Time for mithai

From kaju barfi to gujiyas and mysorepak, the Malayali’s Diwali sweet plate is pan-Indian

Time for mithai

When Tikamji Joshi from Gujarat set up a mithai and namkeen shop, Annapoorna, in Cochin (old Kochi) in 1944, he introduced something new to the lifestyle of the Malayali.

Until then the only sweetmeats known to us were the golden-brown unniappams, the payasam and once in a while, an ariyunda. Even barfis, jalebis and ladoos were rare.

Milan Joshi, Tikamji’s grandson, declares with pride that today, Malayalis are his biggest customers. He moved his mithai shop from Mattancherry in West Kochi to the heart of Ernakulam, on Kaloor Kadvathara Road, a few years ago to scale up operations. This Diwali, he is to open another branch at Panampilly Nagar.

Time for mithai

Today, Kochi offers traditional sweets from Gujarat, Bengal, Rajasthan, UP, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. “We have found that people like to try out something new every time,” he says. For the season, Milan has brought down a team of 15 mithaiwalas from Mumbai to meet the demand. In addition to the traditional sweets he has for the season are mithais made with dry fruits, which are popular since they are seen as being healthier.“We have mithais made with natural fruits like mango, custard apple and black berries. These are priced at ₹1,800 for a kilo.”

Narendra Shantilal’s ‘Shantilal Sweets’ on Gujarati Road in Mattancherry has been a hub of north Indian sweets since 1953, finding mention in several travel books as a place for mithai and namkeen (sweet and savoury snacks). Famous for four traditional items—kaju barfi, peda, jalebi and ladoos— Narendra says the days when people ate three to four pieces of sweets in one go are now over. “Everyone is health-conscious and control their sugar intake.” Hence he says there has been a dip in sales.

Time for mithai

However, Diwali is a time when mass orders from business houses find him working extra time. He too has roped in additional staff to prepare and package sweets. His speciality includes four varieties of cashew based sweets and flavoured khoya barfis. “We are readying the mithai packets that are generally distributed as Diwali gifts,” says Narendra, adding that they have orders running upto 500 kgs approximately.

Time for mithai

Dry fruits replace sugar

Bengali sweets came to the city about three years ago when Amit Sarkar set up Bikash Babu Sweets. This Diwali orders have been pouring in, and they will be making around 42 tonnes of sweets, which include orders of close to 59,000 mithai boxes (as gifts).

The specials include eight types of mithai made of dry fruits such as fig, dates and others. “Our corporate clients asked specifically for sweets without sugar, hence the dry fruits which are naturally sweet,” says Amit.

The season’s other specials include gujiya, a fried dumpling with a sweet filling of khoya and dry fruits. Ghee laddoos are also popular this time of the year. “People have their individual likes and choices. For example, the Marwari community prefers the combination of gujiya, ghee laddoo and a khoya-based sweet in their mithai box,” he says. A kilo of each costs ₹ 650.

Next to payasam, what the Malayali holds closest to his heart is probably mysorepak, a traditional sweet, which is believed to have its origins in Tamil Nadu.

With the kind of mysorepak Sri Krishna Sweets brought to the market, the way the sweet was appreciated changed. The melt-in-the-mouth golden-yellow Mysurpa as they call it, is the flagship sweet of the company, which has over 60 stores around the country. The kitchens are in Coimbatore, the head quarters, Hyderabad and Mumbai.

Diwali is an especially busy season with the kitchens handling huge volumes to cater to different markets. While the southern part of India prefers ghee-based sweets, it is mainly kaju-based for the rest of India. The company also handles huge online sales during Diwali. “We have over 250 sweets and savouries in our range. For this Diwali, we have introduced gift boxes with an assortment of these in interesting combinations,” says Vaishnavi Krishnan, director of Sri Krishna Sweets.

She adds that the three launches for the season are—‘Aura Glitter’, which is an assortment of traditional Tamil sweets and savouries such as mysorepak, kaimurukku, muthucharam, mixture, barfi and athirasam packed into a tub; ‘Sweet Treat’ is a tin box of ghee and kaju sweets and the third one, ‘Fiesta’ is a combination of roasted nuts (almond and cashew) along with mysorepak.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 4:28:11 PM |

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