From the courtroom of the Mughals to being sold on cycles, the history of kulfi is sweet and will melt in your mouth.
It would be hard to find someone who doesn’t like Kulfi because what’s there not to love about it? Remember the good old days when the kulfiwaala used to arrive on his cycle, and we would excitedly call him to buy Kulfis from him? Well, Kulfis in summer are still love, and be it pista, badam, malai, or mango, as long as it’s thick, creamy, and sweet, we don’t complain. But have you ever wondered where it all began? Who made the kulfi, and how it came into existence? Well, the story goes back to the 16th century during the reigns of the Mughals, and along with kebabs and curries, they also introduced one of our favourite desserts.
From the courts to the kitchen
According to Ain-i-Akbari, which is a detailed 16th-century document that recorded the administration of Mughal Emperor Akbar in Persian and was written by Abu’l Fazl, the condensed milk would be made frozen using saltpeter (potassium nitrate) by chilling water and turning it into ice. It is also said that the Mughals would also use a slurry of ice and salt to freeze the kulfi in these metal cones. However, there is one belief that kulfi originated from the Indian royal families of the Himalayan regions.
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But according to Charmaine O’Brien who is an Australian food historian, kulfi might have originally evolved in the cooler regions of Samarkand or Persia, and the Mughals took this concept and created this creamy and chilled dessert by adding pistas, almonds, and other dry fruits. Another well-known and noted English food critic Elizabeth David mentioned in her book ‘Harvest of the Cold Mouth’ that the steel mould method for freezing the kulfi may have been copied by the Europeans.
But it was Kuremal Mohanlal who took Kulfi to another level in the 1990s. In his store Kuremal Mohanlal Kulfiwala, he stuffed kulfis in fresh fruits and used them as a mould. These kulfis would and are still served by cutting the frozen fruit into small pieces and are topped with their special masala. There are still 3 outlets of Kuremal Mohanlal in Delhi, and it’s a hit among Kulfi fans.
Qulfi or Kulfi?
Qulfi, which with time became Kulfi, is a Persian word and means ‘covered cup’, probably referring to the cone in which the milk is left for freezing. It was and still is a popular dessert and is now available in different flavours, served in matkas, cones, leaves, and bowls. And now that we know its story, why not order a chilled kulfi for yourself or wait.. why not make it?
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