Any time Huda Alsultan’s family visits her sister-in-law’s place, there’s a big pot of muhallabia – a rosewater-sweetened Persian rice pudding – on the go for dessert. It’s tradition in many Middle Eastern cultures to have a batch at family events. When the gently warmed rice is almost ready, Alsultan’s children, nieces and nephews will gather round the pot with bowls in their hands, hungrily waiting for the first spoonful of this traditional pudding.
It’s memories like these that inform the flavours at Sassi, the travelling ice-cream store run by Alsultan and her husband Adam Alhajji. You’ll find them peddling scoops from a vintage-looking cream-coloured cart at the Adelaide Central Market (at the Producer in Residence stall) until February 13.
“Ice-cream is our favourite because it’s such a complete desert,” says Alsultan. She waxes lyrical about its qualities for the next 15 minutes – a bona fide ice-cream addict, somewhat at odds with her background as a dietitian. “I love the way it feels in my mouth, how it tastes. We always have a tub in the freezer – even in winter,” she says. But she and Alhajji want to go a step further than simple enjoyment by offering what they consider to be an “immersive ice-cream experience” – taking the diner somewhere new while they eat.
With this in mind, the couple has billed each of the seven ice-creams on offer at Sassi as one of Seven Wonders – such is their commitment to providing the most nuanced flavour in every bite. From importing Saudi Arabian dates – which have more of a caramel-honey note than medjools – and cotton-like strands of Iranian saffron, no effort has been spared.
This no-shortcuts approach is why the grown-up flavours at Sassi are so multifaceted: The sage and pomegranate molasses is herbaceous up front, revealing a pleasingly sticky (but not cloying) finish. Katayef incorporates warm cinnamon and creamy walnuts. Then there’s muhallabia – inspired by that aforementioned rice pudding – all delicate rose and vanilla, without any lingering notes of potpourri.
And bonus – all the scoops are vegan, made with a coconut-cream base. “We have some dairy-free people in our family and we want them to be able to enjoy what we’ve made,” says Alsultan.
Sassi’s ice-creams are a reminder of what happens when care and cultural heritage are combined in the kitchen. Check them out at the markets until Saturday February 13.*