Daulat ki Chaat: God’s Own Street Food

This time of year is bliss in Delhi.  After prolonged, air-conditioned  hibernation, it feels like the start of  the long summer school holidays, with every day a potential outdoor adventure until we’re chased back indoors in Spring.  The parks are full of power-walkers, tourists are taking their time at India Gate and al-fresco eating is the order of the day; happy family groups are out picknicking and we suddenly see the point of restaurants with gardens.

I always know winter is well and truly on its way when I spot the Shakakandi seller in Khan Market with his piping hot pile of roasted sweet potato – just say the word and he’ll load up a plate with scooped out flesh and douse the lot with masala and lemon juice – with optional kamrakh (star-fruit) garnish:  a mini feast to ease you through those awkward times when your next meal just seems a little too far off.

My grown-up India equivalent of building dens and climbing trees, are long days spent in Old Delhi.  Just a month ago the scene in the bazaars was of traders mopping their brows between bouts of haggling, recalcitrant rickshaw-wallahs dawdling in the shade, a roaring trade at the kulfi (ice cream) and nimbu pani (lemonade) stalls. My own trips were short and to-the-point, preferably with ice-cold beer waiting at home.

Now there’s energy to spare and time to soak it all up. It’s true of India generally that there’s a relish in seasonality that we’ve mostly lost in Britain.  Despite the increased availability of imported food in Delhi, in the winter months we still look forward to strawberries, cape gooseberries and salad; when the temperature starts to soar again, one of the  few compensations is the arrival of mangoes and the rising excitement as each new variety appears in the markets.

One of the many wonderful things about the old city is the way the food there moves with the seasons – this is not the place to go if you’re looking for year-round avocadoes – and you can still feel the intense right time, right place-ness of the food on offer.  Winter in Old Delhi means  dishes like the spicy nehari, a rich meat stew cooked slowly overnight and served with brains and marrow to put lead in the pencil early on a nippy winter morning.

There are certain things which can only appear in the winter months.  One which makes my heart skip like a kid with a Strawberry Mivvi and one of Old Delhi’s most tightly-guarded secrets, is Daulat ki Chaat.  How to describe something which should really only be served to people who’ve led exemplary lives as they finally make it through the pearly gates?  In her ‘Essential Delhi Cookbook’, Priti Narain translates it as ‘milk puff’ but this merely underlines the sheer inadequacy of language to convey the enormity of the experience which eating Daulat ki Chaat entails. According to Old Delhi legend, Daulat (which means ‘wealth’) ki Chaat is made only during the cold winter nights (preferably by the light of a full moon) when gallons of sweetened milk are whisked for hours into a cloud which is then set by the dawn dew.  The top layer is touched with saffron and decorated with vark (silver leaf) and  by morning the Daulat ki Chaat is just solid enough to be spooned into plates and sprinkled with  chopped pistachio nuts, khoya (condensed milk) and bhoora (unrefined sugar) before gradually collapsing in the heat of the day.

In its thaal (a wide metal platter) the Daulat ki Chaat looks like the soft meringue of Lemon Meringue Pie but the taste is altogether more ethereal – it dissolves instantly on the tongue, leaving behind the merest sensation of cream and sweetness. The balance of milky cloud, saffron, sugar and nuts is subtle and tantalising, almost not there – generally requiring a greedy second or third plateful to try and audit this gully-found glimpse of heaven. If there’s one dish that sums up the magic and mystery of Old Delhi street food, it’s Daulat ki Chaat –  at 20 rupees a plate it’s within the reach of rickshaw-pullers but this is a dish – surely with Mughal heritage?  – that could hold its own with the world’s most extravagant delicacies – in fact I know of at least one Delhi Embassy which has started calling in the  Daulat ki Chaat wallahs for its swanky parties.

In Delhi, I’ve never seen this other-worldly delicacy anywhere but the old city, although I know different versions exist in other cities – the first time I tasted it was right off the night train to Lucknow, where it’s called Nimish. This is a cruelly short season but for the next few weeks  the Daulat ki Chaat wallahs, with their khomchas (a fold-up bamboo stand which street food vendors use to display their wares) are dotted around Old Delhi, standing proudly behind their platters of ‘cloud’.  Last week I ate  Kemchand Adesh Kumar’s Daulat ki Chaat in Nai Sarak but he moves around – his phone number is 9899417485 if you want to avoid disappointment.

I include Priti Narain’s recipe, from The Essential Delhi Cookbook, which calls for electrical appliances, although I refuse to accept Daulat ki Chaat can be made in the kitchens of mere mortals – I firmly believe this sweetened slice of paradise is created with the assistance of angels rather than a Kenwood mixer.

Daulat ki Chaat

Milk Puff

2 litres full cream milk, unboiled

2 and a quarter cups cream

1 heaped tsp cream of tartar

1 cup caster sugar

1 tsp rosewater

2 tbsp chopped pistachio nuts

Combine milk, cream and cream of tartar in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Next morning stir in 4 tsp caster sugar and rosewater and whisk using a rotary or electric beater at high speed.  Using a tea strainer collect the foam that forms and transfer to a large thali or tray.  Keep thali tilted so that foam stays on one side; some milk will collect on the lower side.  When the thali is fairly full, spoon foam into clay saucers or teacups, sprinkling a little caster sugar between layers and on top (the foam will condense a little during this operation.  What looks like four bowlfuls in the thali will yield only two bowls).

Pour milk collected in the thali back in the bowl and continue collecting foam till all the milk is used up.  The whole process will take 2 – 2 and a half hours.

Sprinkle pistachio nuts on top of each bowl of foam and refrigerate till serving time.

The Daulat ki Chaat can also be layered in 2-3 large bowls but it loses some of its fluffiness and becomes dense.

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57 thoughts on “Daulat ki Chaat: God’s Own Street Food

  1. Hi,
    This was really interesting 🙂
    Is cream of tartar readily available in India?
    May I know what it is called in hindi,and also the purpose of adding it to the milk mixture.thank you.
    archana

  2. Pingback: Umbra Sumus» Blog Archive » Daulat ki Chaat: God’s Own Street Food

  3. Archana – I have seen Cream of Tartar in INA market and Modern Bazaar so I think it’s fairly widely available. I’m not sure what Ms Narain had in mind for its role in Daulat ki Chaat – perhaps it helps the milk keep its shape. As I say, I prefer to think that the beauty of Daulat ki Chaat is achieved by angels rather than chemicals!

  4. Great!! Thanks. I saw someone selling this on Wedding Street (Kinari Bazar) just last week and tried to ask what it was…now am wishing I’d tried it!! And how about the roasted chestnuts everywhere? Is that what they are?

  5. Jesus, I’ve never had anything like this – I wish I could spend some time in Delhi just travelling on my stomach! You have amazing descriptive powers, I could almost taste the darn thing. I guess you derived some real inspiration from the Daulat ki Chaat 🙂

  6. Hi Pamela, I myself a foodie and looking to try and explore wide variety of foods from across india and globe.
    As far Chandi Chowk is considered I have also sweets from Gante wali sweet shop apart from tht I suggest u to explore the parathe wali gali also for heavy duty and wide variety of parathes on offer. Also during Ramzan and other muslim festivels there is wide variety of non veg items on offers in chandi chowk, so do explore the market during those times for non veg food items also.
    Bye

  7. God your write-up has me missing my Delhi so much more now!! Indeed Chandni Chowk is the one place that always has a variety of food and cuisine available, that one seldom finds elsewhere in the city. From Gyani’s kulfi in the summer to Ghantewaala’s mithai’s to Natraj’s dahi-bhallas and of course Daulat ki Chaat………Chandni Chowk is a food-lover’s paradise!!
    As for your comment, I do remember hearing from my grandma that the evolution of Daulat ki Chaat is firmly rooted in the Mughal era, and was widely enjoyed by the Brits during Raj too.

    On another note fabulous blog!! One of my new favourites.

  8. How i missed this superb write up of your’s Pamella.
    You have a wonderful way with words when it comes to describe food you know.
    This milk cloud is called Malayia in Banaras n it’s available in the old galis ( bylanes) n the guys pretty much look like these pictures…:)

    In the traditional way , which is still followed there , the milk is kept on the terrace overnight mixed with kesar pista etc. and is churned with a manual mathani early in the morning , the cloud is collected the same way you described and the remaining milk is sold on the streets too……..both are just out of this world…..

    you are right , reproducing the same taste is impossible in the kitchens of mere mortals….

  9. Thanks for comment Amarjeet – I never tire of exploring Old Delhi food – although for my money, Paranthe Wali Gali is worth avoiding! I’ve had much better paranthe in roadside dhabas!

  10. I love the fact that he has a phone and that you gave it out – just delicious. I am back in Delhi next week and this time around I am going to get myself some – have been hearing about it since I was a kid and have never ever had it.

  11. loved this post, loving your blog, post reminded me so much of my delhi days. chandni chowk is a place that practically feeds all the senses, including the imagination.

  12. Pingback: Все о фильмах » Архив сайта » Богатство – Daulat DVD

  13. Hey Pam, i stumbled upon your blog and everything came crawling, the nostalgia, flavours, i-too-am-a-foodie and it’s-my-favourite-too feelings 🙂
    About daulat ki chaat, it was rumoured that it was just made from dew. So i started questioning every vendor, and got the same answer that you’ve written (the preperation of milk cloud). True, there’s nothing comparable to daulat ki chaat. Alas, it’s only available in winters.

  14. Sahil – thanks for your message – Daulat ki Chaat will always have a special place in my heart – roll on winter

  15. I returned to Delhi after 15 years and can’t wait to eat this. It is the most special dessert in the world…. my heart is just waiting. Thank you Pamela. You have a magic with words and food.

  16. Having found your blog through some various Indian-blog-skimming, I kept an eye out for daulat ki chaat when I was in Lucknow (we don’t get much chaat up here in Mussoorie, at least the types beyond pani puri). We managed to find some – the vendor had two types, one with elaichi and one with kesar. For Rs5 a bowl, I thought, “This is some of the best food I’ve ever had”… and then we went to Tundey Kebab, and my world was rocked again!

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  18. If you only knew how you have made the angels descend for me, this early kay of Jan 6th 2012, finding your blog, and getting the recipee has me excited as a child…..I have done all the needful, part techno , part angels…and am sitting here waiting for dew drops to fall into my refrigerated milk….stragegically now put outside a balcony, precariously balanced so that it collects whatever droppings of blessings from above come in form of tears or dew drops…..yes yes it will work….;the will is there, the happiness is throbbing….so universe shall deliver…but through it all we need ….you to plod us along. Thank you….Shall come back and tell you all how it goes…..

  19. Masoom – I think you may have missed a vital step – you have to whisk the milk till your arm drops off!

  20. I ate this about a month ago and although I had no idea what it was I certainly found it delicious. Unearthly delicious, just like you say. Seeing the list of ingredients only further affirms this. Who knew milk could be this heavenly?

  21. very nice, suffer with typical kayasth facination for food, even in face of sinister-looking medical test reports, much to the chagrin of my wife.

  22. Pingback: Dilli ke Pakwaan Festival, 2013 | Foodie's World

  23. Pamela, I’m so excited to have happened upon this wondrous blog of yours! I’m generally fearless when it comes to trying street food in my travels, but have heard so much about getting sick in India – any thoughts on how to select a daulat ki chaat vendor who’s heavenly cloud won’t make me hellisly ill? I’ll be in Delhi in Dec (yup, I plan ahead!) and would love to try this, but not if its not for the new-in-town/delicate-of-stomach. What is your experience with this?

  24. I tried making this recently and knew instantly I was missing something. The tip about the tea strainer is priceless! This makes me want to try making it again! Lovely post.

  25. Hi Pamela, this was really interesting!
    Brought back childhood memories with my grandparents in Lucknow when the ‘malai makhan’ (it was also known by this name in Lucknow) guy used to come home with his khomcha.
    I have used this memory in my forthcoming novel ‘The Uncommon Memories of Zeenat Qureishi’, due to be released sometime this month.
    Great to connect with you,
    Veena Nagpal

  26. Vikas Khanna is shown relishing Milk Puff at Parsi Da Dhaba @Udwada in his show named Twist of taste(Channel name:Fox traveler)

  27. P.S.Parsi gentleman has shared his recipe on the show which is same as Daulat ki chat

  28. Nita Rawal’s Parsi recipe of Milk Puff is almost same.Main difference is Chef Vikas Khanna is shown putting it in refrigerator for night after adding milk and cream of tartar.

  29. It’s awesome to pay a visit this site and reading the views of all mates concerning this
    article, while I am also eager of getting know-how.

  30. Dear Pam,
    Cream of tarter is wonderful ingredient of molecular gastronomy,It stabilizes foam of any substance to give new dimension to cooking.There are very few chefs like Chef Shailendra(AKA Stylechef on foodfood tv channel) in India experimenting with molecular gastronomy(fusion of science with cooking.)

  31. When I initially commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments
    are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I receive four emails with the same
    comment. There has to be a way you are able to remove me from that service?
    Thanks!

  32. I too got a taste of this wonderful chat. Thats really great and i would recommend it to anybody who is there to have a look on Delhi’s most delicious foods.

  33. Pingback: Nimish: seminal gastronomic foam? | Eating India

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  35. Pamela, you said it exactly the way i remember the experience, that first spoonful of daulat ki chaat on your tongue, and even before you know it, its off the tongue coating your soul with its frigidly fragrant breath….if i were writing Ms Narain’s book , i’d find something less woefully pedestrian than ‘Milk Puff’ (Ugh!) to call it…perhaps, the ‘frozen breath of fragrant milk’ would begin to do justice to describing it all…poetic hyperbole perhaps, but not undeservedly so.

    Sadly, i never knew this was a very strictly winter experience….my introduction to ‘Daulat ki Chaat’ was as a mere curiosity, on a whim, passing by a stall at Surajkund….*sigh* :-/

    Thank you for writing this blog. 🙂

  36. Pingback: Delhi belly (part I) and my quest for Daulat ki chaat « of spices and pisces

  37. Hi Pamela. My name is Khadijah. I just wanted to know when making Daulat Ki Chaat how long do i have to whisk for?

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  39. Pingback: Travel India: Old Delhi Food Tour | YouFoundSarah

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