God’s own Street Food – Daulat ki Chaat
Daulat ki chaat (meaning ‘snack of wealth’) is probably Old Delhi’s most surprising street food. Anyone expecting the punchy,spicy flavours usually suggested by the word ‘chaat’ will be disappointed. It resembles uncooked meringue and the taste is shocking in its subtlety, more molecular gastronomy than raunchy street food, a light foam that disappears instantly on the tongue, leaving behind the merest hint of sweetness, cream, saffron, sugar and nuts; tantalizing, almost not there.
The means by which the pail of milk is transformed into the food of the Gods is the stuff of old Delhi legend rather than of the food lab. First, so the story goes, milk and cream have to be whisked by hand before dawn into a delicate froth, then left out on the grass to be set by the ‘tears of the shabnam’ (morning dew) – but not too many, nor too few.
At daybreak, the surface of the froth is touched with saffron and silver leaf and served with nuts and ‘bura’ (unrefined sugar). Daulat ki chaat is made only in the coolest months because at the first ray of the sunshine, it starts to collapse. It doesn’t travel well either – to enjoy this very local speciality, a winter pilgrimage to the shady gullies of Old Delhi has to be made.
In recent years, there has been something of a renaissance in the supply of this angel’s food to the masses. As amazed bloggers and food writers have begun to rediscover the dish, there has been a renewed interest in this culinary treasure. Five years ago there were only a couple of daulat ki chaat carts in Old Delhi; now there are perhaps fifteen to twenty.
-Excerpt taken from ‘Korma Kheer and Kismet’ by Pammela Timms