The Truest Sign of Winter in Delhi? The Daulat ki Chaat Wallahs are back in town!

 

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Winter has arrived here in Delhi.  I know this not just because we’re all starting to cough and splutter with the dreaded ‘Change of Season’ ailments.  Or because my feet are starting to get cold in bed at night and I can’t quite remember where I stashed our quilts last spring.  

No, I know the cooler days are here again because a few days ago I got a call from Babu Ram Kumar to let me know he and his brothers are back in town.  The Kumars are from Uttar Pradesh but every winter they’re based in Old Delhi where they continue a family tradition of making Daulat ki Chaat, that ethereally magical dessert that’s like a cross between a soufflé and a cloud.

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The lore that surrounds daulat ki chaat is every bit as amazing as the taste.  Food writer Madhur Jaffrey remembers it from her childhood in Delhi when a mysterious ‘Lady in White’  brought it in little pots to her family every morning.  It is said that Daulat ki Chaat must be made, by hand,  by the light of a full moon then left to set in the morning dew. It can only be made in the winter and has to be served and eaten quickly before the sun reduces the vendors’ snowy platters to a milky puddle. I’d been intrigued by these tales for years but for my book on Old Delhi I was determined to get to the bottom of the stories.  I pestered every Daulat ki Chaat maker I could find to let me watch them at work but it was the Kumar brothers who  eventually buckled under the pressure.   And so, last winter I spent several  unforgettable hours in the middle of a freezing cold  night watching pails of milk  being transformed into the food of the Gods. Were angels involved? Or the morning dew?  I couldn’t possibly say – at least not until my book, Korma, Kheer and Kismet, comes out in April!

For now, though, don’t miss the brief season.  Once almost extinct, for the past few seasons the daulat ki chaat stalls have been multiplying and from now until about Holi you’ll find them at various spots in Old Delhi including Dariba Kalan, Kinari Bazaar and outside the Chawri Bazaar metro station.  

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26 thoughts on “The Truest Sign of Winter in Delhi? The Daulat ki Chaat Wallahs are back in town!

  1. Thank goodness with the onset of winter, Eat and Dust returns.. Looking forward to lots more delicious postings
    x

  2. I have a recipe for a similar dessert made by the Parsis,, called “Doodh na Puff”. This one too is made on a winter night and consumed at daybreak

  3. Dear… Better, you would have mentioned his( seller ) phoneno. too to fecilitate in locating him.
    Rgds,
    Sharma U,
    Shillong.

  4. @ Sangeeta – thanks – it’s been way too long!
    @ Nina – I hadn’t heard of “Doodh ka Puff’ – how do you make it?
    @ Uma – you can’t really miss the Daulat ki Chaat guys during the winter!

  5. The Parsi recipe from Bapsi Nariman’s Gourmet’s Handbook Of Parsi Cuisine. :Doodh na Puff (Beaten Frothy Milk) is a Parsi delicacy only made in colder climates when the night temperatures are below 20 C.
    2 litres of milk, 250 gms sugar, 8 powdered cardamoms, 2 tblsps rose water
    Boil the milk and sugar together. Simmer until it is reduced to three qurters. Cool. Add the rest of the ingredients. Place the dekchi exposed to the sky at night, covered with a mul cloth. In the early morning beat the milk with a beater. Keep removing the froth, filling it in glasses. Serve before the sun comes up.

  6. @Nina – thank you so much for posting the recipe. From what I saw of the Kumars making Daulat ki Chaat, the Parsi version is a bit different. In Daulat ki Chaat the milk isn’t thickened but it has cream in it. Doodh na Puff also seems to have a lot more sugar in. I’ll be trying Doodh na Puff just for the name alone!
    Pamela

  7. Glad you liked the recipe! Enjoy during the Delhi winter! Here in Mumbai, there is a very remote chance of this dessert being made…Nina

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  10. I learned about this desert while reading a vir sanghvi article 6 years ago (which he did for the TLC benares session), but he called it malaio. i don’t know it was the feeling of amazement and rarity surrounding this delicacy in the article, or complete ignorance of my benarasi roommate about existence of any such desert in his own town, that made me to believe it was an extremely endemic phenomenon of mystic benares. Years passed by i moved to pondy but memory lingered on, and sometimes manifested itself in short google researches. And years later i find myself in middle of chawri bazaar trying to find medical textbooks at bargain rates and i stumble upon a handcart parked by the busy street.

    I had a small donga (disposable bowl) of it, is it whipped cream? Too light for that. But the totally north Indian style toppings and presentation made me think it can’t be a european dish, there was nothing european about the setting, and then my mind made the connection of that 7 years old memory foamy but Indian- it’s got to be malaiyo. To confirm i asked the vendor who turned out to be the owner/chef of the bussiness too, where are you from? Ofcourse the answer was U.P.

    old Delhi saved me a trip to benares.

    But still the name was a mystery – because it meant a snack of wealth and not snack for wealthy. And i do not know if the vendor was lying or was telling the truth – but the name comes from the first name of his great great great uncle Mr. Doulat. The first u.p wallah to introduce it to the old Delhi.
    the method described by the vendor was tedious sheer hard work, which made me feel sorry for these guys.

    I was wondering if someone can develop some malaio-makers and make lives of these guys way more easier.
    i asked for his contact number, he gave me a visiting card instead. And I’ll soon witness the whole process first hand.

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