While rabri, kababs or even puri-aloo are available outside Delhi, Daulat ki Chaat is a very uniquely Delhi delicacy. And both rare as well as unknown even to most Delhiites.
Chaat is the name given to a range of tangy and spicy snacks that are widely available across Northern India, served with everything from tamarind chutney and freshly ground mint or coriander chutney, to whisked yoghurt. Daulat ki Chaat, despite its name, has nothing whatsoever to do with chaat. This, instead, is a dessert, a milk sweet that is made only in Delhi during the winter months. And it’s available only in the morning, mainly in and around Chandni Chowk. Daulat ki Chaat is not sold in shops; instead, men trundle carts from which they sell the Daulat ki Chaat.
We first went searching for the elusive sweet one February morning. We walked a long way—from Jama Masjid, down Dariba Kalan, Kinari Bazaar, through Parathewali Gali, along the main road of Chandni Chowk, through Katra Neel and Bagh Deewar, then all the way through Khari Baoli, past Lal Kuan and to Hauz Qazi—keeping our eyes peeled for Daulat ki Chaat sellers. We didn’t see a single one.
Next winter, we assured our disappointed selves; next winter we’ll begin the quest in December itself. Coincidentally, two weeks later, at the fag end of February, we decided to take visiting relatives for breakfast to Karim. We got out of the Chawri Bazaar Metro station and had just begun our walk from Hauz Qazi to the Jama Masjid, when we passed a young man pushing a flat-topped cart covered with a sheet of bright red faux leather. On the sheet were arranged piles of little foil-lined bowls, a few large white plastic containers (the type frequently used in India for takeaways)—and a very large metal platter, about 4" deep, containing what looked like paneer, cottage cheese. Paneer is a familiar sight and taste for us, so we walked on—and then the man called out his wares: "Daulat ki chaat!" We were back at his cart before he could call a second time.
The young vendor doled out our orders. A few spoonfuls of the snowy-white sweet (not paneer, but the Daulat ki Chaat itself) were piled into a foil-lined bowl. A decorative scoop of the same creamy stuff, but pale yellow, not white, was added on top. Then, from another bowl beside him, the man sprinkled over it a spoonful of what’s known as mawa: milk cooked till it’s a light golden-brown sold. This mawa had been grated. And hey presto, our Daulat ki Chaat was ready to be savoured.
It was fantastic stuff. Tarun and I quizzed the man while we ate, and though we’d known the rudiments of Daulat ki Chaat, he filled in some gaps for us. The sweet is made by boiling a lightly sweetened mixture of cream and milk (more milk, less cream) again and again. Each time the mixture comes to the boil, the froth that rises to the top is skimmed off and kept aside. It’s this froth, painstakingly collected, that is Daulat ki Chaat. It is, as you can imagine, unbelievably light—I’ve had some light soufflés and mousses, but nothing as light as this. The sweetness is very low, and the grated mawa on top of each helping provides a wonderful contrast of textures.
Our one bowl of Daulat ki Chaat cost us Rs 20, a surprisingly affordable price for something that takes so much effort.
Finding Daulat ki Chaat can be a question of serendipity—for us, it certainly was—but your chances of getting to savour it increase if you go searching for it on a winter morning. The vendors usually vanish by afternoon, and as soon as the weather starts turning warm, they stop making Daulat ki Chaat: the man we’d bought it from told us that another two or three days, and they wouldn’t make it any more this season.