Delicious dessert: Othakadai’s gooey wheat halwa is a firm favourite among foodies

Tirunelveli halwa would possibly sound extra acquainted, however the model made in Madurai district’s Othakadai city has its personal, pilgrim-like following

It is mid-afternoon on a scorching Sunday in Othakadai, a city in Narasingam Panchayat, barely 20 minutes away from Madurai. Here, there is no signal of the weekend lull at Patchi Raja Vilas as passengers disembark from mini buses and automobiles and rush in to put their orders. “I want 10 grams,” says a lady, clutching a material bag. “A hundred grams for me,” says one other, as a man clamours for “my 250 grams”. And because the aroma of scorching ghee fills the tiny stall, we lastly snatch a glimpse of the product that prospects have been hankering for.

Patchi Raja Vilas and and its sister concern Sri Lakshmi Vilas throughout the street, have been promoting a model of Tirunelveli’s iconic wheat halwa over 50 years, and the translucent amber dessert has change into so well-known in its personal proper, that native residents and Madurai foodies consult with it as ‘Othakadai Halwa’. And in a nod to nostalgia, the gooey deal with is available in a distinctive wrapping of mandharai (yellow orchid) leaves and newsprint (for servings as much as 250 grams).

Says proprietor Senthil Murugan, “My father Paramasivam Pillai started making wheat halwa, based on the Tirunelveli style recipe, in the late 1960s in a small hut, and established this shop in Othakadai in 1971.” He provides, “I joined him quickly after ending college, and labored with him for 20 years, studying all his recipes for conventional sweets and snacks. In truth, appa was actively concerned within the enterprise till his demise final week on the age of 80.”

Thought to be an import from North Indian delicacies, wheat halwa is a favourite within the roster of conventional southern Indian menu of sweetmeats, with every area having its personal spin on the glutinous dish.

Othakadai halwa is lighter in texture and fewer candy than the Tirunelveli model, and because it is cooked at an especially excessive temperature, it has a lengthy shelf life, says Senthil Murugan.

“Some of my friends in the US take a large serving with them, freeze it, and then reheat and eat small helpings through the year,” he says whereas exhibiting us across the kitchen off Thirumogur Road the place the day’s batch of halwa is already on the boil, alongside savouries like murukkus, masala peanuts and omapodi, a vermicelli sized sev flavoured with thyme.

Though there are solely three substances: wheat, sugar and ghee, in addition to cashewnuts for crunch and nutmeg for perfume, cooking the halwa is a time-consuming course of. “It takes us two days to soak the samba wheat and make a comfortable batter with guide stone grinders. The batter rests for a day, following which we pressure it via material to get godhumai paal (wheat milk or extract),” says Senthil Murugan, who sells roughly 50 kilos of the candy on the shops each day, in addition to catering orders.

“We use one measure of wheat milk with four measures of sugar and three of ghee for the halwa,” he provides. “But the toughest half is cooking this combination all the way down to the appropriate consistency, as a result of it’s important to stir repeatedly for no less than 4 hours till it begins resembling nongu (ice apple) in texture.”

When we go to, a enormous forged iron kadhai, set on an earthen cooking station, its fireplace fuelled by cashewnut husks, is effervescent away with the day’s second batch of halwa.

Senthil Murugan wields the long-handled iron spatula with ease as he stirs and scrapes the recent combination in round motions. In 4 hours, the beige wheat milk has caramelised and turned darker, the sugar and ghee giving it a shiny end. “The halwa is ready when it begins to leave the sides of the pan and the ghee floats to the top. At this stage, you can easily roll it into small balls.”

The halwa is transferred into heavy-bottomed brass vessels after which taken to the shop the place candy chaos reigns from 8.30am to 10.30pm as prospects troop in for his or her dessert repair, normally balanced with a handful of savoury omapodi. Demand has been regular, together with throughout the earlier restricted enterprise hours of lockdown, says Senthil Kumar, as he requests folks to take care of social distance whereas he serves them.

“Though it is such an old recipe, several generations of customers relish the taste of this sweetmeat. The best lesson I learned from my father was patience — whether in making halwa or in life, some things in life are worth waiting for,” says Senthil Murugan.

A recent batch of Othakadai halwa awaits prospects in a conventional brass vessel. Photo: Nahla Nainar/THE HINDU  

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