. Muggers.

4. Home is sweet. There’s internet and home-cooked food.

And when there’s no home-cooked food, there are piles of menus for home delivery. Nobody needs to go out.

So why this sudden enthusiasm for eating faloodas from street-side juice shops every night, you ask…….?

I don’t know! We must be mad.

Tonight we decided to stay closer to home and explore 26th Street to see if anyone sells a satisfactory falooda around these parts.

To our surprise we discovered they don’t. There’s loads of barbecue, and chaat, and a place that sold kulfi falooda (which makes me wish we were on a kulfi quest, cos kulfis are the one thing that make me go ‘mmmm’)

No problem. Karachi is one giant food street. We just swung outta there and put plan B into action.

Off to Zamzama!

Milano.

Feeling in the mood for something savoury before the sweet, and having heard much about a certain chicken gyro available here, we thought we’d try it out. No, never come here before either. I’m telling you, we don’t go out much. (And I don’t think we have a delivery menu for these guys.)

The waiter runs off with our order, only to return sheepishly with the news that they’re all out of gyros. And they don’t serve faloodas either.

Perhaps it was indicative of the way tonight’s quest would turn out that we ended up at the most pedestrian of all places in Clifton…the most hackneyed area of all….

 

.

Flamingo!

How boringly close to home could we get?

O well.

The waiter gave us a choice of two kinds of falooda……strawberry and pineapple.

Huz and I were kinda baffled. How can such non-faloody types of falooda possibly exist? We asked him again if he was absolutely sure what he was offering was falooda and not milkshake and he told us it was most assuredly falooda.

To be honest, the idea of a flavoured falooda (by which I mean anything other than rose) turned my stomach, but we chose the lesser of two evils and asked for  just one…pineapple. And while we waited, Amu and I had an extremely spicy mix-plate each while Huz devoured an aaloo bun kabab.

a very non-pink falooda

Ok, so it looked pretty good. But I let Huz have the first shot at it. He stirred it and stirred it……

cos that's how he rolls.

And I can tell you he thought it wasn’t bad. But then, he likes stuff with fruit and nuts. And jelly.

Me? I DID give it a shot. But somehow I just couldn’t get into it, even though I love pineapple. The whole concept of it just felt….wrong.

So I don’t think we’re going back to Flamingo for falooda ever again. But it was a good thing we ordered a standby dessert from Cool (Kool?) Inn. (In Karachi, the ‘C’s’ are often replaced with ‘K’s’)

it was called freezer plate ice cream. intrigued, i sent huz off to investigate. he returned with a pamphlet detailing flavours and types. basically it was a dessert version of katakat, where ice cream, chocolate and cookies were chopped up together and served in a yummy waffle cup.

There was a little girl wandering around trying to sell a bunch of wilty-looking roses to people parked all around having their ice creams and chaats and bun kababs. She came and sat down on the sidewalk in front of our car and I got the impression she was crying.

Then she got up and I saw that she wasn’t, and she wandered up to my window, and didn’t run away when I aimed my camera at her.

flower girl

I showed her her picture through the window. And then she kinda smiled.

Finding falooda part-2

All was quiet outside the bubble….

(except for an odd motorbike or two)
(and the Old Clifton masjid, all lit up for Shab e Mairaj)
even the homeless boy was fast asleep on the sidewalk, using his chappals as a pillow. no doubt so no one could steal them.

….as we set off on our mission.

The idea was to have a plate or two of chicken kebabs before the next place on our hit list, Sialkot Milk Centre in Bahadurabad…..to give their falooda a shot.

So, under the pass, and over the bridge once again, veering off to Shara e Faisal this time and turning left to pass through Sindhi Muslim Society.

lots of places to eat and drink...but not here....not today 🙂

Amu is not a chicken kebab person and she was starving so we first made a stop at, you guessed it….

Huz and Amu went off to get a quarter pounder without cheese.
..while I sat in the car and waited....and took pictures. That's a landmark, btw. A big 'Allah'. bang opposite McDonalds 🙂

Tariq Road was, as usual, full of crazy thoughtless drivers so Huz had to drive with all his attention on the road. We traversed the entire length and crossed over into Bahadurabad from a parallel road, munching on hot fries stolen from Amu.

Finally we reached the place we were aiming for. Zameer Ansari. Quite well known apparently, but we had never eaten here before.

We parked in a spot close by and decided against sitting inside the restaurant or outside on one of the many tables and chairs laid out for customers. A waiter turned up at our window and we asked him to get us a plate of Chicken Malai, a plate of Chicken Boti and a couple of parathas to go with. Before long, he returned bearing a greasy tray of goodies….

mmmmmmmmmmmmm
hari chutney and pyaaz......further mmmmmmmmmmm's

(We must remember to get our own tray for the next such expedition)

The food was incredible. Huz and I were on cloud 9 as we munched our way through the plates of kebab, and it seems our loyalty to Ghaffar (Delhi Mercantile) has been dealt a big shove by Zameer Ansari (Bahadurabad). Tsk.

And now we come to the next thing on the list. Dessert! Onwards to Sialkot Milk Centre, reputedly one of the best places to have a milkshake. We made a U-turn and drove back down the road we had come, parked at the roundabout and once again, a waiter turned up at our window asking what we’d like.

‘Do falooda.’ said Huz and I in unison.

‘Sir, falooda nahin hai, sirf milkshake.’
Dang!
Oh well, we couldn’t hurt the poor guy’s feelings so we asked what flavours they had, and he rattled off a whole list.
‘Mango, cheekoo, pineapple, kajoo, khajoor, injeer…’ ….and a few more I can’t remember which.
So it was that we ended up having milkshakes, cheekoo for Huz, pineapple for me and nothing for Amu cos she doesn’t like shakes. She looked around and took some pictures.
she thought this little boy was adorable in his tiny kurta
balloon boy didn't pester us too much when he saw how big our baby was
Huz’s cheekoo was a bit off and my pineapple was a bit too sugary. Neither of us enjoyed it all that much but we drank it anyway.
Fail. 
Except for the kebab bit! 🙂
I doubt if any of you will go to Sialkot Milk Centre after reading this, but to be fair the last time I had a date shake there it was pretty good. So it varies I suppose. You can’t expect consistency in such things. Much like life itself.
But we had fun, and that’s what matters.
quiet street in Bahadurabad
not so quiet seat cover.

And the quest continues….

Finding falooda part-1

Last night, on a whim, Huz and I sallied forth for something to satisfy ye ol sweet tooth. Being desis at heart, we made a beeline for Baloch icecream at Boat Basin to get ourselves some falooda. I changed my mind last minute and ordered a Milk Rose, which is also made with milk and rose syrup but without the arrow root vermicelli and ice. I’m glad I opted for that, because Huz’s falooda was a black spot (kaala dhabba) on the word. It was everything a falooda shouldn’t be….watery and unsatisfying.

For the green behind the ears, Wikipedia tells you….

Falooda or Faluda is a traditional cold dessert or beverage in South Asia made primarily by mixing rose syrup with vermicelli and tapioca pearls along with either milk or water. Falooda is an adaptation of the Persian dessert Faloodeh and was brought to the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal period. Basil seeds (sabza/takmaria), tutti frutti, sugar, and ice cream may be added. However, it is not the same as the faloodeh made in Iran and Afghanistan. The vermicelli used is often made from arrowroot rather than wheat. The rose syrup may be substituted with another flavoured base to produce saffron, mango, chocolate, and fig Falooda.

Falooda is a summer drink throughout Iran, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and the Middle East and is readily available in restaurants and beach stalls. 


Huz’s falooda at Baloch last night fell rather short of the delicious vision that the above description inspires. No, to be fair, it LOOKED just fine….just TASTED like it was made half-heartedly, without a thought as to what we expect from a Mughlai treat.

We expect richness…..decadence…and delicacy…all rolled into one glass. So that got me thinking….

‘Hey Huz! How about we do some research and find out the best place to have falooda in Karachi?’ said I, barely able to contain my excitement.

‘Sure!!!’ said Huz.

And that is how we found ourselves the next night, around 10:30 pm (when the streets of Karachi are relatively clearer) driving off for a place in New Town, renowned for its milkshakes and faloodas, a place that Huz has been to before but without moi.

under the pass...
over the bridge...
past the signal, narrowly avoiding one flower boy and a beggar....
past the eerily empty Saddar (the city centre) by night.....
drove by Abdullah Haroon Road mobile shops...still open at this hour...

When we cross the Clifton bridge, Karachi becomes an unpredictable place. Traffic can be horribly unruly and it’s scary to witness such complete and thorough disregard for signals on M.A Jinnah Road where the only law that prevails is the law of the jungle….every man/motorbike for himself, and to hell with the motorists! Red lights are for losers! Onwards comrades!

Nevertheless, we managed to fight our way past the lawbreakers, and it was pretty smooth going till New Town, and then….

...we're there!
established since 1970! they are even decorate a juice canopy also!
the falooda arrives...
this one's mine. i like it stirred, not shaken.
and Amu gets falsa juice.
I give Huz my falooda cos I can't finish it and he does so effortlessly 🙂 (bless him! he may have saved my thighs from expanding another millimetre)
meanwhile, I look around. hmm...so this is what New Townians look like....
a security guard surveys the juice/falooda imbibers
a mosque rears its minareted head next door..
proclaiming it to be the Jame Masjid New Town
i watch while Amu finishes her juice.
the waiter comes to collect....
..the empty glasses...
glasses collected, payment received, and off he goes to serve the next car.

This post was supposed to focus on the falooda itself, but I got a tad carried away by my surroundings. We hardly ever visit this part of town, or should I say, we hardly ever visit this TOWN, because that’s what Karachi is….a whole bunch of towns joined together haphazardly, to make one big sprawling city.

But I’ll sum up this trip by telling you, the New Town Ice Cool falooda was rich and sweet and creamy and delicious, a far cry from what we had yesterday at Baloch. I’m not a huge fan of the starchy vermicelli, so I’m hoping we can come across something different….maybe a place where they use basil seeds or something….let’s see what happens.

Just to give you an idea of how short the end of the deal is for us ‘burgers’ living in Clifton, a glass of falooda and one milk rose cost us Rs 200 at Baloch in Boat Basin.

At Ice Cool we had two huge faloodas AND a big glass of falsa juice and the total came to Rs 185.

How unfair is this? Yet how delightful! I think we’re going to have some fun as we continue our research and fact-finding mission on faloodas in far flung areas…..perhaps it will spill over into milkshake and chaat territory. Maybe even barbecue and kabab rolls! Who knows?

Stay tuned for the next installment of Finding falooda!  Anyone interested in joining us is most welcome to!

And if anyone from Karachi visits this page, do share your opinion and let me know your favorite falooda place!