City Food – Rabri, Chandni Chowk
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is sweet snow.
This creamy dessert is an exception to the rule that street food is always inexpensive. In Old Delhi bylanes (think chaotic Chandni Chowk), the humble-looking pavement stalls sell a glass of rabri for 100 rupees. A small bowl of rabri is priced at 10 rupees though.
Spread out in a large steel platter and covered with a transparent net to protect it from flies, rabri is as simple as a clear blue sky. It needs only two ingredients: sugar and milk, which are boiled for several hours. As the milk simmers, a layer of malai, or cream, is formed on the surface. This crust is pushed to the side to make way for more malai. The process continues until almost all the milk is converted into cream–the end product is rabri.
The sweet is sometimes served in clay pots, which gives it a cool earthy flavour. The rabri sold in Chandni Chowk is usually sprinkled with coarsely chopped pistachio, and the platter is balanced delicately on a low wooden stool.
While the gooey texture of rabri is unlikely to tempt one’s visual sense, the vendors are so sure of its appeal that they don’t try to oversell by shouting about its fine qualities. They know that interested passersbys will certainly stop.
Best served cold, rabri sits lightly on the tongue but is very rich and fills you up in a few spoonfuls. It is milk in its heavenly avtar.