As the mercury starts to gradually rise after a rain spell, locals have been thronging a store in Yakatoot area of Peshawar for one of the most popular icy treats in the city. While Peshawari ice cream is popular across the country, in the city, a different icy treat is coveted.
The kulfi falooda sold in Yakatoot draws ‘kulfi’ connoisseurs from far and wide. While kulfi is quite a common treat across the country, the one in Yakatoot prides itself on its secret ingredient which sets it apart from those found in other places: sheep milk.
In fact, the secret ingredient was once common knowledge. For centuries, kulfi makers used sheep milk to ensure the consistency and taste of the treat. Moreover, they used naturally forming ice, especially in the northern areas, to freeze the treat. But with modern advancements, the natural ice was replaced by refrigerated ice. Sheep milk, which became expensive to procure, was replaced by buffalo milk.
That resulted in a loss of consistency and taste of the treat. Amir Gul, a kulfi maker, has been in operation for over 60 years in the Yakatoot area.
“We make Kulfi Falooda from milk,” the owner of Yaadgar Kulfi says as he explains the process of making the icy treat.
“Milk is heated until it thickens and becomes ‘khoya’ (reduced dry milk). Kulfi is made from this,” Gul adds as he scoops out a few creamy kulfis from their moulds and into a white ceramic bowl. But obtaining the secret ingredient for this popular treat is not an easy task anymore.
“Sheep milk is not available in the city, so we have to get it from the Pishtakahra village,” he says, adding that they buy at least 400 kilogrammes (412 litres) of sheep milk every day to make kulfi.
Such is the popularity of the treat that in the seven months of summer, Gul says they get customers at all hours.
“We are open from morning till midnight,” the wizened kulfi-maker says as he smothers the sliced kulfi in some white falooda (vermicelli) and then covering it with some thick, sweet syrup.
However, the business witnesses a dip during the cold winter months with many favouring warmer treats such as halvas.
“In the winters, we work in a marriage hall,” Gul says, adding that his entire family is involved in the business.
“My children are working in the same business. Previously, my brother-in-law was in the business for almost 50 years. Then I started it. After his death, his son is involved in the same business in Yakatoot,” he added.
Another kulfi vendor in the market, Sabz Ali Shah, is careful to make the distinction between Peshawari ice cream and kulfi falooda.
“People come here from far-flung areas [to enjoy the treat],” he said.
“What is unique is the fact that this kulfi is made of sheep milk, which is the most suitable kind of milk for it since it infuses very good and unique taste [into the kulfi],” Shah added.
“Nowadays, most kulfi is made from buffalo milk, but some of them have preserved the traditional sheep milk formula,” he noted.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2017.