Juju Dhau is really popular among the Newari community, but as of late it has been gaining traction across communities with large scale manufacturing taking place.
If you have been to Bhaktapur or are a resident of Kathmandu Valley, you know what Juju Dhau is and have at least once tried it. But what’s even more fascinating about the King of Curds is that despite the mouth watering nature of the dessert’s sweetness, there is zero sugar involved in its preparation—the sweetness comes from spices like coconut and cardamom.
Juju Dhau is prepared using buffalo Milk which in itself is much sweeter and thicker than cow milk, which clearly reflects in the creamy rich texture of the dish. The dish is really popular among the Newari community but as of late it has been gaining traction across communities with large scale manufacturing taking place.
The story behind Juju Dhau and the becoming of its name is really fascinating. Back in the olden days, Malla Kings organised a curd competition which saw participation from all over the valley. Quite naturally, Juju Dhau from Bhaktapur was crowned the winner of the competition and was given the name of Juju Dhau—‘Juju’ translates to king and ‘dhau’ translates to curd. Now, centuries later—Juju Dhau is still treated with the kingship it so deserves.
Since the history of Juju Dhau is so rich and so spread out, it is difficult to say when exactly the commercialisation of the dish began but even now there are people in the third generation in line still looking after the Juju Dhau shops their grandparents started.
Krishna Maya Sindhahala who is now in her late 80s now has eight shops that are run by her descendants. “I think we started the first shop 40, 50 years ago? I really don’t know,” she said. And this is something you will find most people who run Juju Dhau shops saying—they don’t seem to know when exactly the shop was started, they just know their grandparents started it. This goes on to reflect the lack of modernity and urbanisation in that period and how people were so carefree enough to not keep track of time.
Famous Juju Dhau Center, located at Sukuldhoka, Bhaktapur is the first of the shops Sindhahala started and also one of the first in Bhaktapur. As of now, they also have branches in Sallaghari and sell Juju Dhau wholesale throughout the valley. Their original branch is a small room right beside the narrow alley located right beside Sukuldhoka’s Sunrise Bank. Perhaps because of such a long time of practicing it, they seem to have perfected Juju Dhau– their Juju Dhau, popular even among the locals of Bhaktapur, is one of the best you can find in the city with smooth creamy texture and delectable sweetness.
Photo Credit: twitter.com/Naa_Cheese
Juju Dhau, served traditionally, comes in clay pots of varying shapes and sizes but the apt dessert for one is the one served in a small clay pot which you can buy for Rs 50 in many local shops across Bhaktapur. You can also find pots costing Rs 200 and Rs 500 that you can take home for your family or for yourself—if your appetite is big enough.
Photo Credit: twitter.com/Naa_Cheese
Apart from being a tip-top delicacy, Juju Dhau also has great ritual significance. Dhau is often considered as a symbol of piousness and for that reason it is a compulsory item in auspicious ceremonies, local festivals, marriage rituals, religious occasions and family gatherings for Newars. It is also used as one of the first items in bathing rituals and when someone goes away or returns from a long journey, clay pots containing Juju Dhau are put on either side of the doorway for good fortune.
Over time, the craze for Juju Dhau has increased among people living in Kathmandu Valley—locals or not. You can also find packaged Juju Dhau sold in your nearby supermarket but of course, if you crave the authenticity you might want to visit Bhaktapur Durbar Square where it all started.