Sweets and snacks are part of Indian cuisine and a south Indian meal is incomplete without a pinch of sweet. Every region has its own flavour and favourite sweet, and the choice keeps changing even within a state. As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, kesari, laddu, payasam, jaangri etc are common sweets served throughout the state. To be particular, Thoothukudi macroon, Madurai Jigarthanda and Tirunelveli halwa are famous for their towns from where they originated.
The only speciality of these sweet dishes are – they cannot be replicated anywhere else. The recipe of the original cannot be duplicated anywhere else. For example, original Tirunelveli halwa will be available in Tirunelveli alone.
Tirunelveli is a busy city in the southern part of Tamil Nadu. The city is located along the banks of river Thamirabharani. This is the only main river in Tamil Nadu which has its origin, flow and drains within the state itself. Tirunelveli also goes by the name Nellai, which comes from the word “Nel” meaning paddy.
The city is famous for its good quality educational institutions and it is also doing well in economic and health sectors. Apart from these – the first thing which comes into the mind of any Tamilian about Tirunelveli is its special “Halwa”. Though Halwa is made everywhere, Tirunelveli halwa is entirely different and unique. Every visit to Tirunelveli by outsiders remains incomplete without a purchase of Tirunelveli halwa.
Iruttu kadai is the master shop from where this world famous delicious sweet originated. The name literally means “dark shop”. True to its name, the shop is dim lit and very narrow. They close very early and long queue can be spotted most of the days during their working hours. They keep the demand stay still and retain the quality. Contrary to other business techniques, the have not multiplied their supply according to demand. But, the point is – keep supply less and make the customers crave!
This shop does not advertise itself but the name is famous across the state, country, and even abroad – thanks to the Nellai NRIs. People always carry few kilograms if they travel from Nellai. Students from Nellai who stay in hostels for studies outside the district will always have a fan base for Tirunelveli halwa who keep pestering them.
The speciality of this sweet lies in its taste and uniqueness. It cannot be prepared the same way by anyone else except by the owners of the recipe. So, the recipe is maintained as a secret and passed to the descendants of Iruttu kadai family.
They use high quality ghee and wheat products. The high perfection may be attributed to careful manual operations. Their limited supply is believed to be linked with non-usage of machinery. Another important ingredient is – water!
Yes, water from the river Thamirabharani has a unique taste and, as the name specifies, it contains minerals. The word “Thamiram” in Tamil means “Copper”. But the river has shrunk over the decades due to failed rainfall and improper maintenance.
Other famous snacks of the region
Other famous sweets around the region are Thoothukudi macroon, Srivilliputhur palkova etc. Manapparai murukku is another crunchy snack from Manapparai which is also equally famous in the state.
Though halwa is not a native south Indian sweet, it sneaked into the south Indian cuisine through a mix of culture. It is said that Iruttu kadai halwa was brought to Tirunelveli by north Indians. Such places are famous for their dishes due to the hard work and sincerity of those who prepare and work hard to market them. If quality is not compromised for profit, then they remain in the hearts of customers forever.