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Kulfi, the Traditional Ice Cream of India, is a Definitely Different Treat

An Oak Tree Road store serves up kulfi, India's homemade frozen treat.

On a warm summer evening nothing hits the spot like…kulfi? Kulfi is a traditional Indian frozen treat that is similar to ice cream but has a denser and creamier texture. It also doesn’t melt as fast as ice cream because it isn’t whipped during the freezing process, so you never have to worry about racing to lick a dripping cone.

Kwality Ice Cream on Oak Tree Road in Edison is not your typical ice cream parlor. It specializes in making quality ethnic ice cream and was the first Indian ice cream parlor to open in the United States.

Food scientist and co-founder Dr. Kanti Parekh, Ph.D., designed kulfi and ice cream that contain no eggs, little added sugar, few calories, and only natural ingredients. As a health professional, Dr. Parekh believes in providing his customers a delicious frozen treat that is also good for them.

“One small cup of our ice cream or kulfi is only 160 calories compared to a small cup of regular ice cream that is 280 calories,” Dr. Parekh said.

Kwality serves traditional pista (pistachio), mango, malai (clotted cream), and kesar (saffron) kulfi that are frozen in a mold and served in slices or in a gallon container to be scooped like the ice cream we’re more familiar with. They also have flavors like black currant, guava, rose petal, and more familiar flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and chocolate chip cookie dough.

Pankai Patel, the manager of Kwality, was very friendly and allowed me to sample all the traditional Indian flavors and explained what the different ingredients are.

Kesar pista contains saffron and pistachios. Saffron is a spice that comes from saffron crocus and has a hay-like flavor and aroma. It adds a grassy, honey sweetness to the pistachio and caramelized flavor of the kulfi.

Kulfi is prepared by first cooking and stirring sweetened condensed milk until it thickens, so the kulfi acquires a subtle dulce de leche flavor that is prominent in the malai kulfi. Malai kulfi is delicately spiced with sweet and savory cardamom. It adds a warm citrus flavor to the rich cream.

The flavor and texture of all the kulfi are perfectly balanced. Only natural ingredients such as saffron, cardamom, and rose petal provide flavor in the cream—there is no added sugar or artificial flavoring. Everything tastes natural.

Each time Pankai gave me a new flavor to try, I wanted to yell “the mango tastes like mango; the vanilla tastes like vanilla; the rose petal tastes like rose petal,” a la Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And they did.

Rose petal kulfi tastes exactly like what I imagine a rose petal tastes like. I could almost feel dew drops forming on my taste buds. It is light and fresh, almost like a perfume for the tongue. It is made from pink rose petals, which give the kulfi a sweet flavor.

Mango kulfi is Kwality’s most sought after flavor: “We go through 15-20 tubs a week,” Pankai Patel said.

It’s really no wonder. One bite of mango kulfi was like one bite of an actual mango. Not only is the flavor spot on, but the texture of the kulfi somehow has the same buttery texture as the flesh of a mango.

After sampling almost every flavor Kwality has to offer, I ordered a small cup with a scoop of malai and sitafal kulfi. Sitafal is a custard-apple that is widely grown in Tropical America, India, and Pakistan. Its sweet, custard-like flesh makes it the perfect ingredient for kulfi. I like the sweet flavor of the sitafal against the spicy cardamom in the malai. The two flavors enhance each other.

In the dog days of summer, why not try a frozen treat that doesn’t melt? If kulfi can withstand the Indian heat, I’m sure it can hold up on a humid August day in New Jersey. The next time you’re in the mood for ice cream, check out Kwality Ice Cream in the Oak Village Plaza on Oak Tree Road for some traditional Indian kulfi.        

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