Showing posts with label beverage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beverage. Show all posts

Apr 11, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Rooh Afza

From dear old Delhi comes the refreshing sharbat "Rooh Afza." 

What's a sharbat you ask? 
Good question! 
A sharbat is a sweet chilled drink flavored with flowers and fruit. Sharbats were popularized in the Indian Subcontinent by the Mughal empire founder Babur. Babur purportedly had ice sent from the high Himalayas to his court in Delhi expressly to prepare the cool and refreshing drink. To this day, sharbats are traditionally served at Iftar and Rosa during the Muslim celebration of Eid. 

Rooh Afza is a brilliant pink syrup which can be used in it's concentrate form to flavor ice cream, lassis, milkshakes, faloodas, sweets, or diluted with water or milk to make a traditional sharbat. Formulated in 1907 by the Unani physician Hakim Abdul Majeed in Delhi of 22 cooling constituents which include kewra, mint, orange, lemon, vetiver, white sandalwood, white waterlily, blue waterlily, watermelon, spinach, endive, coriander, carrots, loofah, purslane, stone flowers, grapes, borage, pineappple, citron, and damask rose. Founded as an Unani herb shop in old Delhi, Hamdard Laboratories continues to make Rooh Afza to this day. There are also factories in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The cooling syrup was originally intended to treat heat related illnesses and diarrhea. Rooh Afza's name means "one that enhances the spirit and lifts the soul" in Persian. You could say Rooh Afza is to Desis what Coca Cola is to Americans, an iconic brand and harbinger of nostalgia. An old newspaper ad for Rooh Afza states, "When the motor car was on it's way in and the horse and buggy on it's way out, Sharbat Rooh Afza was there." The gourmet magazine Saveur called it the "heavenly elixir" and ranked it tenth on it's annual top 100 food and drinks from around the world list in 2007.

The damask roses used in Rooh Afza are grown in Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh.

What does it taste like?
The bottle I had from Delhi kind of reminded me of grenadine syrup with a damask rose accent. I got the melon, orange, and pineapple with a hint of rose and a trace of sandalwood. It's not harsh or medicinal like some floral syrups can be. I recently bought a bottle from Pakistan that I found at a local store here in Nepal and it was just mild rose and a little kewra. Very disappointing. Because the formula was never patented there are lots of copies and knockoffs on the market.

Recently I purchased this bottle of rose syrup which is not bad, it's just a simple syrup with a hint of damask rose, a little tang from citric acid, and a lot of food coloring.  What do you want for $2?

A ChaCha (uncle) & Aunty-ji enjoying Rooh Afza with Iftar in an ad for Rooh Afza.
I need a cutlery tote like ChaCha & Auntyji's too.
I'm really surprised Rooh Afza didn't take off with the foodies when it was touted in Saveur. I can just imagine this complex brilliant rose imbued syrup gracing everything from hip and trendy cocktails to gelatos, panna cottas, cheesecakes, cupcakes, or any other fashionable foodstuff. I love everything about this stuff, from the vintage graphics on the label, to it's complex yet delicate floral flavor, as well as the glorious fuchsia red color. Oh well, what do I know? I even flavor laddoos and popsicles with it. Mix it with some sriracha sauce or blend it with some kale and maybe the foodie hipsters would buy it?

Helpful hints:
Do not buy the Pakistani version of Rooh Afza, it's not the same as the Indian version. Or maybe I got a phony. As the Hamdard Laboratories' Bangladesh website for Rooh Afza states:

Yes, that is EXACTLY what it says. Just click on that link and scroll down to read it. Actually, I kind of think that should be my motto from now on!

Calmly currying on,


An interesting aside:
I have been notified that I have been nominated for the "Best Food Blog"  AND "Best New Blog" awards on the  nepaliaustralian blog so get on over there and vote for my blog if you choose at:

Be sure to check out all the other amazing blogs in all the different categories and vote for all your favorites!!! Winners will be announced in May.

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