Food

Orange juice and lemon... and more at Ashok Sarbath

My measurements are exact, says KNS Muthiah

My measurements are exact, says KNS Muthiah   | Photo Credit: S Siva Saravanan

It looks as if all of Coimbatore heads to Ashok Sarbath Store to quench its thirst

It was a colleague’s extravagant descriptions of the drinks at Ashok Sarbath that sent me hunting for the shop. Situated just outside Angannan Biryani Kadai and opposite Paati Kadai in RS Puram’s VCV Layout, the crowd milling outside sent me fleeing the first evening. Later I called Ashok to ask when I could speak to him and he said apologetically, “I won’t even have time to breathe on the weekend. Please come on Monday morning.”

At 10.30 in the morning, the shop presented a picture of furious activity. The counter and glasses were being washed; ice was being crushed and kept handy, lemons, limes and oranges were being readied, bottles of sherbet lined up.... and the operations were being overseen by KNS Muthiah, Ashok’s father and the founder of the stall. “Everything is fresh,” Muthiah assured me. “Every night after we close at 11.00 pm, I make the syrup until 2.00 am.”

Take your pick from the available flavours

Take your pick from the available flavours   | Photo Credit: S Siva Saravanan

His entry into the sherbet world was sheer happenstance. “We were rice dealers from Ponamaravathi,” he explained and Muthiah would offer visiting merchants coffee, tea or “sherbet during summer. Initially I would buy the syrup but, since I know how to make around 17 varieties of sweets, I decided to make my own sherbet.” When he found that not only did his visitors prefer his sherbet to the store-bought variety but also that he could make more profit with sherbet, “I dropped the rice and started a sherbet kadai.”

Muthiah came to Coimbatore in 2015 — “it’ll be four years in April” — and has now opened a branch near the Aavin complex on Thadagam Road. He would like to expand but wants to be sure that the quality will not be compromised.

It’s now 11.00 am and the shop is officially open. Already 7-8 people have gathered to place their orders. Muthiah rises from his seat behind the cash counter, and takes his place behind the service area. “Watch,” whispers Ashok. “Appa is a born performer.” There is a buzz among the eager customers as Muthiah readies six glasses before him with a lot of crashing and banging. “Glass odaya porathu, sir,” comes a call, which Muthiah disdainfully ignores. He washes his hands and places the cut fruit on the rim of the glass and, with a deft twist of his wrist, squeezes it dry — first the orange, then the lemon and finally the lime. He hands me the husk and says, “No need for fancy machines. See, there’s no juice left.”

By now everyone has crowded around the counter for the show. Next he picks up a handful of crushed ice and adds it to each glass in a sweeping motion. Then he asks for the tokens that tell him what sherbet has been ordered. It happens to be nannari; he measures and adds the syrup and tops it with a splash of water and more ice.

The final touch: mixing it all up

The final touch: mixing it all up   | Photo Credit: S Siva Saravanan

Finally comes the mixing — he pours it out in a golden wave into a huge steel tumbler and back into the glass mug and hands it over to the grinning customer.

I opt for the elaneer sherbet and suddenly a tankard pops up before me. A mix of tender coconut water and nannari, the topping is a handful of chopped coconut meat. I take a tentative sip and sigh as the cold liquid washes down my parched throat. The nannari is mild and adds just that mite of extra sweetness to the coconut water.

Only the elaneer sherbet comes in the tankard; the others are all served in 400ml glasses. The stall also offers takeaways and bottles of the sherbet syrup for those who want to buy them.

Info you can use
  • Ashok Sarbath Kadai is located just outside Sri Angannan Biryani Hotel, VCV Layout, RS Puram
  • Open from 11.00 am to 11.00 pm every day
  • All sherbets & milk-based drinks are ₹30 each. Only the elaneer sherbet is ₹100
  • The range includes lemon, apple, vanilla, saffron, rose, nannari, grape, elaneer, panneer and more
  • Call 9944007226 for more details

Finally I raise something that's been troubling me. Though he serves in glass mugs, he stores his syrups in plastic bottles. “They are all food grade and recyclable,” he says. Why doesn’t he use glass bottles? For answer, he points to the wall. Lined up below his hoarding are 6-7 broken mugs. “This is the daily quota,” he smiles. “If I add glass bottles to that...”

 

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 10:11:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/the-man-behind-the-hugely-popular-ashok-sarbath-kadai-in-coimbatore/article26598114.ece

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