I am sure there aren’t many among us who haven’t ever sampled the famed mysorepak from the south of India. That said, I think there are many who aren’t aware of how this famous sweet dish came to be. Today’s post is all about the invention of the mysorepak and more. 🙂
First off, a little bit of background about the Wodeyar kings who ruled Mysore for long. Apparently, many of the kings from the Wodeyar clan were big-time foodies, who would challenge their chefs from time to time to come up with innovative dishes that made use of their talents and creativity. Thanks to this food love of the Wodeyars, a number of dishes were invented in the royal kitchens of Mysore, almost all of them famous throughout the world today. The Mysore masala dosa, Mysore rasam, Mysorepak or Mysore bonda, for instance.
The humble but delicious mysorepak is said to be invented in Mysore during the reign of Shri Krishnaraja Wodeyar aka Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, Maharaja of the state between 1894 and 1940. (Why do I call the mysorepak humble? Because it is a very simple sweet that is made with just three ingredients – chickpea flour, ghee and sugar! So unpretentious!) The then royal cook, Kakasura Madappa, was the brain behind this lovely invention.
One fine day, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV craved for a new, unique kind of sweet, and Kakasura, being the dutiful royal cook that he was, came up with the melt-in-the-mouth squares that later came to be known as the mysorepak. (The royal cook was then known as the nalapaka – i.e. the one makes the paka or sweet syrup – based on which Kakasura named his invention.) The king loved the sweet to bits, and rightly so – it was delectable and light and wonderful. The king went on to ask Kakasura to set up a shop outside the Amba Vilas Palace and sell his invention, so that even the common people could taste his gorgeous mysorepak. Kakasura did just that, and the fame of the mysorepak spread far and wide. Slowly and gradually, different versions of the mysorepak came about, including the Horlicks mysorepak that we get in many sweet shops today.
The shop that Kakasura set up exists till date, in the Devaraja Market of Mysore, by the name of Guru Sweet Mart. After Kakasura, the shop was run by his sons and his grandsons and so on, and presently, it is his great-grandsons who do business here. Though mysorepak later came to be available everywhere in Mysore, the reputation of Guru Sweet Mart as the seller of the best mysorepak in Mysore still remains unrivaled. The present-day owners of the store claim that their mysorepak is made (largely) exactly the same way Kakasura used to make it, all those years ago – the original recipe.
After reading up all about the history of the mysorepak, of course, we had to go to Guru Sweet Mart and get our hands on a slice of their legendary sweet. That was, I think, the first place we went to as soon as we landed in Mysore. The first sight of the shop came as a shock, I would say. We were expecting a large, fancy kind of shop, but were totally unprepared for the little hole in the wall that Guru Sweet Mart is. Even at about 8 in the night, when we visited, the shop was bustling with customers.
We were told the mysorepak was bisi, bisi (hot, hot), straight off the stove. We asked for a parcel to get home, and in no time, the man at the counter made up a beautiful little gift pack for us. This, we later learnt, isn’t the best way to eat the Guru Sweet Mart mysorepak – you should eat it right there, bisi, bisi, standing outside the shop. For INR 20 or so, a little square of mysorepak is handed to you in a bit of newspaper, the ghee in the sweet pooling and forming a wet patch on the paper. You eat it with your fingers, bit by bit, savouring the taste and texture of it. (You could even heat it up in your kitchen, once you get home, for the same effect, but the experience just isn’t the same, we were told!)
The present-day Guru Sweet Mart is an outlet just for the sale of mysorepak. The sweet itself is made in private, at the nearby ancestral home of the owners, following Kakasura’s recipe, and then brought to the shop for sale. And, of course, the recipe is top, top, top secret.
Today, Guru Sweet Mart sells not just the mysorepak, but quite a few varieties of other sweets too. We bought only the mysorepak, but we were told their other sweet dishes are just as delicious. Well, next time, maybe!
And how was our experience with the mysorepak, you ask? Fabulous, I say. The sweet, as promised, melted in the mouth, and was sinful, loaded with ghee and taste. The texture is somewhere in between the grainy mysorepak that you get in Tamilnadu and the ghee-laden, smooth ones that are available in shops like Shri Krishna Sweets in Karnataka. Personally, we are big fans of the smooth variety, but the Guru Sweet Mart one won us over too.
Have you ever had the Guru Sweet Mart mysorepak? What was your experience like?