Himalayan Ancestor of Ice Cream
Fusion Food in a Bento Box



According to some accounts, Kublai Khan, the Mongol emperor of China, enjoyed ice cream.  Marco Polo is said to have brought the recipe back to Italy. [1]

Others believe that frozen desserts may have their origin in the Himalayan Mountain area where ancient Indians learned how to combine the ice and snow with milk and other ingredients to make delicious frozen treats.

Kulfi,   (Hindi: क़ुल्फ़ी or Urdu  قلفی) a popular Indian frozen dairy dessert, has been called Indian ice cream and may have been invented by those ancient inhabitants of the Himalayas. [2]

The Indic civilization is one of the oldest in the world, so this account may be as valid as any other.

Is kulfi ice cream?  Depends on your point of view. Its’ frozen and made with milk and cream, but has some major differences from Western ice cream.  For one thing, kulfi is not whipped like ice cream, so it’s more dense.

Major differences between ice cream and kulfi —

  • kulfi contains less air than ice cream
  • the milk and cream are more concentrated by cooking
  • kulfi is more dense than ice cream, so it melts more slowly

Kulfi Geography: A large area of Asia may be thought of as the Kulfi Zone; it comprises the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, including Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar (Burma), extending through a wide swath of the Middle East, where kulfi is popular.

How Kulfi Is Made: In the traditional method, special moulds are used, cone-shaped with tight fitting lids.  The prepared sweetened mixture of milk and cream is put into the molds, which are then tightly sealed.  The cones are then packed into a round earthenware container which is packed with a mixture of ice and salt and shaken repeatedly until the kulfi is frozen. The shaking is comparable to the agitation when an old-fashioned ice cream makers is rotated by a hand crank. To make the mixture for freezing, the milk and cream mixture is first boiled and then simmered gently until it is thick and creamy. Sugar and flavorings are then added and the mixture is put into the cones.  Once frozen, the cones can be kept refrigerated until needed. [3]

Making Kulfi at Home: Many people don’t have the traditional kulfi makers and cones.  Some modern cooks use pop sickle containers to hold the kulfi until they are eaten, and the technology has evolved. Several recipes are available on the Internet. [4]

Recipes and Flavors: Traditionally kulfi was flavored with traditional Indian aromatics like pistachio, rosewater, even saffron, which is truly luxurious. Recently cooks are using more fruits, berries and other innovative flavorings — a large assortment of recipes is available, again on the Internet. [5]

Innovative Flavors: Cooks gradually added various fruit flavors, including fruits not native to the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent. Eventually some cooks made kulfi with chocolate and even Ovaltine flavors. [6]



Kulfi and Ovaltine in a Bento Box: The Bento concept is originally Japanese.  So Ovaltine Kulfii in a Bento Box may be the ultimate in Fusion Cusine.  Bento boxes are Japanese, and Ovaltine was invented in Switzerland.  In Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s version, Ovaltine Kulfi in a Bento box combines Thai, Indian, Japanese and Swiss influences, at least. The concept of the Bent Box itself is another story.  It is covered in a separate Article. [7, 8]


For Further Information:

[1] Ice cream history —   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_cre
[2] Kulfi history and geography —   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kulfi
[3] Making kulfi – traditional method —   http://www.amazon.com/Cooking-Indian-Way-Attia-Hosain/dp/B000PH0WN8
[4] Making kulfi – modern method  —   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKl1aMBCDUk&noredirect=1
[5] Kulfi recipes  —   http://allrecipes.com/recipe/kulfi/
[6] Kulfi flavors  —   http://www.manjulaskitchen.com/2008/07/22/pista-kulfi-pistachios-ice-cream/
[7] Ovaltine kulfi  —   http://www.zencancook.com/2011/10/gianduja-chocolate-kulfi-w-caramelized-banana-cocoa-nibs-popcorn/
[8] Ovaltine kulfi in a Bento box  —  http://www.spicemarketnewyork.com/pdf/SM_%20NYC%20Bento_Lunch_08.19.10-1.pdf



2 thoughts on “Kulfi

  1. Pingback: Baked Alaska, emperor of ice cream, Chinese invention? | Pacific Rim Gourmet

  2. Pingback: Indian cuisine - fish curry from bananas, halva from meat | Pacific Rim Gourmet

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