Arusuvai is a Tamil (a south Indian language) word which refers to the six (aru) different tastes man can sense on the tongue. They are uppu(salt), inippu/ thithippu/ mathiram (sweet),orappu/ karam/ erivu (hot/ spicy), kassappu/ kaippu (bitter), pulippu (sour), and tuvarpu/ chavarpu (tastes that one gets in raw leaves)
Way back, around the time I started writing this food blog, Arusuvai was the name picked for a friendship blogging chain for food bloggers in India, started by Lata and organised by Bharathy and Srivalli. For Arususvai, each food blogger sent out a “surprise” food ingredient as a gift to the next set of bloggers decided by a pre-determined list of Indian bloggers which kept the chain/ continuity going. The recipient of the “surprise ingredient” cooked something of her/ his own choice and posted about it.
I thought it was a fun idea and was happy to be a part of it. In those days there weren’t that many people blogging food in India, and eventually the chain came to a natural end. Then recently, Sayantani decided to revive the whole thing and Arusuvai has re-opened with a Season 2, and I’m happy to be a part of it again, though a little late with it.
Veena sent me my “surprise ingredient” almost 2 months back along with a lovely little book by Sanjeev Kapoor called “Chill Out!”, which has a lot of great summertime recipes. She sent me a mail soon after she posted the packet to me saying that she had forgotten to remove the label on my “surprise ingredient” in her hurry to get it to me. So she asked that perhaps I could get someone at home to remove the label so that packet would be a true surprise.
When the mailman brought me the packet I was alone at home, which was a good thing as I couldn’t recognise the “secret ingredient” and had to look at the label to clear the mystery. The label said “gondh” which in Hindi means “glue”! She wanted me to cook with glue???
Another look at the packet and it suddenly struck me that the contents looked like plant resins I had read about somewhere. I finally arrived at the conclusion that “gondh” was Gum Arabica/ Edible Gum and while I know it has its uses in the commercial and food industry, I didn’t know the home cook had much use for it.
It turns out that in some of the northern states of India, Gum Arabica is used to make sweets like Gond Pak, Laddoos, Barfi, Halwa, something called Panjiri and something else called Pagg! Apparently, Gondh/ Gum Arabica is good for lactating mothers, those suffering from bad backs, and also provides the body with “warmth” in the winter months.
Further search for information tells me that Gum Arabica is hardened plant resin from a particular species of the Acacia tree and also known as Gum Acacia, Chaar Gondh or Meska. Some of my friends on Twitter also told me that it is very commonly used in the Middle Eastern countries in make rice and milk puddings, an eggless ice-cream, jam and some soft drinks.
I wanted to make something not traditionally Indian yet that which had a lot of Indian flavours in it. When I saw this Rosewater-Cardamom Ice-cream, I knew I had got my flavours. Incidentally, that recipe used Gum Mastic which is also an edible plant resin but totally different from Gum Arabica.
The summer heat is beginning to set in and ice-cream is just the thing to make. I have a big bottle of rose syrup in my fridge which I bought to make rose milk but I’m the only one here who likes that. I have to warn you, just in case you’re not used to it, the taste of rose in food is a n acquired taste which some people never do acquire!
So the flavours I chose were rose, cardamom and pistachio. I used unsalted pistachios, but you could try roasted and salted pistachios which would be a nice counterbalance to the sweet ice-cream. Using rose syrup, rose water or rose petals in dessert is a largely a north Indian Muslim tradition, probably adapted from the Persian culinary traditions which came to India with Muslim traders and invaders. Many of the Mughal royal kitchens of the olden days used roses in some form or the other to add sophistication and flavour to their already rich desserts, and that trend continues to this day.
If you can find evaporated milk do use it as that makes it easier to adjust the sugar in this ice-cream. Since I get only sweetened condensed milk, that’s what I used. Be warned, this is a very sweet ice-cream as both the condensed milk and the rose syrup are very sweet and the cardamom tends to add to this effect. You could halve the sugar (or even leave it out altogether), if you prefer.
The result of using the Gum Arabica is an ice-cream which doesn’t freeze like ordinary ice-cream but maintains a consistency like that of soft serve ice-creams. As for the taste and texture, think of a soft rose pink kulfi peppered with crunch of beautiful green bits of pistachio!