By Radhika Bhirani,
New Delhi : Jamaluddin Siddique has been serving up delectable kheer cooked up with his great grandfather’s 150-year-old recipe. There’s also Khemchand Adesh Kumar, who has been selling the sweet winter delight “Daulat Ki Chaat” from his humble “khomcha” on the streets of old Delhi for the last 30 years.
Originality, legacy, a loyal customer base and word-of-mouth via social media are taking their businesses forward in times of rising inflation and rapid influx of a variety of cuisines, say Purani Dilli’s much-loved street food vendors.
“Options have increased tremendously, but true food lovers value the originality and legacy. We have been serving ‘Daulat ki Chaat’ for more than 30 years now. We have a base of loyal customers who travel from far off places just to savour this winter delicacy.
“A lot of kids and youngsters also come to us and tell us that they read about us online. So, considering the quality and legacy of our product, business sustenance is never an issue,” Kumar, who belongs to Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, told IANS.
The “Daulat ki Chaat”, once served to the rich and the royals, is a frothy and sublime sweet made from churned milk under the moon only during the winter season.
“The soft, cottony foam is carefully collected overnight under the dew as it requires low temperature for formation and is served along with khoya and saffron fresh in the morning,” explained Kumar, who gives a plate for Rs 40.
When he is not selling his seasonal delight in peak business months from November to January, Kumar makes money with a Golgappe and Chaat stall in Burari here.
“Inflation remains a key challenge, but our customer base has always seen a positive trend. This has helped us cope with price rise,” he said, adding how foreigners find it intriguing and fancy to know about the six-hour process behind the making of “Daulat Ki Chaat”.
For Siddique, the pride in his Bade Miya Ki Kheer business comes from his belief, “We are not just serving kheer, we are serving our legacy of 150 years”.
“Richness of our ingredients and authenticity in the taste, method of preparation and presentation keep us strong in business. We are moving ahead with time and using several strategies to sell our product and combat inflation.
“There are a lot of restaurants in Delhi which buy our kheer every day from the Lal Quan shop, plate it differently, and serve to their young customers.
“This helps us in making good profits,” said Siddique, whose outlet satiates the kheer-craving of two people within Rs 250.
The kheer, he says, is made by using full fat milk, slow-cooked on a charcoal fire for almost eight hours, with rice and pure ghee. The result is a thick, creamy pudding, full of smoky aroma and a rich golden colour, and sold in dry leaf bowls.
“A lot of people ask us what is that one secret ingredienct that makes our recipe cult and we feel it’s “Allah’s blessing” that does the magic every time.”
There’s also Ram Babu Kushwaha, whose winner at his forefather’s eatery Hira Lal Chaat Corner is the “Kulle Chaat ” — scooped out potatoes and other fruits and vegetables filled with delicious stuffing, a recipe he claims to have discovered out of an experiment.
“Our clientele is getting diversified as a lot of young people keep coming to us when they read about us on social media sites. They come to our shop, make videos and click pictures of our ‘kuliya chaat’ which helps in putting a word out,” said Khushwaha.
These vendors were among around 20 old Delhi “chaat-walas” who participated in DLF Mall of India’s “Chaat Festival” in Noida last month.
“We want to introduce our legacy to the modern generation. We feel that is how it will grow. Instead of thinking that mall culture is a threat to our business, why not use them as a platform to reach out to a wider audience?” he added.
Besides, as Siddique said, it worked like a pull for people, who left with a promise to explore the culinary-rich bylanes of Chandni Chowk.
(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)