Way back in the 1890s, when Dangeti Dharma Rao was fiddling around with various ingredients for a halwa, he could not have known that his recipe would one day be called the secret to a happy marriage.
Today, 125 years later, his descendants have ensured that the Madugula halwa tastes the same as it did when the 35-year-old perfected his recipe.
The family opened the Dangeti Murthy Halwa shop in 1890 in Madugula village, located 70km from Visakhapatnam, the district headquarters. Naturally, it was the only one which sold the halwa. Later, the village‚Äôs main bus stop came up in the area and 10 other shops mushroomed around it.
‚ÄúDespite the heavy competition we haven't compromised on the taste,‚ÄĚ says 61-year-old Dangeti Murthy, Dharma Rao‚Äôs grandson.
Dangeti‚Äôs Murthy‚Äôs son Mohan, who runs the shop today, says that his great grandfather experimented with various ingredients and multiple combinations before he found the right mix. He first tried to mix pumpkin and milk but as wasn't satisfied with the results, and kept on making changes until he found the right mix.
‚ÄúPeople love this taste. They tell us that they‚Äôve tried this halwa at many shops but it does not taste the same as from our shop, which is made of a unique recipe of wheat and milk,‚ÄĚ says 42-year-old Mohan.
He was quite willing to share the ingredients and the process. The wheat is soaked for three days and then ground to make wheat milk. Boiled along with sugar syrup, the wheat milk turns into the halwa, which is garnished with cashew and almonds.
The only thing ‚Äď and the most important ‚Äď that Mohan was unwilling to divulge, was the proportions of the ingredients.
‚ÄúPeople even order this halwa for birthday celebrations, weddings, kitty parties and other family functions. This trend of emerged after my son took charge. Once we even made a heart-shaped ‚ÄėHalwa Cake‚Äô on demand,‚ÄĚ Dangeti Murthy said.
Mohan, doesn‚Äôt know how it happened, but says that today, many families in several parts of northern Andhra Pradesh gift newly married couples the Madugula Halwa on the wedding night.
Even today, they make the halwa traditionally, without machines, even for the grinding. As in the past, they scoop out portions of the halwa from large silver dish-like containers and pack it for customers. The whole process takes around three days and can last a month if not kept in the fridge.
Back when the shop was started, the halwa was sold at Rs 25. But at today‚Äôs prices a kilogram is sold for between Rs 300 and Rs 400, depending on the flavour and ingredients. Halwa made of ghee and Dalda costs around Rs 200 and that with dry fruits is sold for Rs 400.
Mohan says that they even cater to the elderly. ‚ÄúMost people ask for soft halwa, but older people prefer the hard consistency because it is easier to digest.‚ÄĚ
They have refused offers to start franchises in the cities. The only expansion they are planning right now, is to introduce sugarless halwa on the menu as there is a demand for it.
Madugula halwa has its own fan following, which includes Telugu NRIs, politicians and celebrities.
‚ÄúMy grandfather told me that even Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had tasted and appreciated the dessert when they were in the town,‚ÄĚ Mohan claims.
Mohan claims that Krishna, Allu Arvind and Jaya Prada, Sai Kumar and Rajendra Prasad tasted the sweet at the shop itself.
Dangeti says that he hopes that his grandsons will continue the family business, but he says that will not be forced into it.