Summers in Bombay are a delicious time to enjoy one of the city’s most beloved street foods: an ice cream that goes by the rather cute name of Kulfi.
Kulfi can be found nearly anywhere in the city, and most often on its beaches. When I lived in Bombay, the kulfi would be sold by vendors wandering the neighborhoods, almost invariably outfitted in a white lehenga-kurta with a white Nehru cap, balancing wicker baskets atop their heads. Kulfi-o-kulfi, they’d call, and everyone, adult or child, would rush to the window. Inside the kufi wallah’s wicker basket, nestled in damp red fabric, would be an earthen pot filled with ice and salt to keep the kulfis, still in their little conical metal molds, very, very cold. The flavors were incredible: pista (pistachio), kesar-elaichi (saffron and cardamom), malai (cream), rose, vanilla, and even plain milk kulfi. No matter how much you ate, or how often, you always wanted more.
When you asked for one, the kulfi wallah would rub the mold between his palms to warm it up. Then he’d slide out the kulfi, usually on a fresh, green leaf, and cut it into pieces before serving it up to your impatient hands. Or. if you were so inclined, he would pierce it on a stick and you could eat it like a popsicle.
It would be easy for someone not used to a kulfi to imagine it to be something like an ice cream, but the flavor is really very different. A kulfi is not churned, the way ice cream is, so it has a creamier, denser texture that’s absolutely marvelous. Kulfi is made, in fact, by reducing milk and adding thickeners and flavors to it, and then freezing it in molds.
Because kulfi is dairy-based, it is a treat I hadn’t had — and sorely missed — for a while now. Then, the Indian grocery store we shop at started stocking kulfis this year and Jay, of course, would make a beeline to the kulfi case each time we happened to go there. Tired of seeing him and Desi gorge on kulfis I would not eat, I finally decided to make a vegan version that would top it.
My Mango Kulfi is creamy and delicious with cashew nuts: a great nut to substitute for dairy in almost any dessert or other dish. And it is so good that even if you’re not a vegan, you’ll never want to go back to the dairy-based version again. Even better, it does not require any cooking or reduction or thickeners. All you need to do is put the ingredients in a blender, blend it all up, pour it into popsicle molds and freeze. That’s all. Little work for lots of deliciousness.
I used mango as the flavoring because it is, hands down, my favorite flavor in just about any Indian sweet, but you could try this with other fruits, if you’d rather (although I can’t imagine why you’d not want to go the mango route). Trust me, you’ll want dessert every day.
- 2 cups cashews
- 2 cups almond milk
- 1 1/2 cups mango puree
- 1 tsp cardamom powder use the black seeds of the green cardamom only
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 to 1 cup confectioner's sugar powdered, add according to how sweet your mango puree is
- Soak the cashews in the almond milk for about 30 minutes.
- Add the cashews, almond milk and all other ingredients to a powerful blender.
- Blend until the mixture is very smooth.
- Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.
- About halfway through, pierce each popsicle with a popsicle stick. Continue to freeze.
- To unmold, dip the popsicle mold in slightly warm water or rub it between your hands for a few seconds.
- Slide the kulfi out and serve immediately.