When Kulfi, a pandemic-born ice pop cart, got its start at markets around town including the Portland Flea and the Montavilla Farmers Market, Kiran Cheema, co-owner with her husband Gagan Aulakh, says some customers just couldn’t get enough. One couple even bought twenty pops at a time. “People started showing up with coolers, and they would be stocking up,” she says. “We started to see the same people over and over every weekend.”
Now, over a year in the works, Kulfi is opening its own brick-and-mortar shop at 5009 NE 15th Ave on April 30. The new shop will welcome customers with a rainbow wall, a walk-up window for quick pop stops, and outdoor seating. The shop will offer some of Kulfi’s most beloved pop flavors alongside some new ones, plus some brick-and-mortar exclusive treats.
Kulfi, an Indian frozen dessert, involves boiling milk and adding sugar until it becomes thick like condensed milk. The result, usually served on a stick, is chewy, dense, and ultra-creamy. Some of Kulfi’s flavors are Indian-inspired, like the mango lassi made with yogurt (the most popular flavor); the 'Rose City' made with rose water, Rooh Afza (a concentrated herb and fruit syrup), and cardamom; and the Pista, which combines pistachio and saffron. Kulfi also offers a line of creamy vegan flavors, including a coconut-based Vietnamese coffee pop made in collaboration with Portland Cà Phê that’s become a staple flavor. These four will be constants on Kulfi’s menu alongside about eight other rotating flavors; past favorites have included marionberry cheesecake and vegan jackfruit-coconut.
One new flavor in the works for the shop’s opening is the Cookie Monster, a vanilla pop colored with blue spirulina with crumbled chocolate chip cookies from bakery and fellow market vendor Hungry Heart. Kulfi also makes water-based pops, like the June special Pride Pop that creates a rainbow with six layered flavors made of strawberries, pineapple, spinach, blueberries, and more. You can also personalize your pop by dipping it in dark, milk, or white chocolate, then adding toppings including sprinkles, almonds, pistachios, coconut flakes, or Oreo crumbles.
Beyond pops, Kulfi will add falooda to its menu, an Indian treat that combines rice vermicelli, basil seeds, jelly, and mango pulp or rosewater syrup. The shop’s version will let customers choose their own kulfi base: rose, pistachio, mango, or malai kulfi, a sweet milk-flavored pop. Also look out for warm chai to drink, plus soda floats with a vanilla pop dunked into them.
Kulfi will open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 9 p.m., with possible extended hours coming in the summer. Opening day celebrations will include a unicorn costume, plus more surprises. But the cart isn’t going anywhere, either—look for Kulfi at more markets and events this summer.
“Our carts are so sentimental to us. In India, kulfi vendors are called kulfi wallah, and that’s how you get your kulfi—from a cart,” says Cheema. “We don't think we'll ever stop doing carts, because we just love being a part of the community.”