You may be waiting for Holi to eat gujiya but, people living in Thanjavur can enjoy its taste, whenever you want. In this traditional sweets shop named ‘Bombay Sweets’, this Gujia (also known as Chandrakala) is available year round. This shop in the temple town of Thanjavur started in 1949 and since then till date, this shop has reached the taste of UP, many homes in the south.
In terms of the sweetness, aroma and taste of the Chandrakala found in this shop, there has not been much change in the last 70 years. This crescent shaped dessert is made from fine flour. In which khoya and mawa are filled and fried in ghee.
The only change in Bombay Sweets in the last several years has been the size of the shop. This shop, started from a small room of 10 × 10 feet, has now become a magnificent shop of 16 thousand square feet. This big shop now has 14 branches. Due to the excellent taste of the sweets here, this Bombay Sweets has carved a special place in many hearts.
It is generally believed that shops specializing in regional cuisine are established by people whose ancestors have lived in that place for years. But the story of Bombay Sweets founder, Guru Dayal Sharma, is a bit different. Traditionally dessert maker Guru Dayal Sharma, originally from Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, came to South India in 1940 to work.
Speaking to The Better India, BG Subramani Sharma, son of Guru Dayal and managing director of Bombay Sweets, said, “My father worked in a restaurant in Chennai for a short time, before making his home in Thanjavur. He saw a big difference in the culture of Chennai, especially food, compared to UP. Before opening his shop in Thanjavur, he got acquainted with the place where mundu was worn and idli was eaten for breakfast. He took the challenge of popularizing his shop. They have established their roots here and today, all of us, including the customers, are taking advantage of their hard work and visionary thinking. ”
According to Sharma, the Bombay Sweets receive an average of four thousand customers every day. There are 200 types of sweets and seven types of delicious snacks for the customers. These include Ghee Mysore Pak, Ajmer Cake, Mini Badusha, Carrot Mysore Pak, Beet Mysore Pak, Cashew Jalebi, Saffron Laddu, Coconut Murukku, Almond Lachha Mixer, Papper Kara Bundi and Kard Sidai.
The best-selling sweets, however, are Chandrakala and Suryakala (completely Gol Gujia). Even in the lockdown during the COVID-19, they were selling more than 200 kg of Chandrakala every day, which is a feat in itself.
What is the specialty of the two sweet dishes that are exported to countries like America, Canada and Singapore, which are mouth watering as soon as they hear the name?
Sharma showed The Better India a look inside the kitchen of Bombay Sweets, from where the smell of ghee and sweets continued to come.
Special thing that popularized Bombay Sweets
Guru Dayal bought a small room in front of Thanjavur railway station in 1949, at a nominal price and named it ‘Bombay Sweets’ so that people could easily understand the name. He made Gujiya, a North Indian dessert with a South Indian twist. He increased the sugar content in the sugar syrup and dipped the dry gujiya in it, and started serving the prepared sweets to the people.
The pastries, which are famously served during Chappan Bhog in Mathura, are full of khoya and dry fruits. Then, before dipping in the sugar syrup, add saffron and cardamom powder to it. Making Chandrakala is an art, which is very important to make well. Sharma says, if there is a slight delay on any step or it is folded incorrectly or the filling is not roasted properly, then the whole taste of the made dessert changes. Sharma stays in the kitchen of Bombay Sweets for at least an hour a day and monitors the entire process.
Employees use paddle mixtures to knead dough. After that, to make the curls, the same size trees are cut. The edges are carefully folded in a bulge-like pattern. Gujiya is then fried in hot ghee on a medium flame. And finally it is dipped in sugar syrup.
For others, it may be just a process. But for Sharma, it has been a tradition at home, being saved for years, in which he has been involved since his childhood. Recalling his childhood, Sharma says, “I used to get up in the morning and help my father before going to school. I used to help them with some basic things, such as rubbing the dough and keeping the ingredients ready. I was called ‘Maida Mavu’ in school because I smelled of flour. As I grew up, I learned how to fold and close the edges of gujiya. I was very happy to see my father’s skills. He was, in itself, a very good artist. ”
Tradition that has been going on for generations
Sharma is, of course, working towards furthering his culinary heritage. Sharma says that he inherited a secret recipe from his father, which he has recently revealed to his wife and two daughters.
Sharma further adds, “This secret lies in the pure and authentic prescription of my father, who never compromised on quality.” It does not matter what the rates are for ingredients like milk or sugar or how many orders we have received in the peak season. The only mantra is that selling items that are not well made should be avoided. I remember, when we opened another store in my early days, then I made an offer to my father why we should knead the dough beforehand. My father was very annoyed with this offer and then I understood what a difference a freshly made dough makes. He was also very strict about the cleanliness of each member. ”
Another quality that Sharma has acquired from his hardworking father is to be present in the kitchen on festivals and special occasions. Like his father, Sharma never sits at the cash counter. Instead, he spends his time listening to music in the kitchen and helping employees.
Perhaps it is this quality of being involved in every stage itself, which sets this shop apart from other shops in spite of stiff competition. Sharma adds, “My formula is very simple – while innovating, remember the ideology of your enterprise and keep following it.”
To know more about Bombay Sweets, see here.