Kulfi or Qulfi, a popular frozen milk based dessert from India and Pakistan and is often described as the traditional ice cream of India. Kulfi is a famous street chilled dessert sold by many local street vendors sold at a very economical and reasonable price. It is frozen treat delight served chilled in a special ice and salt filled pot called a matka.
Although the usual way to serve it is with a simple garnish of nuts, some vendors also serve sweetened with vermicelli rice noodles with ice cream or also served like a stick ice cream. It is admired throughout many South Asian countries, Burma (Myanmar) and the Middle East. It has similarities to ice cream (as popularly understood) in appearance and taste, but is denser and creamier.
The origin of Kulfi must have originated from few people living in the Indian subcontinent especially those living high in the Himalayas usually exposed to snow and ice where they must have stumbled on learning the technique of freezing various sweetened liquids and decorating them into exotic chilled desserts. These privileges were limited to royalty and upper levels of aristocracy in India until modern day refrigeration technology reached South Asia.
History does not point to one specific inventor, Mughal emperors who reigned in the 16th to 19th centuries in India are thought to have originated kulfi. Inhabitants who lived near the Himalayas had come across freezing methods that included sweets or desserts. Kulfi can be prepared with various traditional flavors adding cream (malai), raspberry, rose, mango, cardamom (elaichi), saffron (kesar or zafran), or more newer variations like apple, orange, strawberry, peanut, and avocado.
Unlike Western ice creams, kulfi is not whipped, resulting in a solid, dense frozen dessert similar to traditional custard based ice-cream. Thus, it is sometimes considered a distinct category of frozen dairy-based dessert. Due to its density, kulfi takes a longer time to melt than Western ice-cream. Traditionally Kulfi is prepared by evaporating sweetened and flavored milk by slow cooking with almost continuous stirring to keep milk from sticking to the bottom of the vessel where it might burn until its volume is reduced by a half thus thickening the mixture.
It has a distinctive taste due to caramelization of lactose and sugar during the lengthy cooking process. The semi-condensed mix is then frozen in tight sealed molds (often kulhars with their mouths sealed) that are then submerged in ice mixed with salt to speed up the freezing process. The ice/salt mix, along with its submerged kulfi molds, is placed in earthen pots or matkas that provide insulation from the external heat and slow down the melting of ice.
Kulfi prepared in this manner is usually called the 'Matka Kulfi'. Kulfi, thus prepared by slow freezing, also renders a unique smooth mouth feel that is devoid of water crystallization. To prepare this basic kulfi, make a coarse powder of pistachios and keep aside.
Blend all the remaining ingredients together and add the pista powder to the blended mixture and pour in a tray or into kulfi moulds if available. Add saffron and pista powder for garnish and freeze it for about 5 to 6 hrs. The delectable kulfi is ready to be served chilled.Do prepare this tasty kulfi at homemade and serve your family and kids. Home made kulfi’s are truly hygienic and nutritious.
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More recently Kulfi is prepared from evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy (double) cream. It is garnished with ground cardamom, saffron, or pistachio nuts. Kulfi is also served with faloodeh (vermicelli noodles made from starch).
In some places, people make it at home and make their own flavors. Traditionally in India and Pakistan, kulfi is sold by street vendors called kulfiwallahs who keep the kulfi frozen by placing the moulds inside a large earthenware pot called a "matka", filled with ice and salt. It is served on a leaf or frozen onto a stick.