Locals from Kanpur, Lucknow and Varanasi eagerly wait for Diwali, when the famed makhan malai, the quintessential winter delicacy makes its appearance. Also known as malaiyo in Banaras, daulat ki chaat in Delhi, nimish or malai makhan, this fascinating sweet is truly a head scratcher.
The best makhan malai in Kanpur can be sampled at Shukla Makhan Bhandar on Birhana Road or at Kallu Photo Makhan. Interestingly, though this sweet literally translates to butter cream (makhan means butter and malai means cream), the hero of this delectable sweet is in fact the early morning dew!
Fresh buffalo milk is boiled in large kadais and allowed to cool in the open air. The cream that forms is enhanced by the dew drops that sit on top of it. The colder it gets, greater is the dew collected and therefore, more delicious is the makhan malai.
A specific measure of malai is then added to this and churned slowly. Sugar, kesar, cardamom powder and finely chopped cashew nuts, pistachios and almonds are added and the mix is continuously churned. The foam that forms on the top is carefully collected in large vessels. This painstaking process is repeated till the entire frothy layer is collected.
A generous portion of this flavoursome sweet topped off with nuts is served. Those who are trying this dish for the first time are confused whether to drink it or eat it! As one digs into the sweet, the foam starts sinking in indicating the excellent quality of milk used to prepare the dish.
The best feature of this winter sweet is that it does not stick to your palate but sails right through! You must also try a glass of the badam doodh and a helping of kesariya rabdi here.
This delightfully light sweet is surprisingly good for you. The minerals found in dew drops 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.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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