City Food – Daulat ki Chaat, Paharganj
The winter season delicacy.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
His uplifting smile is the rich icing to the sweet lightness of his daulat ki chaat.
Namaste winter, and salaam to the season’s first sighting of Old Delhi’s cold weather street delicacy. This daulat cart however isn’t loafing about in the Walled City galiyan, but a little outside its vanished walls, in the Main Bazar of Paharganj. But make no mistake: the young vendor lives in Purani Dilli’s Chawri Bazar, he insists urgently, as if that aspect is important to him. Although Vinod himself is a native of Chandausi, the UP town famous for desi ghee.
A passer-by pauses by the cart. Looking sceptical, he points an accusing finger at the snowy looking dish shielded from street dust under a protective net, and asks in the suspicious tone of a custom officer: “what is this?” Vinod calmly answers. “It is made from dew.” The passer-by looks on in disbelief.
Much legend is attached to the making of the dish. A popular story has it that “pure buffalo milk” is whisked with cream under a moony sky, with the cold night dew—the oas—causing froth to appear atop the churned milk. (Between us: a vendor in Chawri Bazar confided last year that “these days we use ice instead of oas.”)
Whatever, Old Delhi’s chaotic lanes get crammed up with daulat vendors at this time of the year; the vendors are often members of the same clan. Usual to encounter a baap-beta or jeeja-sala team, each hauling his own cart in neighbouring streets.
Gladly acceding to a request, Vinod breaks down his daily daulat routine: “I get up at 3am. I mix milk and malai in a cauldron. I leave it under the morning dew. Thick malai sets on the top. I take off this malai and mix it with more milk and churn it vigorously—like the way one does in a village home— until froth rises… I am ready by 8.”
A typical daulat platter holds 15 kilograms of the frothy dessert. The thick golden top layer is made of kesar, pista, and badaam; the serving is further dressed up, at the point of handing it to the customer, with bhoora (ground sugar) and roasted khoya (condensed milk). The first sensation on tasting the daulat is like licking some super-fine butter so light as if it were simply cool fresh air moulded into a sugar-coated gossamer gauze.
Meanwhile, vendor Vinod is lost from view in the Paharganj crowd. Some time later… here he is! Enjoying steamy hot vegetable momos at a fellow street vendor’s cart.
Daulat for December