One of my colleagues has a thing for the bandar halwas sold in sweet shops. This is one sweet we all know she will have without any fuss of where it came from. So, when I saw a machine with a transparent gooey stretchy semi-solid mass being churned at a constant speed on a mechanised gigantic bowl at Almond House in Kukatpally while on a tour of the shop and kitchen, I took a video to play a guessing game. Chaitanya Muppala, owner, Almond house was our tour guide. Until then, neither me nor my colleagues had seen the actual making process of the bandar halwa .
What caught our attention apart from the amazing look of the halwa was the cleanliness of the place in and around it. Kitchens of halwais or mithai shops are not something one wants to take a look into, everyone is only interested in looking at the array of their favourite sweetmeatsin them.
Desi sweets have a special place in every Indian’s heart. And every desi has a favourite thing to pick from their preferred sweet shop. So, when I was at the new Almond Shop, a four-storeyed building, all I was interested was to know how my favourite langcha and boondi laddoos are made.
From what I’ve seen and heard about sweetmeat shops, I was expecting people to walk around in shorts in a place that would stink of boiling milk, flowing brine and so on. Yet I went with open mind to see the back-end of a sweet store’s central kitchen.
I was pleasantly surprised! What appeared to me as the basement was a spotlessly clean central store house for the kitchen. As Chaitanya begins the tour, he tells us that the floor also serves as their security area and has lockers for the staff. “The footwear and the clothes they wear when they come to work, do not cross this level. The entire kitchen team switches to their workwear and proceeds to other floors. Here the raw material is sorted, along with checking for quality before they are dispatched to the kitchens,” says Chaitanya.
Almond House boasts of being Telangana’s first ethnic foods brand that follows standards as per Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) norms with a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP ) certification on its way.
We go up after wearing protective gear for our hair and shoes and reach the topmost floor, that is apparently the wash area where all the utensils are washed and scrubbed to make it sparkling clean. The floor below this is where khoa for the day’s requirement is made. The process of mixing khoa with sugar, sorting nuts — all happen here.
Every floor is dedicated to a different process. Each of the three floors has a kitchen and a preparation unit. Bang opposite every kitchen is the assembling section, to ensure that the final product is made fresh. It was a joy to see fresh Mysore pak being cut in neat squares and packed with the speed of light by expert hands. Even a slo-mo video cannot catch the movement of the hands while packing.
Customised machinery minimises use of hands in handling raw materials and preparation of sweets. Chaitanya reveals, “We have tweaked its functions and machinery to make it work best for us. The less the food comes in contact with hand, the better its shelf life. Also, use of machinery is bringing down the time, improving the quality of the product by giving a uniform texture to what one tastes,” explains Chaitanya, showing us a little conveyor belt-like machine that gathers the boondi for a laddoo. The machine wraps the boondis into a spherical shape, which are then given a quick roll with the hand for that final smooth look. Almond House does not use warq; Chaitanya explains that he sees no point in adding something manually to the food that is otherwise prepared by machines. “On request, we add a layer on top,” he adds.
There’s a bakery section as well, where eggless confectionery is made.