Rahul Verma gets his last bowl of Daulat ki Chaat, before the summer melts the hawkers away
The weather can’t seem to make up its mind. One day it’s warm and sunny, and then, just when you’ve rummaged out your sleeveless sweater, it turns all cold and chilly. But I know that one day it’s suddenly going to turn really warm— and the hawkers who sell daulat ki chaat on the roadsides of Old Delhi will disappear without a by-your-leave.
So, in an effort aimed at having my last dona of daulat ki chaat this season, I decided that I would ignore the vagaries of the weather and head for Chandni Chowk. Now daulat ki chaat, as you all know by now, is not a savoury chaat, but a delicious dessert that you only get in the months between Diwali and Holi. It’s a dish that cannot survive the heat— in fact, even now, the hawkers who sell this walk in the shades of lanes and by-lanes so as not to ruin the sweet that wilts when the temperature rises.
The sweet is delicate because it’s prepared with the foam of cold, churned milk. The foam is carefully collected till it becomes a soft cottony pile. Then some saffron-milk is drizzled on it, and a little bit of crumbled khoya. This is finally topped with a powdered sugar that’s called karara. If you put the sugar before the foam is piled up, the dessert will collapse.
There are quite a few hawkers who sell daulat ki chaat in the Old Delhi area. I went to a vendor who stands at Kinari Bazar. If you take Paratheywali Gali from Chandni Chowk, you’ll reach a T-junction. Turn left from there, and you’ll find Khemchand Adesh Kumar some 20 steps ahead of you on the right— or wherever the shade is. His telephone numbers are 9711542481 and 94572180-81.
Khemchand has a small khomcha on which he carries his ware in a flat container. He scoops out a wedge for and then very gently sprinkles it with the powdered sugar. A dona costs Rs.30.
He’s quite an interesting man too. When he saw that I intended to take a picture of his, he ordered me like a professional. Not from this angle, he advised – and then when he was satisfied with my angle, he gingerly put a card on the chaat. “Now take your picture,” he said.
So I did that, and quietly finished my dona full of daulat ki chaat. I love this sweet – which is easily the most sublime bit of dessert in the world. Khemchand’s stuff was delicious. I found it lighter and fresher than some of the daulat ke chaat that you get these days. Nowadays, many of the chaatwallahs add some cream to the milk foam for a thicker consistency. I don’t think Khemchand had done that. So the happy result was a very light variety of the sweet.
After I’d had my fill, I went to Hazarimal, which is at the other end of Kinari Bazar, closer to Dariba, and bought some rabri and khurchan to take back home with me (since I couldn’t carry the delicate daulat ki chaat) for the five hungry souls who were waiting for me. All in all, it was a sublimely sweet day.