NJ ice cream maker embraces Pakistani heritage with new kulfi brand; where to try it

For Mansoor Ahmed, ice cream means more than just a sweet treat.

“My whole identity as a Muslim Pakistani is built around my food and my culture,” said Ahmed, owner of Heritage Kulfi Premium Ice Cream, a new ice cream brand based in New Jersey that celebrates southern flavors. Asians. “Kulfi ice cream evokes a certain specific and wonderful nostalgia. Food does that; it evokes beautiful memories and emotions.

Kulfi is not a brand name but a specific South Asian type of ice cream, like gelato is in Italy. It is generally denser than American ice cream because it is not whipped. And Ahmed’s offerings have already become hugely popular, now available in 125 stores in the tri-state area with an upcoming expansion in Connecticut. Many of these stores are independent South Asian stores.

Before launching the brand, Ahmed worked in the distribution of frozen products.

“When COVID-19 hit, a lot of my stores reduced the products I was distributing,” Ahmed told NJ Advance Media. “I took a step back and decided to launch Heritage Kulfi Premium Ice Cream, and the response to the brand has been overwhelming.”

Thinking of flavors from his youth like rose water, saffron and pistachio, Mansoor began to assemble a range of ice creams that reflected his identity. To make his ice cream, Ahmed partnered with a family-run regional ice cream factory.

“My main motivation for launching Heritage Kulfi Premium Ice Cream was to translate the South Asian flavors and creaminess of traditional kulfi ice cream to a wider audience,” Ahmed said.

A few customers testify to their loyalty to the Heritage Kulfi brand at Track 5 Coffee in Cranford.Karim Shamsi Basha

Ahmed, who lives in Princeton, grew up in the United States to Pakistani parents who immigrated to New Jersey in the 1970s.

“I wanted to honor my culture with my ice cream. The brand is an extension of who I am,” Ahmed said. “A lot of the flavors come from my South Asian background, and some I remember from my childhood like rose water and pistachio.”

The ice cream benefits from a dense, clean and bold profile; the cream, sugar and the rest of the ingredients are slowly cooked then chilled overnight to infuse the flavors and allow them to settle. Later, they are lightly churned to arrive at the final product.

Fun flavors

The flavors of Heritage Kulfi Premium Ice Cream reflect the South Asian identity of its maker.Karim Shamsi Basha

Current Heritage Kulfi Premium Ice Cream flavors are Alphonso Mango, Rose Water, Saffron, Pistachio, Cardamom Chai, Earl Grey, Vanilla Bean and Coconut.

Next year it will introduce two new flavors: almond blossom and malai sweet cream, the latter of which mimics what rises to the top when you boil milk, Ahmed said.

Heritage Kulfi Premium Ice Cream is a Clean Label ice cream with no preservatives, extracts, flavors or artificial ingredients. It is considered a halal ice cream with no alcohol and no animal by-products. Next year, Mansoor will introduce a vegan line.

“I want the ice cream of my childhood and my heritage to be enjoyed by people of all cultures and walks of life,” Ahmed said.

Karim Shamsi-Basha can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter & instagram. To find NJ.com on Facebook.

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