A visit to the narrow lanes of Old Banaras is complete only after sampling their irresistible street food, deemed to be the best in North India. The lip-smacking tamatar chaat, kachori sabzi, chooda matar, golgappe, malai toast, baati chokha, lassi, jalebi, rabdi and malaiyo will make you drool and send you to a heavenly place where no one can reach you!
Malaiyo is a winter delicacy available towards the end of November till the first week of March. This scrumptious sweet is found in almost every gully of Banaras though locals swear that the best malaiyo is available in Thatheri Bazaar and Chaukambha specifically the Markandey Sardar (Markandey ki Malaiyo) shop opposite Shri Goplaji Mandir which was patronized even by royal families.
According to the locals, Banarasi malai was first prepared centuries ago in the Pakka Mahal at Chaukhamba. It made its way to the Chaukhamba Gopal Mandir and then slowly vendors learned how to make this unique milk sweet.
Though each vendor has managed to keep the recipe of his version a secret, it is largely accepted that the basic preparation is the same. Fresh full-fat milk is boiled in large kadais and allowed to cool in the open air.
The main ingredient of this sweet is dew that forms on top of the milk. The foggier and colder it gets, greater is the dew collected and therefore, more delicious is the Banarasi malai.
Sugar, kesar, cardamom, finely chopped pistachios and almonds are added to the milk along with khova and churned slowly. The froth that forms on the top is collected carefully in large vessels. This tedious process is repeated till the entire frothy layer is collected.
This airy flavoursome sweet is served in a kulhad and visitors who have tried this sweet do not know whether to drink it or eat it! As one digs into the sweet, the froth will start collapsing, indicating the quality of the milk used. The most interesting feature of this sweet is that it does not stick to your palate but sails right through!
Vendors will generously pour malaiyo wala doodh in the same kulhad after you finish the sweet. This dish is available only till 11 in the morning as the heat will melt the malaiyo.
Malaiyo is one sweet that is surprisingly good for you. The minerals found in dew drops really improves one’s skin, prevents facial wrinkles and gives you a natural glow. The saffron and almond strengthens your body and this sweet is said to improve your eyesight.
The vendors say that one can eat 3 to 4 malaiyos without any fear of putting on weight. This delightful sweet is quite difficult to describe and therefore, it is highly recommended that you try it the next time you are in Kashi.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Photos are only symbolic (Taken from public domain/internet and any copyright infringement is unintentional and regrettable)