It was a diwali time during the late 80’s when all of us cousins and my mom’s siblings from various towns had gathered at my Grand parents place in Chennai. One of my mom’s maternal uncle Ranga mama visited us with a box full of sweets. Patti(grand mom) went about distributing the sweet to all of us. The burfi which had the scent and color of a pink rose simply melted in my mouth and 20+ years later the heavenly taste still lingers when i think of that rose pink burfi.
Ranga mama said that the sweet was gulkand burfi( made from pink rose petals) which was specially prepared during Diwali time at a snack and sweet shop called ‘ The Grand Sweets and snacks’ Adyar,Chennai. This shop requires no introduction to chennaites all over the world.
The sweets and snacks of this shop would definitely remind you of your patti’s or amma’s kai pakkuvam (ghar ka khana). That is one of the USP of this shop which has no business strategy but still has food connoisseurs of the world in its customer list.
The best ingredients are sourced with no compromise on quality and prepared painstakingly by mostly women( women are majorly employed) at their factory in suburban chennai and then sold at their Anna nagar and Adyar outlets.
My Grand parents have patronized their products ever since the shop was open in the early 80’s. Due to old age and failing health, when patti was unable to prepare the sweets and savouries, she bought them from Grand sweets and sent it across to all her children living in Trichy, Bangalore, Dehradun and Delhi and to other relatives across the globe.
I have always sourced their thokkus and savouries through friends and relatives and so had never visited their shop but recently during the diwali time of 2008, I visited their shop for the first time at Anna nagar accompanied by my aunt, who brought bulk diwali sweets and savouries for her family.
I was looking for a glass facaded , chrome polished a/c shop on the main road, but the car turned into a by lane and stopped in front of a dignified shop nestled amongst houses. An inverted V shaped brick tiled awning in a green courtyard with a few seating arrangements in the front could be mistaken for a house if you do not notice the board.
In the frontyard, there is an open kitchen which serves traditional items like adai-avial, appam-stew, kuzhi paniyaram, thanjavur poli etc.
Their main products are the traditional Indian sweets like laddoo, jangiri, jilebi, poli, Bengali sweets, pedas etc, and savouries like murukku, thattai, cheedai, mixture etc., along with ready made rice mixes like pulikkachal, paruppu podi and thokkus( a thick pickled sauce) of onion, coriander, curryleaf, tomato,kadambam(mixed vegetable) etc.,which have a shelf life of 3months.
These ready mixes are a boon to bachelors, home makers and busy working women. All they have to cook is rice and mix them with any of your choicest of thokku to make tamarind rice, tomato rice, coriander rice, kadamba rice etc. These products are very carefully double packed and seal proofed, since they have large number of regular NRI customers.
They also cater to weddings and parties and specialize in making seer murukku and paruppu thengai (given during weddings and special occasions). The ladies clad in yellow sarees work like an automated machine to attend to your orders.
Another highlight is that the customers get to taste their prasadam in leaf bowls called 'donnai' along with free booklets on culture and traditions. These prasadam is given soon after their morning prayers and evening prayers to all their customers.
This shop was started by Mr.Natarajan who after a series of business setbacks, started this food business in a small way at Adyar in chennai in the early 80’s by capitalizing his wife’s culinary skill and slowly and steadily today it has a grown into a store of global fame. The world wide clientele was built on a strong foundation of tradition,hygiene and simple home atmosphere.
I am only glad like other food chains, they have no plans of branching out. It would lose its authenticity and may have to compromise on quality.
@ Chennaites - This diwali look out for the ‘Gulkand burfi’ prepared exclusively during diwali time and non-chennaites, If you are a connoisseur of traditional home made food and are camping in Chennai, include this shop in your shopping list and stock your pantry with their ready made mixes.
So, indulge this diwali season at ‘The grand sweets and snacks’ .