We were overwhelmed by many different emotions seeing the devotion, joy and all the wonderful food being served in Vrindavan. Tramping through the cramped gullies and narrow streets, amidst wandering cows, monkeys and humans, my friend Madhu Verma and I found the sweet shop we were looking for.
Aggarwal Mithaiwala and Brijwasi Mithaiwala have been two of the most famous outlets in the place. Among the delights they were serving were ghewar loaded with a thick layer of dry fruits, rasmalai, malpua, pedas and laddus.
The list was almost endless, but we chose lacchedar khurchanwali rabdi, as it has a legend behind it and appeared to be one of the most popular dishes, considering the rate at which it flew off the shelves.
Sattvik food and dishes made out of milk and milk products formed most part of our food experience at Vrindavan. Krishna’s fondness towards milk products, especially butter, is so well known.
The gosalas (cow sheds) around Vrindavan provide cow’s milk to various eateries and ashrams around. Sattvik food is always freshly cooked, with no onions or garlic. All the eateries maintain high standards for their food quality, as the dishes prepared are offered to the divine as prasad first, and then served to diners.
Whether it was the puris with dubkiwale aloo, the dahi bhalle, the dahi vadas, the saffron-topped jalebis, malai marke lassis or the milk sweets — the choice was tough with each beating the other. This definitely is no place for the calorie-conscious.
Leaving the food paradise, Madhu and I headed towards the Banke Bihari Temple for the noon aarti. As we walked towards the temple, we were entertained by the monkeys that enjoyed snatching away purses, sunglasses and whatever else the devotees were carrying.
They would only give the things back in exchange for a kulfi or a kachori. After a wonderful darshan, we got little prasad, which was lacchedar khurchanwali rabdi. Along with it, the priest related the legend behind the dish and Banke Bihariji, the deity.
The legend goes that a Rajasthani princess, a great devotee of Lord Krishna would visit Banke Bihari Temple everyday and left with tears in her eyes as she loved him so much. She would make lacchedar khurchanwali rabdi and take it as prasad each day.
Mesmerised by her love for Him, Bihariji followed the princess, and was found missing at His temple home, established by Tansen’s guru, Swami Haridas. A frantic search was made for Bihariji and they found him at the princess’s home.
This time, Bihariji was coerced back to the temple-home at Vrindavan because He was being hugely missed by all the other devotees. From that day, a curtain came in between the devotees and the god so that due to a particular bhakta’s deep love, Bihariji was not again compelled to follow the devotee home. Curtains as a security measure!
After tasting the rabdi, the only sane thing to do was share its recipe with everyone to enjoy this divine offering.
Lacchedar Khurchanwali Rabdi
Time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hr 30 minutes
Calories per serving: 380 cal for 1 ½ tbsp
Whole Milk: 2 litres
Khoya: 1/4 cup
Pistachios: 10 to 12
Almonds: 4 to 5
Cardamom Powder: ½ tbsp
Saffron strands: 1tsp
Sugar: 3 tbsp
- Take milk in a heavy bottomed deep pan and place it on flame. Keep stirring it after every two minutes, bringing your ladle to the bottom of the pan. Make sure milk doesn’t stick to the bottom.
- When the milk starts simmering, continue cooking it on medium flame, continuously stirring. Placing a small steel katori/cup in the pan, while cooking the milk, ensures it does not spill over.
- Add the saffron, which is diluted in some milk with khoya, to the pan and stir.
- When the milk gets thick, reduce the flame and keep bringing the malai formed above the milk to the corner.
- Keep stirring while bringing ladle to the bottom of the wok and keep collecting the malai on the edges.
- Keep stirring till there is only 250 ml milk remaining in the wok.
- When there is only 250 ml milk remaining in the wok, add some green cardamom powder to it, followed by sugar and cook until sugar dissolves.
- When the sugar dissolves completely, turn off the flame and let the rabdi cool down.
- Once it cools down, scrap out the malai collected on the edge of wok and mix to the milk.
- Lacchedar khurchanwali rabdi is now ready to be served. Garnish it with some chopped pistachios and slivers of almonds.
- Serve this sumptuous dish warm or cold and relish it in small clay katoris.
- While cooking milk to make kheer, rabdi or khoya, place a small steel katori in the pan. This avoids the milk from boiling and spilling over
- Rabdi thickened with a little fresh khoya tastes better and has a better texture
— Chef Ramaa Shanker is the author of ‘Festive Offerings to the Gods: Divine Soul Recipes’