Khoya or mawa, as it may be known, depending on which part of the country you are in, is a dairy product. It has several uses in the Indian cuisine, primary as a flavour enhancer and a thickening agent. Although easily available in most dairy vendors and stores in India, it is rarely found and used outside the sub-continent except in an Indian grocery store near you. A long-drawn or tedious process, it may take an entire day’s efforts to yield a couple of kilos.
All-India Vegetarian Cookbook: A Subzi Sutra Containing the Secrets of India’s Vegetarian Cuisine has trivia like this and more in addition to recipes where you can use Khoya.
Khoya is simply milk reduced till most of the moisture has evaporated resulting in a semi-solid mass which tends to solidify as the process of cooling takes place.
There are various types of Khoya. The most prominent amongst them are: Dhapa or Chikna Khoya, Pedi or Bhatti ka Khoya and Danedaar Khoya.
Dhapa or Chikna Khoya – Chikna is a slang term used to describe someone with a very light and smooth complexion. This is exactly what the Khoya looks like. It is made from low fat buffalo milk and it retains some of the moisture, making it rather loose in consistency. This is normally used to make gulab jamuns or finish off Gajar ka halwa or Rabdi.
Pedi or Bhatti ka Khoya – This is a rather hard, moulded Khoya. It is formed into bricks and has to be grated or ground to bits before use. It is made from full cream buffalo milk and reduced. It is set into moulds when it reaches a semi-solid stage. It is normally used for ladoos and barfis.
Danedaar Khoya – Danedaar means grainy or granulated. This Khoya is made out of full cream buffalo milk which is curdled during the process due to the addition of cream of tartar or yoghurt. It has a fair amount of moisture and almost resembles a drier, firmer version of ricotta cheese.
The best place to see mounds of Khoya would be at the Khoya auction that takes place in the Khoya mandi (Khoya market) opposite the Old Delhi railway station. The auction starts around ten every morning and normally concludes around noon. Everyday tons of Khoya moves in and out of this market and has been doing so for probably close to a century. Khoya producers start moving their goods in the wee hours of the morning to avoid the harsh sun which could ruin their fragile products.