The best ices in Delhi? It’s a big claim, but these are kulfis with a pedigree.
The Kuremal family have been making kulfi in the old city since 1908 when Pandit Kuremal left his ancestral village in Haryana at the age of 8 to seek fame and fortune in the big city. He learned the kulfi business with an Old Delhi Halwai (sweet -maker ) and by the time he was 14 had his own pushcart selling two flavours, plain rabri and mango. Word spread and over the next 40 years Kuremal built the business to a multi-cart affair.
When Pandit’s son Mahavir Prasad took over in 1975, he moved the business off the street and into its present shop, tucked in amongst the old havelis of Kucha Pati Ram, off Sitaram Bazaar.
Today the family makes over fifty varieties of kulfi, including pomegranate, tamarind, rose, and custard apple. There are even ices made from fruits I’d never even heard of, like falsa.
For me, a visit to Kuremal is always a highlight of any trip to Old Delhi – I usually manage to get through at least four kulfis – there always seems to be something new to try. I’ve recently discovered the ‘Stuffed Kulfi’ – the orange and mango are particularly delicious. The stuffed mango kulfi is made by taking out the mango stone and most of the flesh and filling it with rabri, or plain kulfi mix. When frozen, the skin is peeled away and the ice sliced to give a fabulous combination of rabri and frozen mango flesh. The orange one has a tantalising, almost-there flavour, achieved when the rabri becomes infused with the orange zest during freezing.
When we visited last week we were given a kulfi masterclass by Mahavir’s son, Manoj Sharma and even managed to score a couple of their secret family recipes. Kuremal still produce their kulfi in exactly the same low-tech fashion as they have always done. Everything is done by hand and the only thing that has changed since 1908 is the arrival of giant chest freezeers.
Throughout, Manoj emphasised the importance of using the best ingredients. Their creamy milk comes from Hapur Dairy in Uttar Pradesh. They use only the finest, intensely-flavoured Alphonso mangoes. They use a very specific type of pistachio – ‘Peshawri Pista lot number 101’ and their long saffron stems come from Kashmir or Afganistan. Although at 450 rupees a gram, says a certain economics professor, there probably isn’t very much in each 25 rupee kulfi. I never had a head for figures, but I think he’s being picky.
Pandit Kuremal’s 1908 Rabri Recipe
Makes 20-25 small kulfis
The main difference between rabri and western ice cream is that kulfi is milk, not custard-based and is frozen without churning, which gives a denser texture.
5 litres of full fat milk
100g cardamom seeds
150 mls kewra (screwpine water but rose water is a good substitute)
200g pistachio nuts, chopped (Kuremal’s Peshawar Pistachios are available at Old Delhi’s Khari Baoli spice market)
5g saffron (also available at Khari Baoli)
1. Boil the milk until reduced by about half, about 45 minutes to one hour. Sir frequently to prevent burning
2. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved
3. Cool in an ice bath for 3-5 hours. At Kuremal, this is done in giant copper vats. At home, fill a basin with ice, then sit the bowl with the rabri mix on top.
4. When the rabri is cool add the cardamom, rosewater, pistachios, and saffron. Mix well and when the saffron has turned the rabri mellow yellow, spoon the mixture into kulfi moulds and freeze.
5. At this point, you could hollow out mangoes or oranges and stuf f with the rabri.
Kuremal’s Falsa Kulfi
Falsa is a tiny fruit which looks a bit like a reddish blueberry although its taste is sharper. It’s in season now and tumbling off carts all over Delhi.
2 Kg falsa berries
Half a litre of water
Juice of 2-3 lemons
1. Crush the falsa with the sugar to extract the juice.
2. Add the water to the juicy mass.
3. Put a fine muslin cloth over a bowl and tip the falsa mixture into it and press until all the juice is extracted.
4. Add lemon juice to taste. At this point point, Kuremal add a dash of their secret masala formula. I detect a hint of salt, cumin and cardamom.
5. Pour the juice into kulfi moulds and freeze