D Magazine intern Carol Shih prowls Dallas for the best Asian cuisine and also writes a blog about sandwiches.
On Fridays and Saturdays after the last prayers are said in Arabic, the Ismailis of Carrollton exit the holy halls of their Jamatkhana, file into cars that’ll take them across two minutes of roads, and greet each other again inside the Al Markaz shopping complex where they fill their empty stomachs with juice and samosas.
An elevator-sized shop, squeezed between a beauty parlor and cell phone store, bears the name AGHA JUICE and a colorful neon sign that indicates it’s open until midnight.
Before Agha Juice opened its doors in 2004, Kareem Valliani, the owner, discovered that his community was missing a dessert concept. “Back home in Karachi, after dinner we would go out and have dessert. There was no place here for the dessert that we enjoyed back home.” So he bought a small space next to the George Bush Turnpike and covered the walls with bright objects he’d bought in Karachi—objects that Pakistani parents could point out to their American-born children and say, “You see that toy truck? That’s what the trucks in Karachi look like.”
Mr. Valliani often stands behind his own counter, quick to offer a warm hello to customers he knows on a first-name basis. South Asians squeeze inside Agha Juice as if they were standing in some busy Old Delhi market as they order everything from refreshing sugar cane juice to golaganda (snow cones) and masala fruit cocktails. Falooda, a traditional dessert from India and Pakistan, is popular with customers and it comes in six different flavors, but the original is bubble gum pink with rice noodles, milk, vanilla ice cream, Mr. Valliani’s homemade falooda ice cream, jelly pieces, pineapple and strawberry bits, and basil seeds. With so many ingredients inside one cup, it’s no surprise this dessert drink costs a hefty five-dollar bill.
Customers who can’t fit inside or have already received their orders loiter outside the shop, some sitting in plastic lawn chairs and others standing with a cup of fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice in one hand. Many alternate between speaking Urdu and licking their frozen kulfi made in-house. Ten inches of glorious milk, butter and sugar are mixed together to create five different kulfi flavors, but do yourself a favor and ignore four of them. Go straight for the khoya malai—this creamy, nutty ice cream that makes even people with lactose intolerance ignore the consequences of ordering this kulfi flavor.
If you ask Mr. Valliani what he puts in his khoya malai kulfi to make it so addicting, he will probably smile and answer you as he did with me: “That’s my secret ingredient. I can’t even tell my wife, because then she may copy me!”
Darn. And I was really hoping to open my own kulfi store one day…
Kareem Villiani’s newest fast food restaurant, Agha’s Café and Grill, offers halal meat for those who wish to pair a sweet drink with foods like malai chicken and gyros. Agha’s Café and Grill is a couple doors down from Agha Juice.
1205 W Trinity Mills Rd
Carrollton, TX 75006