Old Delhi or Purani Dilli is a place with narrow lanes and bylanes, teeming with shining gems – handcrafted garments to delicious food. Dahi bhallas from Natraj Dahi Bhalla, Kulfis from Lala Duli Chand, Jalebis from Dariba Kalan Road, Chhola from Lotan Chhole wala, Kebabs and Mutton Nahari from Karim’s, Butter Chicken from Moti Mahal, Bedmi-aloo from Shiv Mishthan Bhandar, Kachoris from Jung Bahadur, Khurchan from Hazari Lal Jain Khurchanwale, and so many more, the list is really long.
And then there’s Daulat ki Chaat. Chaat is generally something spicy and sizzling, something we commonly associate with street food. Dault ki Chaat is street food alright, but there’s nothing spicy or chatpata about it. It is sweet, and it is memorable, its soft, and smooth. The most famous Daulat ki Chaat comes from Khemchand Adesh Kumar’s in Dariba, Kinari Bazar, and Daryaganj. Head towards the famous Parathewali Gali in Chandni Chowk, take a few parathas and finish the meal with Khemchand’s Daulat ki Chaat. Made with churned milk, Daulat ki Chaat takes a long time to make but is as delicious as it gets. It is available only during the winter months of November, December, and January as you need colder ambient temperatures in the night to make this melt-in-the-mouth dessert.
How is Daulat ki Chaat made?
Creamy, thick milk is churned and frothed. The froth is collected and topped with saffron-infused milk and a pinch of sugar to add flavor. But basically, it is milk, with a lot of air inside it, which is what gives it the real melt-in-mouth texture. It is also why it can only be made in the winter months – mostly between Diwali and Holi. You can find it served at weddings or even off-season in some places thanks to modern refrigeration techniques, however, the real feel of the dish comes when the milk is cooled in earthen pots with the cold winter air, naturally. And trust me, once you experience Daulat ki Chaat, you will just not be able to call anything else as melt-in-the-mouth.
Why is the dish called Daulat ki Chaat?
It was originally the Afghans who brought with them the technique of milk frothing to India. It is reported that the technique was first practiced by the Botai tribe. And they didn’t use cow or buffalo milk for frothing, they used a mare’s milk! Back then, horse milk was considered to be a ‘gourmet’ delicacy. It had a rich smooth texture and has a nuanced flavor, unlike other kinds of milks. It also has about 40% more lactose. The Botais used to use the mare’s milk to make Kumis, a fermented drink similar to the Yakult. And the technique of frothing milk was thus invented.
The Arabs were the first known traders, and it is believed they brought the technique with them as they globetrotted for trade as part of which they came to India (The silk route and all, remember?). It is believed that this is how the technique would have been imbibed by the people in the Surat and Andhra regions where the Arab traders first arrived. This is most likely the origin of the delicious Parsi Dudh na Puff, a milk delicacy having a glass half-filled with foam created by dewdrops and milk, flavored with cardamom. The delicacy is very similar in making to the Daulat ki Chaat.
The first mentions of Daulat ki Chaat are found around the same time Shahi Tukda appeared in Mughal courts. Some theories say that Daulat ki Chaat was inspired by the Shahi Tukda and vice-versa. Both have equally long histories, if not more. There are also multiple theories about the origin of Daulat ki Chaat.
Some people believe that the Gujarati traders brought the recipe along with them, as a winter treat. Some others believe that the recipe came from Kanpur during the making of Shahjahanabad when the emperor or Delhi would order food from nearby areas to feed the workers. It is possible that the Royals experienced the dish during this time and adopted it.
It has been found that Princess Jahanara, daughter of the great Emperor Shah Jahan designed the first ‘resort’ at Chandni Chowk, and the Daulat ki Chaat was a must-have there during the winters. It was said to be called Makhan Malai then, a name by which the dish is still called in some parts of UP. The Emperor of Awadh or Oudh – Sadaat Ali Khan asked his Khansamas to create a spectacular dish for Prince Murad Baksh and thus Daulat ki Chaat or Makhan Malai was born.
There are multiple theories to the origin of the dish, each as interesting as the next, each as believable and arguable as the next. But what matters today is how this glorious dish has become an iconic dish of Purani Dilli and is enjoyed in multiple regions of the country by different names.
As I said before, the most famous Daulat ki Chaat comes from Khemchand Adesh Kumar’s in Purani Dilli. Khemchand Kumar was originally a farmer from Moradabad. He had learned the recipe from his Ustaad Jameel and has been making the dish, and serving it in the lanes of Purani Dilli for many decades now. For the rest of the year when Daulat ki Chaat cannot be made and sold, the Khemchand family sells golgappa and other street food.
It is called Daulat ki Chaat, as Daulat is an Arabic word meaning wealth, and this chaat is rich with milk, malai, khoya, dry fruits, and saffron. One can have as many plates of this dish as they like, they’ll always be asking for more and one can never have enough of it.
There are also alternate theories that a man named Daulat used to sell the chaat in the lanes of Purani Dilli in his khumcha, and hence the name – Daulat ki Chaat.
Other Avatars of Daulat ki Chaat
Daulat ki Chaat or frothed milk has multiple variants and names in different regions of India –
In Varanasi, it is famous as Malaiyo.
In Kanpur, it is called as Malai Makhan.
In Lucknow, it is called as Nimish.
In Udwada and surrounding regions, it is famous by the name of Doodh na Puff or Milk Puff. (I have tried these, and I can take down glasses after glasses of it, it is simply delicious!)
Gourmet Avatar of Daulat ki Chaat
Renowned Chef Manish Mehrotra reinvented this gastronomic delight sans the dew and the winter chills using liquid nitrogen to serve it at the Indian Accent Restaurant on Lodhi Road, recognized as one of the top restaurants in the world. Here, the dish is served with INR 500 cash notes, rose petal chikki, and roasted almonds. Interestingly, there it is described as ‘seminal gastronomical foam’!!!
How to make Daulat ki Chaat at home?
This year’s Daulat ki Chaat season is beginning now. But if you cannot make your way to Old Delhi to relish this delicacy and would like to have it, then you can make it at home. It won’t be the same but can come close.
Here’s a recipe from The Essential Delhi Cookbook by Priti Narain:
2 liter full cream milk
2.25 cups cream
1 heaped tsp cream of tartar
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp rosewater
2 tbsp chopped pistachio nuts
- Combine milk, cream, and cream of tartar in a large bowl and refrigerate overnight.
- Next morning stir in 4 tsp caster sugar and rosewater.
- Whisk using a rotary or electric beater at high speed.
- Using a tea strainer collect the foam that forms and transfer it to a large thali or tray.
- Keep the thali tilted so the foam stays on one side of the plate as will the milk that came with it.
- When the thali is fairly full, spoon the foam into clay saucers or teacups, sprinkling a little caster sugar between layers and on the top.
- The foam will naturally condense a bit at this stage and could even get halved.
- All the milk that gets collected in the thali with the foam, pour it back into the milk vessel, and keep frothing it to collect the foam.
- Keep collecting the foam till all the foam is used up. It could take a few hours for this to happen so be prepared.
- Sprinkle the pistachio nuts on the foam and refrigerate till it is time to serve.
- The fluffier, the better.
Tried the Daulat ki Chaat? Or looking forward to trying it? Tell me what you think!