Softly the delicate sweetness of deeply roasted gram flour in ghee, cooked in sugar syrup melts into your mouth as you take a bite of Mysore Pak, a sweet invented in a hurry and almost accidentally by a Royal chef. One day, the lunch for Maharaja of Mysore Krishnraja Wodeyar (1884-1940) was ready but a sweet dish was yet to be prepared. His chef, Kakasura Madappa, had fewer options and even lesser time. Hurriedly he made a concoction of gram flour (besan), ghee and sugar and cooked on slow fire stirring it to perfection creating a glossy golden mass dripping with ghee.
It was presented to the king as a soft fudge, hot and sweet. The king loved it and enquired the name of this new dessert. Madappa who hadn’t thought of any name uttered in an instant – Mysore Pak. Hailed by the royalty it soon became a Royal Sweet. The king asked Madappa to open a shop outside the palace premises so that common people could also enjoy the sweet. When this sweet was invented it wasn’t sold cut as small pieces but as slabs of 300 to 350 gms. One kg of Mysore Pak would cost the princely sum of 3 Rs years ago. Today, it costs around Rs 400 per kg. It is a popular dish during the Mysuru Dasara festival.
Mysore Pak is available everywhere in India. It requires no refrigeration which aids its easy transportation. It is available in two versions – the wet fudgy version and the dry crumbly blocks sold by stores and restaurants. However, the best version of Mysore Pak is in between these two extremes. To taste the original recipe, a visit to the 80-year-old shop, Guru Sweet Mart, in Mysore run by Madappa’s descendants is a must.
Chandrika Ramakrishnan from Bengaluru also makes Mysore Pak every Diwali because she feels that the festival of lights needs something rich and traditional. She roasts besan in ghee on slow fire until it turns aromatic and pouring the mixture in sugar syrup of one thread consistency stirring constantly and keeps adding a tablespoon of ghee as the mixture thickens. When the mixture starts leaving the sides and becomes frothy it’s time to remove from fire and pour it in a greased tray to cut pieces after slightly cooled. The sweet can crumble completely if it’s not removed from fire at the right time or remains greasy if taken out earlier, shares Chandrika. Though the recipe appears easy, it requires patient practice to get it right.
Mysore Pak or Mysore Paka, a sweet that is rich in flavour and history reminds us of bygone times of kings and queens, the royal kitchens, elaborate banquets with lots of time to savour and enjoy at leisure.
Text by Nupur Roopa (Follow her on Instagram at @NupurRoopa23).