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You can see the red threads in the saffron ice cream.

Image: Alice Levitt

Something terrible happened last week when I visited the Westcroft Center in the Mahatma Gandhi District. I didn't mean for it to happen. I was just there to have lunch at Darband ShishKabob. But after my meal, I wandered into Super Vanak International Food Market & Deli and it happened. I cheated on Kwality Ice Cream, while it was just feet away. Since the Indian scoop shop opened in April, I've rarely gone to Little India without paying it a visit. But when I saw the freezer case at Super Vanak, it was inevitable. How could I not try the homemade Persian ice cream sandwiches at Houston's only Iranian-specialist grocery?

The gentleman at the counter told me that while the frozen treat is put between wafers at the store, the ice cream comes from Sugar Land food manufacturer N&N International, which also supplies Super Vanak with handcrafted pickles and preserves.

In Iran, the dessert is known as bastani, and almost always includes the components of saffron, pistachio and rosewater in varying measures. At Super Vanak, there are two varieties, which the gentleman told me only differ in their ratios of saffron to pistachio. The round “Persian Ice Cream” sandwich is heavier on the nut, while the larger, square one filled with saffron ice cream is true to its name, with threads of the crocus woven throughout.

My preference was for the creamier, less sweet pistachio sandwich. But as I double-fisted the pair in the 100-degree parking lot outside Super Vanak, I could only feel defeated as they too quickly melted away. Houston may not have a fabulous Persian ice cream shop like LA's Mashti Malone's yet, but until then, I'm feeling pretty good about my open relationship with Kwality and Super Vanak.

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