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There is something about the sight of a jar of gulkand that transports you straight to the childhood memory of stealthily acquired spoonfuls of the pretty pink preserve, after tiptoeing to the kitchen shelves when nobody was looking. Prepared from rose petals soaked in sugar syrup, this desi mouth freshener’s sweet, minty flavours are still hard to resist as an adult. And, capitalising on this fact – not to mention the ease with which gulkand can be assimilated into food – several restaurants in Pune have done a variety of innovative spins on this rose-kissed jam.
Tea Town, a humble shack in Lane 6 of Koregaon Park, concocts an aromatic gulkand chai – basically, a beautiful union of two popular Indian street inventions. Here, gulkand is added to a boiling infusion, thereby resulting in a pale pink halo of melting froth crowning the edges of the old-school white cup in which the milky, beige tea is served. The combined stimulating properties of the two culinary elements make for a pick-me-up that calms frayed nerves, while also reviving you right up until the last sip.
Many establishments make the most of the effortlessness with which gulkand enriches any dessert – take, for instance, the home-made paan and gulkand ice cream at The K Factory. Bright green, paan-infused ice cream comes drizzled with rainbow mint saunf, soft rose jelly and, of course, dollops of gulkand – a refreshing scoop if there ever was one.
Alternately, there is the ingenious gulkand cheesecake at Minus 18 Degrees – the rosy confiture is imbued into the cream cheese, lending it a lovely, pinkish hue. Think crumbly biscuit crust, a few rose petals sitting daintily on top, and chewy gulkand bits melting in your mouth as you dig into the creamy goodness of the gateau. Meanwhile, Café De Custard (the only exclusive custard parlour in the city) puts together a delicious gulkand custard – a pastel-tinted pudding with that archetypal smooth, velvety texture, laden with thick gulkand paste.
And it is not just the Western desserts that have embraced the gastronomic beauty of gulkand, but also desi mithai, such as the richly saccharine gulkand rabri at Wah Marathi Dine N Wine, which forever puts an end to the age-old post-dinner debate of ‘gulkand or sweet course?’ The consistency is thinner than what you would expect from a condensed milk-based dish, but it is just as slurp-worthy nonetheless!
There is also the gulkand burfi at Sir Misal, which has the confectionery flavoured with gulkand and a ubiquitous silver varq coating. Or, if it is ladoos you fancy, try the gulkand variety at Bedekar Tea Stall – it would seem like gulkand-based sweets are a popular way to douse the flames in your belly after polishing off a plate of fiery misal!
The list, however, does not end here. Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale, the sweet shop every Punekar swears by, rustles up gulkand pedas that make for delectable bite-sized goodies. Or you can go for the more filling, utterly exquisite gulkand-stuffed gulab jamuns at Exotica in Yerwada, which will not just nurse but pamper your sweet tooth silly.
Oh, and if you thought the only thing the city was really still missing was a chilled, gulkand-based summer drink, cult cold-drink house Sujata Mastani whips up a gorgeous gulkand mastani – if a glass of gulkand-flavoured milkshake topped with a scoop of ice cream does not cool you down, we do not know what will.