There’s a part of Houston that is home to an eclectic mix of South Asian shops – from clothing, jewelry, and specialty grocery stores, the neighborhood is sometimes referred to as the “Little India” of Houston. Every few weeks my mom would drive my brother and I out to the area to pick up the essentials: bulk spices, rice and flours in bags that were almost as big as we were, strangely shaped vegetables that we couldn’t quite pronounce, and cartons of Indian desserts for my dad to snack on after dinner. My goal for these trips when we were younger was not to watch my mom carefully pick out these items, but to get a little sweet treat for myself – mango kulfi. Every time we’d get to the check out line, my mom would point to the little freezer in the corner of the grocery store and my brother and I got to pick out one of these little pink cartons with red stripes and a little picture of the flavor on it (mango, pistachio, or rose) for ourselves. We got little wooden spoons that were essentially just short and stubby popsicles sticks, tore off the lids, and were content for the ride home.
It’s been a while since I had the treat in those mango kulfi’s, but since we’re smack dab in the middle of a particularly hot summer and I no longer live close to a source of good mango desserts, I figured I’d get my DIY on with a lighter version of the sweet treat in those little cartons. Besides – who can turn down a yummy popsicle this time of year??
You’ve probably had or at least heard of a mango lassi – those sweet mango and yogurt drinks you can find at your favorite Indian restaurants. While different in texture and ingredient deck to a kulfi, lassi’s have a similar flavor while lending themselves to be lightened up and turned into popsicle form.
These pops really couldn’t be easier to make and you won’t even realize that they are so much better for you as everyday treats than the traditional sugar and condensed-milk filled version. To get that creamy texture we all love in our favorite popsicles, you still need a little bit of sugar to keep the mixture from freezing too quickly and getting icy, so I subbed in a little bit of coconut sugar. You could easily make these treats without any sugar, but the texture will come out more like a fruit-sorbet!
It’s the spices and nuts that are the real stars here. There’s something so special about the little surprise of flavor that comes from the little flecks of saffron and cardamom seeds in these popsicles, and the salty-sweet combo you get at the end with the pistachios is always a favorite flavor combo.
I’m absolutely obsessed with cardamom, and the whole seeds pack so much more flavor than the ground version. The seeds have a sweet and floral taste that goes so well with almost any dessert and makes any dish feel a little more special. I would highly recommend having a little jar of cardamom seeds around at all times to use for your morning oatmeal, chai tea, and cakes, but I might be slightly biased…
Since getting my popsicle molds a few weeks ago, I’ve had a batch of pops in the freezer at almost all times. The options are endless when it comes to flavors and I can’t wait to keep experimenting! Any flavor combos y’all would suggest – please send them my way!