Hitting the sweet spot this TiharThe Rajkarnikar family has been running its confectionary shop in Patan for four generations
The narrow stone-paved alley behind Patan’s Krishna Mandir is unusually packed these days with people in the new cafes, bars and homestays. But nestled among them is a 150-year-old sweet shop that has survived earthquakes, upheavals and epidemics.
It is called Mamadu Galli, but over the decades it has become synonymous with the mari pasa confectionary shop housed in a building that survived the 1934 and 2015 earthquakes. One morning this week, it was crowded with customers, many of them who had just finished worshipping in nearby shrines.
Shree Nanda Mithai Bhandar is famous not just in Patan. Customers come from Kathmandu and further afield to buy the freshly cooked jeri-swari, barfi, and other sinfully sweet ghee-dipped delicacies. Some are so impatient, they do not even wait to get home and are savouring the piping hot treats right there on the sidewalk.
It is just past 8AM, but the proprietor Radha Krishna Rajkarnikar has been busy since 6, as he is every day. “This is how it is 365 days a year, seven days a week, we rarely close,” says Rajkarnikar, whose family has been running the shop now for over four generations.
“The recipes have been handed down from the time of our great-grandparents, passed down from one generation to the next,” adds Rajkarnikar, who grew up as a boy to watch his parents mix the ingredients, heat the sugar syrup in a great vat, before dipping the freshly-fried delicacies every morning.
“I used to help my father with sales, I was told to sell one piece of jeri for 25 paisa,” recalls Radha Krishna, now 45. “I also learned to make simple breakfast staples like halwa, malpa and sel. Back then we used to buy stacks of firewood from local traders, we didn’t have kerosene or gas stoves.”
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Everything flies off the shelf as soon as it is cooked, and is fresh, few items are left over for the next day. The best-sellers are everyone’s favourite jeri-swari, of which about 1,000 pieces are made every day. Other favourites are lakhamari, barfi and balbara.
Its eight workers work nearly non-stop until 9PM every day, especially during the wedding and festival seasons, on Mothers and Fathers Days.
“More and more we are also getting customers who have been living abroad for years, and have childhood memories of visiting our shop when they were young,” says Srijana Shilpakar Rajkarnikar who runs the shop together with her husband Radha Krishna.
The pandemic had significantly reduced business, but things returned to near-normal this Dasain season. Now, sales are shooting up again ahead of Tihar.
Increasingly, traditional mithai are being replaced with well-packaged pastries, cakes and other baked goods. It is only during the festivals and rituals that people buy the more traditional delicacies. In time, family-run halwai businesses like these may also lose out to the modern bakeries and cake shops that have sprung up nearby. The younger generation is also moving away to pursue better-paying jobs or migrate abroad.
Srijana herself became active in the shop only a couple of years ago but having been raised in a family of traditional wood carvers in Lalitpur, and growing up helping her parents at their showroom, she says it is important to continue the culinary heritage and keep traditions alive.
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“Both my young sons help out when things get busy, especially during festivals. We have taught them about raw materials and recipes,” adds Srijana. “It is my hope they carry on with our tradition in some capacity.”
The Shree Nanda Mithai Bhandar is named after Radha Krishna’s grandfather and has been in the same rented space for nearly a century. Says Srijana: “We cannot let our heritage fade away, we need to transfer our skills and knowledge to continue our ancestral profession, and encourage the coming generation.”
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