From Jawaharlal Nehru to Atal Bihar Vajpayee, this mithai shop tucked in a narrow lane in Lucknow has been attracting people with a sweet tooth for over 200 years now.
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The Ram Asrey Halwai shop opened in Baanwali Gali in Lucknow’s Chowk area in 1805, and continues to draw food lovers from across the country and abroad.
Gilauri, commonly known as malai paan is a speciality. So are the winter specials like dudhia, halwa sohan and kale gajar ka halwa. Penrhaa, saadi misri, khus misri and kesar misri are the items that have been the longest on the shop’s list.
“The shop attracts food lovers from various places and continues to serve sweets of the same quality as more than 200 years ago," says Son Behari Gupta, who is the fifth generation of the family that started it.
Once a favourite of the nawabs, the delicacies left a lasting impression on the taste buds of former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the owners recalled.
"Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi loved chane kaa nukaal and whenever they came to Lucknow they would seek our sweets," Gupta said. Vajpayee, he recalled, was a great fan of sweets like gilauri, jalebi and imarti.
“We stick to our original formula. Many others tried to copy us or even experimented adding some more ingredients, but could not match our quality," Gupta said.
His son Prasoon Gupta said,"For us this is not a business but carrying on the family tradition." The manufacturing process is time-consuming and based on traditional methods, Dasrath, a staff member said.
For the malai that goes in the gilauri paan, milk is boiled for three hours on special stoves that use cow dung cakes. The water comes from a well located on the shop premises itself, he said.
The shop owner said the customers from places like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and the US order sweets from the establishment. Most of the sweets sent outside are “dry sweets", Gupta said.
"The quality of our sweets makes food lovers walk through the narrow lane to reach the shop,” he said . The shop had to shut down when the Covid pandemic struck. But with the restrictions easing out, business is gradually moving getting back to normal.
"Before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, the sales used to touch ₹50,000 a day,” a staff member said. Then they dropped to around ₹10,000. “Now we have almost returned to our pre-Covid time sales," the employee said.