The pull of paal


The owner of a 50-year-old badam milk joint in Madurai is popular for his rather unique way of ‘pulling’ milk

When German tourist Toma Fortin visited Madurai for the second time recently, he went in search of the badam milk that he vividly remembered from his last trip, a decade ago. He landed at 245, West Masi Street. JB Choudhary is a modest shop located close to the Meenakshi Temple. “It was heartening to have a customer from halfway across the globe,” says Suresh Sanghvi who runs the 50-year-old shop that serves lassi in the mornings and almond milk in the evenings. “He even showed a picture of me he had shot during his previous visit.”

The pull of paal

The secret of JB Choudhary’s popularity is not just the much-acclaimed almond milk, but also Suresh’s peculiar style of cooling the milk. A small crowd has gathered to watch Suresh cool the milk with a pair of brass lotas. With eyes closed or tied, he swings his hands back and forth, pouring piping hot milk from one mug to another repeatedly, in a rhythmic fashion, thus cooling it. And not a drop of the drink misses the mug. After filling the glasses, Suresh adds a scoop of rich malai with nuts on top as the final touch.

Recently, Suresh also entered the India and Kalam Books of Records for his milk pulling technique. “I started doing it to attract customers. After much practice, I tried doing it with my eyes closed and it worked as a crowd-puller. I see it as a meditative dance as it takes concentration and coordination. The way I cool milk has also become an identity for the shop,” says Suresh.

Suresh’s father, J Bhura Ram Choudhary, recalls how he set up business in the southern town from distant Rajasthan. “I was 13 years old when I came to Madurai, and back then, there were several tea stalls and coffee bars. Badam doodh wasn’t popular among locals in this part of the country and I thought of introducing it. People liked it as it was different and was healthier than tea or coffee. When I started, one glass of almond milk was sold for 75 paise, and now, we sell a glass for ₹30. We gradually started attracting regular customers and many made it a habit to stop by for a glass of goodness,” say Bhura Ram. So much that locals fondly refer to it as masala paal in local lingo. Later, Choudhary also introduced lassi on the menu, and both the drinks are deliciously sweet and creamy.

Every day, the shop sells hundreds of glasses, amounting to over 40 litres of milk. “We have been procuring cow’s milk from the same vendor all these years and make sure it’s fresh, thus maintaining the quality and taste. We boil the milk for hours, reducing it by nearly five litres. Thus, the milk becomes thick and rich, and once a layer of malai forms on top, we add coarsely-ground almonds, pistachios, cashews, cardamom and Kashmiri saffron. The milk is then left to simmer,” says Suresh, pointing to the large circular iron vat of frothy, velvety milk. Even as steady waves of steam arise from the milk, regular customers wait patiently.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 6:58:04 AM |

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