If you were asked about the one drink that has been traversing generations of Pakistanis, what would your answer be?
Mine would definitely be Rooh Afza.
In the history of the Subcontinent, 1906 was the year of the Simla Deputation. It was also the year in which Hakeem Hafiz Abdul Majeed, a renowned Unani physician of herbal medicine, lay the foundation of the Hamdard Dawakhana, in the capital city of Delhi.
Starting as a small herb shop, Hamdard grew tremendously. Following partition, on June 19, 1948, the Hamdard Dawakhana was inaugurated in Karachi. Seventy years later, the group’s imprint on the Pakistani lifestyle is undeniable.
Rooh Afza consists of two words: ‘Rooh’ means soul and ‘Afza’ means nourishment for the soul. If you ever visit someone’s house in the hot summer months, you will invariably be treated to this drink; it is akin to drinking dessert. In the Holy month of Ramazan, it is an iftar staple – for many, Ramazan is simply not complete without it. Safe to say, Rooh Afza has successfully made a niche as one of the leading refreshing syrups in the world.
A quick scan of the rear of the bottle reveals some fairly unusual ingredients; a blend of distilled natural extracts of citrus flowers, fruit aquas, vegetables, cooling herbal ingredients and an absolute bonanza of sugar, coupled with traces of rose and sandalwood. The drink is a beautiful amalgam of traditional flavours and aromas. It is certainly a healthy alternative to the plethora of soft drinks one finds out there.
For those who do not see English as their strong suit, the ingredients are also listed in German and Urdu (at least the bottles at home read so).
Putting everything aside, it does indeed have a cooling effect on the body and keeps one refreshed, active and energetic. Summer is incomplete without it. And for a person like me, who cannot drink milk without some sort of added flavour and is not big on chocolate drinks-this is the only way my mother manages to get the prerequisite calcium intake into my system.
And yes, how could I forget- ease of convenience! It is available in almost all departmental stores, even roadside vendors sometimes. Moreover, it is not just a ‘Mashroob e Mashriq’ (drink of the East) it is very popular in the West as well! If you are living in the UK, head down to Tesco and you’ll see it right there on the bottom shelf in the Asian foods section. When my group of friends and I discovered our desi elixir was available abroad, we spent our Ramazan weekends getting bottles for the whole campus mosque. This is also when I discovered that Rooh Afza was popular not only among the desi community but even amongst Malaysians, Indonesians, Turks, Egyptians you name it.
While many drinks and syrups have come and gone, Rooh Afza has managed to retain its status amongst many – especially in Ramazan.
Here are five creative ways in which you can make use of this syrup and others that may come your way this Ramazan:
1) Lemonade with a twist:
A dash of salt
Rooh Afza or any other syrup of your choice
Make your run-of-the-mill lemonade, add salt and the syrup to taste. Top with a mint leaf and serve chilled.
2) Rooh Afza milkshake:
Tukhmalanga (basil seeds- those little worm like things),
Add all the ingredients, except the ice, into a blender, blend thoroughly. Then add some crushed ice to the mix and give it another round. Top with some almond or pistachio shavings and serve immediately.
3) Colourful gola ganda:
Grab some soft ice from the fridge, or if you are lucky enough to have snow around you, grab some from outside. You can also use ice shavings. Form a ball or add the ice to a glass. Add some coloured syrups to half a cup of condensed milk and pour over the ice. Grab a spoon and dig in.
Dry fruit (of your choice)
Ice cream (of your choice)
Boil the coloured vermicelli in milk until it thickens. Once thick, add in some Rooh Afza and allow the mixture to chill in the fridge.
For assembling: Add pineapple chunks, dry fruits, jelly and the ice cream to the mixture. Top it off with fruits, caramel and for an added crunch you can always add nuts and jelly. Serve chilled.
5) Desi firni:
Rooh Afza or Rose syrup
Silver sugar leaf
Boil together the rice, milk and cardamoms nuts. Once ready, add a dash of syrup and serve with the silver leaf on top.
6) Watermelon chiller:
Lemon syrup or Rooh Afza
Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix thoroughly. Serve with a dash of black salt.