RAMYA KRISHNAMURTHY writes from Bangalore: While the boys of churumuri let their tongues flap around for kodu bale and Kingfisher, may I, on behalf of the party of the other part, unwrap a small packet of sepia-toned memories, one of the simple joys of days long past: the humble haalu khova.
To the undying gratitude of my dentist Dr B.K. Chandra Mohan, my sweet tooth, all 31 of them actually, has since gone on to discover something netherworld about the Mysore pak from Guru Sweet Mart (Mysore) and the obscenely shaped gulab-jamoons from Bhagat Ram (Bangalore); about the dumrot from Ramakrishna Lunch Home (Bangalore) and the badam halwa from Ramya drive-in restaurant (Mysore).
(Feel free to pick your weakness and salivate here: badam burfi/ badushah / basundi/ champakali/ chiroti/ dharwad peda/ gajar halwa / holige/ huggi/ kadubu/ kajaya/ kheer/ kunda/ ladoo / mishti doi/ payasa/ peni/ rasogolla/ rasamalai / sajjige/ shira/ shrikhand / unde/ vobattu.)
While, those forbidden fruits of human toil have their own allure, the haalu khova is at the very apex of personal favourites for me, almost 30 years after I surreptitiously (and innocently) let one of them dissolve in my mouth in Ms Celine Rodriques’ class in the first period after lunch at Nirmala School in Vontikoppal.
(Sorry, Ms Celine, but we were popping a piece of paradise.)
Each one has one, but there were a few reasons why I fell head over heels in love with haalu khova.
a) Because it was not an organised “adult” sweet.
b) Because of its unbelievably low price.
c) Because it had the stamp of “local” all over it.
d) Because it was such a cute, portable product.
e) Because there was a small tag of rebelliousness strung around it.
Like many “middle” middle-class families in the 1970s, my father too used to bring home a small packet of doodh peda every now and then from Indra Bhavan on Sayyaji Rao Road. And there was the odd packet of sweets that arrived courtesy of some maduve, munji or tithi.
But haalu khova was a different story. No cook ever claimed it was his speciality. No sweet shop shouted that it was world-famous for it.
It was made without fuss; it was sold and consumed without fanfare.
It was a sweet you bought from the Rs 20 that was your monthly allocation of “pocket money”. It was a sweet you bought (mostly) without your parents’ knowing. It was a sweet you ate off the street, off Jayamma‘s gaadi that was wheeled into 2nd main road, Vontikoppal.
Above all, it was a friendly sweet that wouldn’t give you away in class; it was so silky soft that it would melt without even your trying. And It was a sweet that you consumed while Ms Madhura and Ms Ponnamma George were looking at the blackboard, giving you a bit of a cheap thrill, as the boys looked on in envy.
The families in Agrahara which (I later learned) put haalu khova on the gastronomical atlas of India probably didn’t know, and probably didn’t care, but in their own way they were making their own contribution to female emancipation every afternoon through their enterprise.
As memories go, there was nothing fancy about the haalu khova. It was light to dark brown, depending on which bylane of Agrahara it came from. It had no great shape or elaborate icing. It was just a small cube of what cookbooks call “whole dried milk” (khoya or mawa in Hindi) laden with sugar that in our time was precut into nine smaller cuboids.
But the real pleasure was in the geometry of its cottage engineering.
Every consignment of haalu khova was packed with absolute precision in butter paper, not a crease out of place. And then artfully tied with cotton thread, two rounds going this way and that way, with a small, seductive knot at the end.
Untying the knot gave the same pleasure that a diamond smuggler got while revealing his booty.
And untie we would after slipping in a packet or two into our skirt pockets after the lunch break, one little piece after another.
Long after our gang—Ashitha Shetty, Kavitha K.S., Kiran Shenoy, Manisha Modha, Preeti Attavar, et al had outgrown the haalu khova—I made my way one dark power-cut evening to the little lane in Sunnadakeri, where the old Iyengar’s Mess was situated, to see the place where the haalu khova was said to have originated.
A bare-breasted, cross-belted man sat on the jagli outside as he protected the “secret formula” like John Pemberton.
Haalu khova, he said, was invented 61 years ago in that very home by his father Gopal Iyengar. Its original name was Delhi burfi. It was made to give the children of the house something more nutritious than the biscuits they craved. And the original packet, eight times the current size, apparently cost 3 paise.
A packet of four slices (in picture) today costs Rs 5. “But, remember, a gram of gold cost Rs 30 in those days.”
“One packet is enough to sustain you for three-four hours,” said Iyengar junior, who it turned out had opened the batting for RBNCC. “Javagal Srinath once gave an interview in the beginning of his international career where he said he had played entire matches on nothing more than a packet of our haalu khova.”
If it was good enough for Babu, it was good enough for us.
Photographs: Prashant Krishnamurthy
Cross-posted on Kosambari
Nice post Ramya. Its almost as sweet as haalu kova actually.
During a visit to Mysore few months back, a friend treated me to badam halwa at Hotel Ramya..it was awesome !
Used to spend school summer holidays in Mysore, high points during those stays were eating masala dosa in indra bhavan, churumuri and other snacks near Jaganmohana palace and a red coloured kobari mithai in an obscure shetty angadi near Sterling..
ayyo yaakri nenepisidri……….bayella niiru….
when we were kids, after collecting few paisa from relatives hand outs, first thing we used to rush to the shop this yummy…… enjoy…:)
Whenever I am in betting shop located somewhere in Ballal circle, i pop one in the mouth!! it just evaporates the bitterness of losing money!!
On a more serious note, where have all the pasty chefs gone? There is practically no new desserts on our menu today.
Brings back old memories of summer holidays in Mysore… nice pictures as well…
Now I just have to pop over to Sri Krishna Sweets on DVG Road… not the same but will do :-)
read this mouth-watering post relishing the popular ‘chikki’! thanks ramya.
Sorry to barge into your party. While there’s no denying that the article is well written or that the Haalu kova looks mouthwatering, let’s spare a thought for the poorest of the poor who literally eat mud. From today’s New York Times:
Delighted to see your mention of Miss Madhura (7th B) and Miss Ponnamma (6th A). Fine teachers; mine too. I wonder if they’re retired now.
Jayamma’s gaaDi near Nirmala Convent was like a tollbooth — “must visit” after school at 4 o’clock for haalu khova (25 paise), churumuri (25 paise) or thenginakai barfi (10 paise). In pre-summer weeks slices of maavinakai smattered with uppu-khaara (10 paise). Yellower the sweeter. Ah, to live 1985-86 again!
haal kova. cool.
but that pic at the top does no justice to halkova, even if it is bang in the middle of the pic. what halkova? i looked at it for about a fraction of a second, then moved on to gawking the high cheek bones, the lips, the teeth, the gums, the nose, the fingers, a hint of the eye, godhi baNNa. halkova? what are you talking about?
haalukhova, kadlekaayimithai, southekayichuru, – yelrihoytu. Even the sellers were make a living. svargasukha andre ide. We are living in a modern world, where money has no value, or rather the youngsters donot know the value of it. In 50s-80s pocket money was unheard of. By the by near St. Philomenas High School in MYsore there was a person selling southekaayi and churumuri and everybody used to call him SoutheykaayikuLLa. Avarella channagirali. Naavu aa sukhada gaLige neneyutta kaala dooDoNa.
A fine tribute to a favorite sweetmeat, madam. Well done!
Sustaining oneself with several of these cubes was a very addicting pastime; although, the stains that it left behind on the enamel made me give it up, and on that note, please…convey my praises to the owner of such robust-looking dentistry! I could recommend a fine product to get them polished at your discretion.
You know…during the days when I questioned the existence of the very universe, often did I wonder about the expression: ” Nee nakka ray, hallu sakka ray” – a roughly poetic, yet abstract bit of verse held together by a rhyme; pleasing to many, nonetheless, perplexing at first to my questioning intellect.
Because if you take the literal translation, my friends, then teeth are sugary when exposed via a smile. Such utter nonsense, yet so delightful at the same time.
That picture of the hapless Haal Kova being broken, body, spirit and all, by a set of perfect teeth, does answer my question! Alternatively, the picture reminds me of Hanuman entering the mouth of the sea serpent :-)
Nice post! My mouth watered continuously… even while reading the comments. My fav is Mysore pak and the best in Bangalore was/is from Sri Ramakrishna Sweetmeats in Chickpet. I concur with Manku Thimma – bayella niiru!
My compliments on your yr comments…100% true ):
Ayyo, Ayyo, Ayyo, I am not able to stop my jollu. My god, what a taste of the things I say. Splendid. By the way, the halukhowa of Agrahara (Devamba) is no more of its olden days.
You have excelled in an abstract way!
db… took me a while to figure out ‘ashley’.
but, taavilli shakta charuvaakaagresara. tamadenu tippaNi daNi?
Sorry to rain on your parade, boys and girls. Most Indians are either undernourished or malnourished. Our knowledge of the relationship between our eating habits and health has always been pitiful. We don’t need to be visiting those sweetmeat stalls in almost every keri. Now those chat and bhelpuri carts have invaded every street. Indulging one’s sweet tooth once in a while is no big matter, but we associate every good thing with SKC. A large number of Indians have a genetic predisposition to developing diabetes. While one piece of mysuru paaku ( the name has nothing to do with Chamundeshwari’s village, by the way. Hindi “meshoor” is Kannadized into Mysuru) occasionally consumed won’t aggravate the condition or bring it on, regular consumption of sweets is an open invitation to it.
Teach our children how to eat grains and vegetables in balanced meals and stay fit.
Tiger’s Whiskers The Ultimate!
What you say is correct! But we celebrate SKC!! More than diet, we Indians need to play sports other than cricket like soccer, volleyball, tennis or hockey. Look at that dwarf Tendulkar who is still carrying on at his age and look at his physique…My Western friend calls Indian food ‘savory’ and he says no wonder Indians are the World’s leading anti-athletes:)
I have no comments to describe the photo but enjoyed your comment! The photo struck me like a 60W Mysore Lamp! “Hal bittrey light baruthhey’ antharalla haage….
Wow. My sweet tour of Karnataka started with the Belgaum kunda, Karwar Kardant, Dharwar Peda, Shimoga Mysore Pak, ending with the Haalu Khova. Incredible stuff!
All right, DB. Which one is it that we have in abundance, sweetness or fitness? How is Sachin a dwarf? Aren’t his runs longer than other persons’ sprints?
I cannot say no obbattu in my relatives homes because now they are rolling out stuff made out of dates; then there is the awful sounding “draakshi gojju.”
O for a life of regular ennegai, palya, kosumbari, and some chatnipudi for majjige and anna.
No jilebi, holige, obbattu, chiroti, mysuru paku,.
Or chakli, kodubale, hurigadubu, or gasagase payasa although raisins and cashews taste great in that concoction.
I don’t mind huggi because it celebrates life. By the way some of my Tamil friends claim Pongal has no Kanada equivalent. I do believe “pongal” is an old Kannada form of “honnu kaalu.”
Yes, of course, no objections to churumuri at all. The sharpness of the chilli powder, the surprising attack of a lone diced piece of eerulli are a dish for a king.
With so much talk about teeth and dentistry, where is churumuri’s resident dantagnya (dentist)? We miss his comments.
Faldo,. guess the Dr. Rameshu is busy with election campaign!
Yes I am wondering too why Dr. Ramesh has not been reporting on some orthodontics….may be in deference to Dirty DG being a diabetic, his followers like Dr. Ramesh don’t talk about sweets?:)
It can be patented you know –the packaging, the name, the colour, the taste, the process and all. I am sure there is something unique somewhere. I hope CFTRI is working on all our food IP.
I remember eating something called “ROSE” –that was stored in those shop-front bottles, but it may not have been a local thing. It came neatly packed in a vertical column, with pretty pink wrapping, had a sweet fragrance and tasted exquisite to my tongue. Though on hindsight, I am sure it must have been synthetic. Costlier than the chikki and nimbehan peppermint, kobrimitai and one other brownish red mitai, I could buy this ROSE very rarely and felt incredibly sad when I was through with the pack of little bricks of light pink. My brother used to buy “sweet” cigarettes and a very hard stonelike pellet which was a chikki of sorts, with ingredients ground to a paste. Amele, thoud bisket antha ithu. When we really had no money, that’s what we got –almost for free and made I think from wheat chaff, going by the name! One paisak, eradu, I think. Small, small and sweet. Animal biscuits are probably around these days too.
The above may not be a gourmet’s delight, nor an adult’s mouth-watering favourites…it is the childhood memories that are delectable.
Devegowdana allu uluku, thale kolaku antha daagutru ramesappanige chennagi gotthu.
rofl! allu uluku thale kolaku.
There used to be a small shop that sold sogadhe berina kashaaya and neralehannina sharabaththu near Lansdowne Building. I wonder if it still exists. As a young man, I used to drink that stuff regardless of whatever malady I thought was plaguing me at any given time. What is more, I always felt better.
Intha sanna sanna isyakke daakkuTru hallu torsokilla, avardu yenidru internasional topic and mannina magaisya. allu daakutige jollu kandre aaykilla
That’s right folks, as it is said by our forefathers: ” Bayee kesar aadare Kaal mosaroo”
Or is it?
I might have gotten the anatomical parts interchanged here. Or mixed up.
ah! I remember about ‘ROSE’ or rose peppermint as we use to call it, the packing was predominantly white with pink markings if I remember right. Man I still miss it. The taste was something very soothing.
How come nobody remembers the parry’s chocolate that came in a green color plastic wrapping that was the cheapest and the best.
DB, Aruna -maybe daagutrappa will start distributing sweets if the election results give DG enough crumbs to call the shots.
VP -Yes. Parry’s chocolates, rose or nimbe huli peppermint, goli soda and kaka angadis. How can we forget those?
I always liked halu kova. There was one Murthy angadi on dewan’s road where we used to get it. Nothing would match the deliciousness of Halu kova.
VP, Faldo, PTL: Of course I remember Parry’s. Another hard-boiled confectionary was the orange one –round, in a white and transparent wrapping. These may be around still, if not in metros, in the smaller towns. Oh yes, kaka angadis were really the salvation of middle class homes. I remember many Tamil Mamis, coming in with wet dripping hair, asking for kai churu or for “path paisa, vethalapaku.”
I thought these juices that PTL is referring to were a recent fad –sold early mornings to joggers etc in Bangalore. One person died after drinking contaminated bev-rasa or something some years ago. Otherwise kashaayas etc were dying a slow death in urban places.
But whenever I visit Bangalore these days, I really think it has become a Foodie city. Dosa camps, savouries sold from Maruti van booths, HOT CHIPS outlets, hotels and restaurants, darshinis, churmuri gaadis, you name it. And the rates at which everything is available, nobody needs to cook even! I am told even the Heritage and Reliance outlets are now selling holige and jolada roti. Not just the bakery and Mangaluru angadis.
Very nostalgic. Haalu Khova used to sell at 10 paise a small piece in my school days. Whenever we had some money we used to splurge it on Haalu Khova or kadle Mithai.
Ree Ramya Krishnamurthi avare, neevu yarree?? nimmanna yello mysuralli chikkandinalli nodiddina?? Anda haage, neevu heLida ee mithayina, navella Gopi mithai antha karithidvee. When I was in govt. service, working outside Karnataka, I used to take it in kilos whenever I visited Mysore. It used to be savoured by me and friends and colleagues within two days!!
Sliced tangerines with uppu khaara, bella wrapped in silver foil (we called it bellulli pathaki), and elaneeru.
Hey, our postings are reminding me of that song “savira nenapu.”
we had something called rubber wundae when we were in school in the 82’s we guys used to gorge on this
rubber wundae! correct me if I am wrong they were covered wth sugar crytsals. I think they were called ‘joojups’
An Indianisation of Jujube. I used to say “Jewjips.” Later I learnt they are joo-joobe. Gelatin-based colourful ovals with sugar sprinkled as coating. The actual ones are quite inedible –seen commonly these days in those vending counters in malls. Jujubes are supposed to be some kind of fruits, originally. These are western confectionary like marshmallows, jelly babies, fudge, chewing gum etc. Though I ate much of these as a kid, I got a shock when I came to know gelatin is made of marrow of bones.
Safer to stick to sakre-achu type of sweets. And speaking of wundae, elundae from Munglurangadi was my favourite though it was like stone.
Each piece of haalu khova that I have relished during the days I didnt get any pocket money has got its own stories… All about the difficulties Ive been through to pool in atleast 1rupeefor the delicious mouth watering haalu khova… yummm… There this shop BRAHAMGIRI in gangothri layout where in used to buy them… Ive relished these tasty buds till high school… may even during BE quiet occasionally… Reminiscing about haalu khova, I just cannot bring down my desire to eat
some today. Alas! It is not available here in mangalore… It also reminds me that I haven’t eaten haalu khova in several years…
Ramya – Well written
“pulikeshi the last” avare.
Padaki annuva juice angadi on Lansdowne building alli Sogade berina soda, sigutaittu. Last time when in Mysore had been there but they dont serve that anymore. Miss that a lot.
Hosa-belaku et al, those tiny rectangular mints in rose color were called ROSE MINT and usually we got from Murthy shop at lansdowne bldg beginning.This shop used to sell rose colored square wafer biscuits with clock shape!
Halu-Khova we used to get from an Iyengar gentleman who did door to door selling.
Yes-I too liked Sogade Beru juice at Padaki,s.They have discontinued it.
It was great having a look at the msgs…u remember Nirmala convent had a sweet shop opened to stop us elite customers enjoying the sweet things and stay in the cvampus…Headed by noneother than our own CHECHI….This was during 87-88….
Wanna catch up with old mates if anybody in that batch….Class teacher was Ms. Pramila and Ms. Harishi
such a gastronomic post! felt like eating haalu kova now. I am linking your picture and the post to my blog. I hope you don’t mind :-)
Mr.Kangeyaa is wrong karwar is not famous for kardent. For ur kind of information Gokak is famous for kardent.
Hey you may consider using stevia in your sweets in place of sugar as it is the only natural zero calorie sweetener in market and its really very good for diabetics, calorie conscious people.
halu kova nodi mysorina school gnapaka banthu. NAmma manege yaaru guests bandru, yellarigu ondu sala halu kova agalebeku.
Really , the write-up is awesome as it could get. Just visited Mysore for my mandatory summer holidays, and the visit by Nirmal Convent always is so nostalgic!. Miss. Ponamma (my hot favourite teacher) and Miss . Madhura…..Miss Vani and well the list is endless.
The mysore ‘churmuri’ is another ‘must-have’ , specially from Vontikoppal. No visit is to mysore is complete without this.
Haaaa… enjoyed reading your blog and going down the memory lane….i had almost forgotten about Haalu halva….. i am sure to try them when i go home this time!!!
Ms Ramya Krishnamurthy,
i m really happy to see my family sweet in ur blog.. i m proud to say that it was invented by my own grandfather Mr.M.K.Gopal Iyengar and the person to whom u spoke with is my father Mr.K.Balakrishna. Thanks for appreciating our hard work.
Such a heart warming post Ramya and the churumuri folks!
With your choice of words, made for a unforgettable nostalgic read. Could I share this post as a link on my upcoming post on Haalu Khova?
sweet memories to remember…
cant forget jayammas gadi and also the best school nirmala convent
Thanks for the article.
My friend Kamala and I were also fans of Jayamma Gadi Haalu Khova. and each year on Friendship day we go looking for the Haalu Khova and share a packet of it also sharing the sweet memorable years at Nirmalas.