Since the children’s Diwali vacation were still on, on a whim we decided to head to the beach or Chowpatty as called in Mumbai. We thought instead of heading north and through the messy traffic of Mumbai Suburbs towards Juhu we shuld try going to SoBo and enjoy an evening at the original Chowpatty , the Girgaum Chowpatty. So armed with some old newspapers to sit on a , Bhakti’s sand castle making equipments, Netra’s Frisbee and a small beach ball we took a cab and set out on our little outing. On hindsight the decision was perfect ,we reached in about 40 minutes and landed at the entrance of Girgaum Chowpatty . As we entered the beach ,the Sun was still up but slowly making its journey across the horizon making the skyline a crimson red. We were awestruck with the clean golden sands and thought this is great but our enthusiasm was short lived as we got closer to the water we could see all the garbage strewn . The mess even more highlighted as it was a low tide evening. We put it behind us and picked up a good brightly lit spot and quickly sat in a huddle . Bhakti and Netra poured out the small shovels , bucked and the various moulds on the sand and we started building what else but a sand castle with a moat and a drawbridge et all. It was fun a little family time.
Just then I heard a familiar and loud cry from one of the sellers of most unique ice creams ---Kulfio Kulfi….. In the distant I could see a white dhoti kurta clad man carrying a wicker basket atop his head walking around the length of the beach calling out in between trying to entice the people sitting to try his cool cool kulfi’s.
A family near by asked him to stop so they could choose from his kulfi’s . He set down the basket .Uncovered the red cloth hiding a matka within . When asked fro type of flavours he said he had malai and kesar – badam and chikoo. The family decided to go for the malai. Then with deft hand the Kulfiwala pulled out a couple of conical moulds opened their caps and stuck a stick , pulling out what looked like the yummiest and cool kulfi. After selling them , the kulfiwala was on his way ,walking in short but confident strides and giving out the familiar cry of Kulfio Kulfiiii
Did you know these kulfi wallahs come from a small village of Wadhane 45 km from Pune. During the lean season when the farming activity is low the men from Wadhane head to Mumbai with their ancestral kulfi making skills and roam the streets of Mumbai for making some additional buck to substantiate their farm based income.These men from Wadhane come to Mumbai in groups and stay together .Its difficult to live together in a small space, take turns to cook food. Then there is the kulfi-making itself. Traditionally sold by vendors or kulfi wallahs who keep the kulfi frozen by placing the moulds inside a large earthen pot or a matka. They make kulfi by evaporating around 10 litres of sweetened and flavoured buffalo milk by slow cooking it in large containers on coal-run stoves. They have to stir it continuously, to keep the milk from sticking to the bottom of the vessel. They have to keep boiling it till its volume is reduced by a half, increasing its fat, protein and lactose density. The semi-condensed mix is then frozen in tight sealed molds or kulhars that are then submerged in ice mixed with salt to speed up the freezing process. The ice/salt mix, along with its submerged kulfi molds, is placed in a matka or an earthen pot that provides insulation from external heat. The kulfi is also sometimes garnished with pistachios, cardamom and sweetened cream. Earlier the standard flavors were pista, cardamom, mango and rose. But now people want kulfis in strawberry, chiku, sitaphal and even chocolate flavour and these kulfiwallas cater to their demands. Every villager has a designated area where he carries the matka covered with the trademark red cloth. The older, more experienced kulfi-makers get to go to posh areas such as Chowpatty, the others raom the streets near gykhana’s like Bombay Gymkhana , The Oval or on the Marine Drive and Worli Seaface. You can even catch them at Shivaji Park selling their cold and milky kulfi’s.
But if you are the those worried sick about hygiene , but still want to eat this yummy cold concoction there are various spots across the length and breadth of Mumbai where you can indulge your sweet tooth. Just across the Girgaum Chowpatty there’s the New Kulfi Centre famous for thier lip smacking kulfi’s in 25 flavors to boast. From the fresh fruity flavors of Strawberry , Chickoo , Anjir , Mango and even a tangy variety of Orange. What you will be surprised is the hot favourite of the loyal clients is their chocolate chip and orange combination. Little sweet little oragngy and loaded with choco chips . Chip away at the small square pieces fine cut by the counter staff and handed over to you on a plate.
Another place where you get the yummiest kulfi is at the Parsi Dairy Farm Parsi Dairy Farm has been packing flavours and memories in their food for over a century in Mumbai, and their kulfis are no exception.
They offer a variety of flavours including kesar, kesar pista, chocolate, strawberry, sitaphal, and more. They add absolutely no preservatives or emulsifiers and so, have some of the creamiest and freshest kulfi out there. A real melt in the mouth treat.
And closer home near King Circle just a few yard away from the famous Shanmukanand Hall is a small place going by the name of Himalaya . They offer the best ever malai kulfi rabdi falooda an almost a tongue-twister, a kulfi topped with generous portions of falooda and rabdi, Want more? Ask for a malai medium or even a kulfi in badam pista or kesar pista right away.In case rabdi is your poison of choice, you can add it as an extra to the dish, or pack it for later.
Another simple and small but yummy kulfiwala is Gupta Kulfi at Byculla. Come here for roasted almond kulfi . It’s really delicious and a great value for money. The malai chikki kulfi also seems an interesting option for a day if you like to experiment a little, eat it on a plate or with a kulfi stick.
So next time after a hearty dinner you are craving a good dessert. Instead of the usual ice cream go for the traditional kulfi. And I can proudly say, nothing beats the Indian popsicle – a cold creamy kulfi