New Delhi, India
March 1, 2011
In Chandni Chowk, you’ll find a number of sweet shops, all of them selling an array of sweets—and nearly all those sweets are typical of Indian sweets: sugary, syrupy, often ghee-laden, just as often encrusted with nuts. These aren’t the sweets you should try if you’re watching your cholesterol or your blood sugar. They aren’t, either, the sort of sweets I like; I find them too rich and too sweet for my taste.
Where I go, therefore, is Gali Parathewali. It’s known for its sari shops and for the deep-fried parathas its eateries serve; but right next to the landmark sari shops of Ram Chandra Krishan Chandra is a small, hole-in-the-wall rabri stall which simply calls itself Rabri Bhandar, and which sells the best rabri in Chandni Chowk. They also sell a few other milk sweets like kalakand and lassi (a very popular yoghurt-based drink), but my favourite is rabri. Khurchan comes a close second. Khurchan is similar to rabri, except that it’s cooked even longer than rabri, so it’s much more rich, creamy and dry (khurchan literally means ‘scrapings’). It looks like an Indian version of mille-feuille: lots of thin layers, but these are of cooked milk.
On our last visit to Chandni Chowk, we stopped while passing through Gali Parathewali, just long enough to buy a bowlful of rabri and consume it. Three minutes? Four? Certainly no more. My husband paid the amount, Rs. 35 for a bowl (the khurchan costs Rs 40 per bowl), and was handed the rabri in a little bowl made of aluminium foil lined with paper. An icecream spoon, made of thin wood, was given.
The rabri was delicious. Creamy but not greasy; rich, but not heavy, and just with a very little added sugar. On top had been sprinkled a few slivered almonds. We’ve had khurchan on a previous occasion, but the rabri, frankly, wins: the khurchan is too rich and too dry for my liking. But the rabri is so good, I find myself always stopping by to sample some when I’m in Chandni Chowk.
There’s no place to sit here (literally no place, since there’s just about enough space for the owner and his assistant to sit and keep their pots of rabri and khurchan). You stand out in the lane and eat. It’s also a little expensive but then there’s the fact that this is made from full cream milk, and it’s very greatly reduced. The owner/ordertaker/waiter takes orders for large quantities as well: the rates—Rs 350 per kilo of rabri, Rs 400 per kilo of khurchan and so on—are written up on a board beside the stall.
From journal Delhi: A Culinary Heritage