Located amongst the bustling shops of Bazaar Street in Trichy, Tamilnadu, is a 105-year-old sweet shop named – Yaanai Mark Nei Mittai Kadai. In Tamil, the word Yaanai means elephant, so the name of the shop refers to its speciality- – large-sized sweet boondi.
Apart from serving this extra-large sweet, the shop is well-known amongst the people of Trichy for serving sweets to its patrons in bamboo baskets that are woven by local villagers from around the area.
The shop is managed by third-generation owners Kannan B and Ravichandran B, who say tradition is what has earned their store respect and popularity among the residents of the city.
“This is a 105-year-old tradition that we are following. The sweets are wrapped in newspaper and placed inside a bamboo basket before being given to a customer. Earlier, instead of newspaper, my grandfather would wrap the sweets in dried banana leaves because that was the only packaging material we could find and afford,” says 55-year-old Ravi.
The baskets are handmade by locals who procure the bamboo from third-party vendors.
“The baskets are hand woven by women and are usually made to keep atop the poultry being sold in the market. But, we specifically ask them to make small baskets for packing our sweets. Earlier, there were more than 10 families making such baskets. Now, there are only three or four,” says Ravi.
Every month, 700 baskets that can hold up to 1 kilo of sweets each are purchased. Ravi claims that by the end of the month, all the baskets have been used. They do not charge extra for the bamboo baskets but if someone requests the sweets be packed in plastic boxes, then they are charged extra.
His elder brother Kannan (63) says that their recipes for making the sweets have also not been altered since generations, which is what keeps their customers loyal and coming back again and again.
“While most boondis are made using only gram flour and are fried to the size of thermocol balls, we add a secret portion of rice flour that helps us make pebble-sized sweets. Even the taste is different from regular boondi, but very good,” says Kannan.
About the packaging
Though there are new methods of packaging like boxes made from tin and plastic available today, this store wants to keep the tradition of using bamboo baskets alive as long as possible.
The basket is lightweight, durable and eco-friendly. Many people place bulk orders at this store and distribute the sweets packed in baskets among guests at weddings.
Many customers who visit Trichy from other cities make a stop at the No. 228 Bazaar Street sweet stall to take some of their goodies home with them. When they stop by at the store, they usually introduce themselves as the son of so-and-so, because their father or grandfather would have been a regular at the shop.
45-year-old Sridhar R, a resident of Chennai who was raised in Trichy, says the shop is an iconic landmark. Whenever he travels to Trichy, he never misses out on buying their sweets.
“They have been making sweets for more than 100 years and the experience shows in the taste. They always pack the sweets in bamboo baskets and some even refer to it as the koodai mittai kadai which means ‘basket sweet shop’. The boondi is the size of a rock but it is as soft as the small ones,” he says.
Apart from boondi, the shop sells Mysore Pak and cashew nut halwa too. With the festival season around the corner, Ravi says they will likely witness higher quantities of orders during Deepavali and Ayutha Pooja.