The interesting story of Mysore's most famous export after dosa.
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Each time there is a skirmish on the border with a certain troublesome neighbour, or a debate on nationalism is sparked off, an unlikely victim emerges on social media. Mysore Pak.

This melt-in-mouth sweetmeat has inspired several internet memes with self-proclaimed nationalists calling out the famous Indian sweet to prove its loyalty to its country by changing its name to Mysore India. This has Nataraj of Mysore’s Guru Sweet Mart in splits. "If someone has to change the name, it has to be Pakistan because Mysore Pak was born much before Pakistan," he chips in good-naturedly. There is much meat in his mirth. One of the oldest sweets in the country that still holds the royal stage in the world of desserts, Mysore Pak was born in the kitchens of Mysore palace. Nataraj is the direct descendent of the royal chef or “Nalapakka” who created this wonderful sweet for the Maharaja of Mysore.

Legend has it that close to eight decades ago, on a balmy afternoon, the then Maharaja of Mysore Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar got in the mood of having a sweet like none other. He summoned his royal chef Kakasura Madappa and shared his desire. Madappa, who could whip up delicacies in a jiffy, decided to go with his trusted ingredients—gram flour, cow's ghee, sugar and cardamom—to create what would turn out to be the Maharaja's favourite sweet. The much-delighted king decided to name the pale yellow sweet after his kingdom. "Paaka (a delicious, languorous way of saying Pak where the aa is stretched like viscous sugar syrup) means sweet, syrupy or sugar coated. A paaka made in Mysore became Mysore Pak," Nataraj says.

We are standing at Guru Sweet Mart at Devaraja Market in Mysore that still prepares Mysore Pak the way it was created by Kakasura Madappa. Nataraj, who runs the store with his brothers Kumar and Shivanand, inherited the original recipe. "We are the fifth generation descendents of Kakasura Madapa and only we have this secret recipe," he says proudly. If you are used to having the porous, brick-like sweets peddled as Mysore Pak in sweet shops, the Mysore Pak at Guru's will have you doubting its originality. Very distinct in both taste and texture, the original Mysore Pak, as these men prepare, is doughy to touch and melts in the mouth. It's not possible to mould it in any shape and is often sliced off as per requirement with a knife from a slab of sweet made on that day. Nataraj says they use pure ghee to make the original ones as against vanaspathi (hydrogenated vegetable oil) used in commercial variants. The original Mysore Pak, tucked away discreetly in a corner, comes at a price of Rs 400/kg. A commercial variant is available too, at Rs 260/kg. Not surprisingly, the sweet does swift business every day, with the sales peaking during festivals like Dasara and petering out during monsoon. "On a dull day, we sell about 20-30kg. The sale is often good during Dasara," Nataraj says.

Guru Sweets also stock up other sweets like Sonpapdi (which, Nataraj claims, has also been created by his great granddad who created Mysore Pak), Dharwad peda, etc and has no manufacturing units unlike big sweet shops. All the sweets are prepared at their home every day by the brothers with their wives and other family members lending a helping hand. The family is very proud of their lineage with most members having something to do with the sweet business. "My sister is a doctor, so is one of my cousins. My son and my nephew are engineers who have done their M.Tech. But all of them are involved in this business, part time at least," he says. Do the brothers have any plans to expand their business? "Not at all. We are very satisfied with what we have," Nataraj signs off with a royal grin.

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