Indian Restaurant Gets Its Fry Game On -- Maybe

Whoever's behind Chameli's Twitter feed either has a State Fair-inflected sense of humor or the best dessert idea ever.

"We're doing Fried Mango Khulfi soon!," @ChameliOnline announced yesterday.

Problem is, nobody at the Indian restaurant in Richardson (which is clearly pictured on @ChameliOnline's Twitter page) seems to know anything about the deep-fried sweet.

"I've never had anyone ask for any fried mango kulfi," the woman who answered the phone there told me. After consulting the kitchen staff, she reported back: "They don't do anything of that sort. I am sorry."

But perhaps they should. Mexican and Japanese restaurants currently have the monopoly on the deep-fried dish, but fried ice cream doesn't rightly belong to either cooking tradition. There's no reason the recipe can't be adapted for frozen treats from other places.

The history of fried ice cream is hazy. The once-popular baked Alaska - a meringue-wrapped concoction that's still wowing cruise-goers - probably provided the inspiration. According to Paul Gustav Heinemann's tome Milk, an unnamed vendor at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago was the first visionary to dip ice cream cubes in fritter batter and hot fat.

More than half a century later, a wire service's Japan correspondent included fried ice cream, seaweed and fried honeybee comb on a list of "all the strange things you eat in Japan."

"You get it in the tempura restaurants, where they fry your food in sesame deep fat," the Newspaper Enterprise Association's Peter Edson wrote in 1961. "The scoop of frozen ice cream is brought in quick. It is dipped in batter...then the whole thing is plopped into the deep fat and fried like a dough nut for less than a minute. You pick up this fried snowball with chopsticks and nibble away at it."

The Food Timeline suggests Edson may have been dining in a tourist trap: Weighing in on the topic of tempura ice cream, the authoritative food history blog sniffs: "This is not a traditional Asian meal item. It is the product of savvy restaurateurs adjusting menus to meet American expectations."

Savvy is an understatement: When Chi Chi's in 1976 put "Mexican Fried Ice Cream" on its menu, it won over millions of diners and jumpstarted a major Tex-Mex trend. Could frying kulfi, the supremely rich and creamy milk dessert beloved on the Indian sub-continent, be the next big thing?

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