Kuchi mittai to kuruvi rotti, tasty treats of the 80s and 90s kids are back

There a renewed interest in native toffees and snacks, locally made and sold at  petti kadais near schools between the 1970s and 90s

Updated - August 26, 2022 03:18 pm IST

Published - August 25, 2022 03:21 pm IST

Strong mittai, Elandha vada, Thaen mittai, coco mittai, Kamarkat and Lemon drops on display at Mylapore Ganapahthy’s

Strong mittai, Elandha vada, Thaen mittai, coco mittai, Kamarkat and Lemon drops on display at Mylapore Ganapahthy’s | Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ

Two things can transport us back to the 1980s and 1990s: the songs of that generation and the treats we bought with our pocket money from the petti kadai (tuck shop) near the school gates. Neighbourhood Kirana shops or annachi kadais are slowly dwindling, which is one of the reasons why Chennai’s locally manufactured native toffees and snacks are no longer easily available. “People have become brand conscious and buy branded snacks and toffees, and as a result, the current generation has no idea about these toffees,” says G Bhasker of Chennai Angadi, which runs a popular Instagram handle that is trying to turn this tide.

Bhaskar launched Chennai Angadi as an organic store in 2018. Though he wound up the business within eight months, he relaunched it as a traditional sweet and snack store in 2020. “Due to the lockdowns, we focussed our attention on online sales in Chennai and soon we had over 500 customers. Last year, I launched the 80s­90s kid’s special range and to my surprise, it was a huge hit, especially among older clients,” says Bhaskar. “The joy and excitement I notice when the elderly see my collection is priceless. They all seem to have a story to tell and connect with grandchildren through toffee.” 

Kuchi mittai

Kuchi mittai | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Bhaskar has been popularising these lesser ­known sweets by putting up stalls at events and apartment complexes across Chennai. “Once we put up a stall at a huge IT company on OMR, and it was interesting to observe the reaction of people who walked into. The instant emotional connection they made was endearing,” he says. Bhaskar, who offers a combo pack of candy for ₹99, says he is not just reaching younger buyers online, but is also now getting orders for birthday parties and wedding return gifts.

Your childhood, in candy
Kamarkat, thaen mittai, Elandha vada, orange mittai, javvu mittai, puli mittai (tamarind candy), strong mint, muscoth, kuchipuli (tamarind lollypop), jelly mittai, mathira mittai, kayiru mittai (candy wrapped in a thread), football mittai, rose mittai, beeda mittai, mango candy,soodam mittai (pepper mint in various flavours) Kuruvi rotti, puli jam, elandha jam, kuchi mittai (lolly pop), goli mittai, coco mittai, mummy daddy, edakallu mittai, milaaga mittai, pencil mittai. Cigarette mittai which was popular has been banned by the government.
Elandha vada
Elandha vada is made by grinding together fully ripe elantham pazham (jujube berry) with tamarind, red chilly, asafoetida, salt and jaggery. The paste is then flattened into small discs and sundried. It can be stored for a longer period.
Thaen mittai
Thaen mittai is made by soaking rice, sabudana (optional) and urad dal together for a few hours, then grinding it to a fine paste with little water. To this batter, orange food colour and baking soda is added. Bite-sized dollops of this batter are fried till crisp and then dropped into sugar syrup. 
Kamarkat is made using jaggery, fresh coconut, dry ginger powder and cardamom powder. "Getting the right consistency is the tricky part. Quality jaggery is a must. Cooking all ingredients to get the right consistency is a challenge. This dish must be prepared in a cast iron kadhai only," says Sundar Vadivelu of Mylapore Ganapathys
Coco mittai
A 90s special, coco mittai is made by caramelising sugar and adding peanut granules or powder and mixing and shaping into discs or balls

Bhaskar travels across the city in search of manufacturers. “Such small cottage industries are on the verge of closing down and I request them to make a few kilos. That is how I got different types of mango-flavour, raw mango-flavour toffees,  and vegetarian marshmallows. My search continues,” he says. At Mylapore Ganapathys, an 80­year­old store, freshly made kamarkat flies off the shelf: Sundar Vadivel, an expert in traditional sweets, makes and restock these every week. 

“Traditional sweets such as kamarkat, pulippu mittai, thaen mittai, strong peppermint, seeraga mittai and elandha vada kindles nostalgia and transports the older generations back to childhood. Realising this we introduced these items at our store 20 years ago,” says S Saravanan of Ganapathys. “Inji marappa, elandha vada and kamarkat sell the most. We also have a steady stream of customers walking in for seeraga mittai, orange mittai and coco mittai (powdered peanut candy),” says Saravanan. 

At Srividhya Coffee in Besant Nagar, known for homemade food products, there is a shelf dedicated to old­fashioned toffee and snacks. “I launched this shop 40 years ago exclusively for coffee roasting and grinding and gradually began to stock traditional snacks made by home chefs. There has been a demand for kamarkat, pulippu mittai, puli mittai and strong mint, especially by senior citizens,” says Vidhya Sreenivasan, proprietor, adding, “These days we have kids walking in and asking for these items. Our manoharam (broken thaenkuzhal pieces dipped in jaggery syrup and shaped into small round shape balls) is immensely popular and our supplier has been the same for the last 35 years.” 

Engineer ­turned­ entrepreneur, R Srinivas better known as Kamarkat Srinivas, launched Marabu Suvai in Thiruvanmiyur eight years ago. He offers kamarkat in variations of baby­soft (for kids under three), medium, hard and lollypop. Srinivas sources organic jaggery from Karnataka and other ingredients from within Tamil Nadu, and his customers are across the country and even overseas

Kuruvi rotti

Kuruvi rotti | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMNT

All these toffees are made with permitted colours and ingredients approved by the FSSAI , and I do not sell products with non-vegetarian ingredients. Also I don't sell bubble gum, says Bhaskar, who offers a combo pack of 80s- 90s toffees at ₹99.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.