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There are plenty of reasons to visit Kensington, a neighborhood deep in south Brooklyn. As home to many recent immigrants, it houses a vibrant blending of cultures. It’s got plenty of great restaurants offering food from countries we’re unlikely to ever visit in person (an Uzbekistani place is about to open and we can’t wait to check it out). You’re likely to be the only non-resident around, so it’s a view to a type of authentic NYC life that’s been pushed out to the edges of the city. And most of all, it has corner stores selling goodies like kulfi pops: creamy, craveable treats that we haven’t found elsewhere in NYC—and believe us, we’ve looked.
You’re most likely to have encountered kulfi at an Indian restaurant. It’s a flavorful frozen dessert similar to ice cream, but much richer and denser. The milk (and, sometimes, cream) is cooked for hours to thicken it, producing slightly caramel-like flavors, and is often further flavored with pistachios, rosewater, saffron, and cardamom. It’s a great ending to a spicy meal. But there’s an even better way to eat the frozen treat—and that’s on-the-go, in popsicle format.
Kensington, in Brooklyn, is home to a lot of South Asian families (and also, as it happens, to this editor). In fact, one of the main avenues that runs through the neighborhood is referred to as “Little Pakistan.” Many of the local bodegas (the name by which New Yorkers call a small store offering food and general life necessities) are not only owned by South Asians but also cater to them as their core demographic, carrying foods like frozen pakoras and fresh goat meat.
It was at a Bengali bodega that we first tried a kulfi pop; we’ve since realized that nearly every South Asian market in the neighborhood carries them, selling them individually for about $1.50 to $2 a pop. Various brands are available (our favorite is Shahi Kulfi) and each offers different flavors; almond, pistachio, mango, and rose are most common. They’re essentially pre-packaged versions of the street-food snack you might buy from a kulfiwala on the Indian subcontinent.
We love kulfi pops for their cooling properties on a 90-degree day. We love the delicate flavors, the notes of saffron and cardamom. And most of all, we love them because their density means they don’t melt as quickly in the heat as ice cream does, and it lends the pops a luxuriously rich texture that yet sits lightly in your stomach.
Can’t get to Brooklyn or the Indian subcontinent any time soon? Recipes abound online, and it’s time-consuming yet simple to make your own. You might give these saffron-and-pistachio pops a try, or these mango-cardamom pops (they’re the ones pictured below).