Did you know that the word ‘kulfi’ actually referred not to the dish, but to the container in which milk was frozen?
“It was the metal container in which the reduced milk was stuffed with nuts and saffron, put in the ice and frozen, and served to guests,” says Ashish Bhasin, the executive chef at The Leela, in Gurugram.
The kulfi has come a long way since then. While it’s still available on sticks and clay pots, it also inspires innovation in gourmet eateries that serve it chopped on dessert plates. The flavours also incorporate seasonal fruits like litchi and pomegranate as well, apart from unusual ones like tamarind.
“The minute you say ‘kulfi’, it gives you a very Indian mind, it gives you a very Indian palette. So you feel that it can only be matched with a kesar flavour or a pista flavour, or a fruit flavour. That’s not the case. Kulfi itself is so pleasurous to eat, that it just needs to change its appearance a little bit, and people will accept it the way it is,” says Parvana Mistry. She takes care of purchase and production at the Mumbai-based Parsi Dairy Farm. She also shared how, apart from the regular malai kulfi, fruit flavours like mango and custard apple are especially popular.
In the last ten years or so, the ice cream industry in India has grown by scoops and cones, with a revenue of more than USD 1.5 billion in 2016. This number is expected to more than double by 2021.
One factor that contributes to this phenomenal growth is the increase in disposable incomes. Consider this: previously, ice cream was a product which was considered indulgent, reserved for special occasions. But today, it is projected and perceived as a snacking option.
“Now, the younger generation has so much more variety and so much more to look forward to other than that old cold dessert. There is a certain amount of competition in that sense. I think it’s also about us developing to the new taste also. Because kulfi is really yummy the way it is, it’s just about getting it in the flavour of the generation today. It’s pretty much what we’re trying to do at our end.”
Some entrants in the cold/frozen dessert industry are soft serve, frozen custard, gelato, sherbet, sorbet and frozen yoghurt. And kulfi occupies but a small space of this landscape.
“The sad part of kulfi is there are a few ingredients that can be used to make a kulfi just like that!” says Ajay Nesargi, a former coder. He’s done a great deal of research about common ingredients used in the food industry.
He continues, “As surprising and shocking to many, 70-80 per cent of our ice creams don’t even have a drop of milk in them. The basic ingredients of an ice cream are–because it has no milk–it’s got skim milk powder, which they call milk solids; the good ones add butter, otherwise, a lot of them just add vegetable oils, which includes palm oil also. To combine skim milk powder and palm oil, they use an ingredient, which is an emulsifier.”
Emulsifiers or E-471 are a big debate today, because there is not enough clarity about whether they come from plant or animal sources. As common people with little information, and no time, we don’t realise that we’re consuming a bunch of chemicals in the name of edibles.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)