Bang in the middle of Karol Bagh’s Ajmal Kamal Road stands an eatery that has been satiating Delhi’s sweet cravings for close to seven decades. It was 1947, the year of Partition. The city saw a flood of people coming in from across the border. Among them was Roshan Lal Soni, a dry fruits merchant, who shifted his business from Lahore to Delhi. After a stint that lasted a few months at Connaught Place, he moved to nearby Karol Bagh. At the time, Soni used to walk around the neighbourhood selling dry fruits. Soon, the Delhi summer presented him with an idea. To help people beat the heat, he thought of making the desi equivalent of the ice cream — kulfi.
Till date, hundreds throng Roshan di Kulfi everyday to savour their kesar-badam-pista kulfi topped with faluda. The dairy dessert is prepared by thickening milk slowly, making what is called rabri. Once it cools down, dry fruits like almonds and pistachios are added along with saffron and rose water, and kept to freeze in cone-shaped moulds. It is then topped with its better half — faluda (vermicelli noodles made from starch). His grandson Ishan Soni, 30, now runs the shop along with his two cousins. The outlet has been at the same spot since 1951 and it is the only one.
“Over time, he started buying more land around the shop and the outlet expanded,” says Ishan. Apart from kulfi, the eatery is also famous for its chana bhatura, chat papdi, aloo tikki, a variety of sweets, among other dishes.
“He was always very punctual and careful about his routine. More than the business, he cared about his routine, never compromising on it. Earlier, in the ’50s, he used to carry milk on his shoulders all the way from Shakti Nagar to Karol Bagh, covering a distance of around five km. We can’t even think of doing that,” says Ishan.
Since Soni’s death in 1997, the shop has been managed by his three sons — Ashok Kumar, Joginder and Satish. “They continued with the legacy and met the demands of the customers, without any compromise on quality,” says Ishan. They also cater to weddings in the city and other states like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Telangana.
“The market is so crowded these days that not many popular people come in, but we’ve served many politicians and celebrities in the past such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Kapil Dev,” says Ishan, who has future plans of expansion on his mind, but is a little skeptical.
“We want to extend the present shop and open branches. But sealing is a big issue in Delhi these days, so we’re a bit unsure of where to and not to do business these days,” he says.