City Food – Daulat ki Chaat, Around Town
The CP spirit.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It looks exactly like Old Delhi’s daulat ki chaat. But young Lokesh in Gurgaon’s Sadar Bazar, wheeling his cart about the post office building, insists it is makhan malai.
To a gourmand in Timbuktu, daulat ki chaat might sound like something as spicy and hot as any desi chaat, but there is nothing à la chaat about daulat. It is as creamy as malai, as soft as makhan—the name Lokesh gave to this sweet sin is closer to reality. Whatever, as any well-fed Purani Dilli connoisseur will tell you, the dish pops up temporarily along Old Delhi gallis and kuchas around this segment of the year. Lokesh’s so-called makhan malai also surfaced a few weeks ago. Indeed, his cart makes for a typical daulat ki chat spectacle: a big wide platter filled with the white snow-like dessert, topped with a massive slab of gold icing. This gold is kesar, Lokesh informs. Two bowls lie on the side—containing roasted khoya and bhoora, the powdered sugar.
The widely held belief that daulat is found exclusively within the Walled City turns out to be a legend. The daulat in the picture was spotted last week outside Old Delhi, next to New Delhi railway station. A pub in Gurgaon’s Sector 29 had daulat in its super-extensive menu until the place shut down some time ago. While a fine-dining restaurant in a luxury Delhi hotel serves the humble street daulat for… 800 rupees! Mostly, though, daulat is peddled on wooden carts or on three-legged mobile stands called tarona.
In Delhi, vendor Hukum Singh gets up long before dawn at his home in Jumna Bazar. He starts by whisking cream with milk. The signature froth builds up in a few hours. By 9am, he is in Chandni Chowk, continually oscillating between Red Fort and Fatehpuri Masjid, with a pan on his head and tarona under his arm, stopping wherever the business beckons.
Licked off with a disposable wooden chammach, daulat has the lightness of air, and the imperceptibility of a myth—the flavours vanish quickly but have a long recall value. Since this cloud of cream dissipates in high temperature, the delicacy is brought out between the cool months of October and March. Hawked in hardscrabble alleys choked with dust, smog and flies, daulat, veiled in a transparent cotton gauze, gives the vibes of a palace princess out on a tour of her impoverished principality.