From thokku to sharbat, your craving for home food comes neatly packaged and ready to be loaded in your check-in baggage.

Home is where the murukku is How Chennai shops Sri Krishna and Grand Sweets pack for the NRIDeepa Harishankar
Features Food Wednesday, August 09, 2017 - 17:45

You can take an Indian out of India but you can never take Indian food away from an Indian.

Whether it’s a 21 year old student or a seasoned NRI, a visit to your country of origin is an opportunity to stuff your suitcase with all the delicious and familiar food you grew up eating. Previously, much of this was made at home.

There are stores all over Chennai that offer food packaging services for people going abroad. Queen Abroad, Mylapore has been in the business for a long time now. And it has a very loyal clientele.

What’s the need for special packaging, you ask? You will know when you have to carry clothes and very pungent sambar powder in the same suitcase. A spill can mean clothes that give you angry welts on your skin. And worse, no sambar powder for a year ahead!

Oil spills are almost impossible to deal with. And with airline pressure fluctuations, pickles are prone to spilling and ruining everything around.

Despite the risks, the average Indian never says no to carrying a slice of home abroad. In maavadu, lies happiness. But more often than not, it is the maavadu (tender mango in brine) that gets chucked unceremoniously into customs check trash bins because of its nature to attract fungal growth.

Considering all the possible accidents that can take place in your suitcase, there is now an increasing number of people who buy sweets and savouries from popular stores because of the convenience of spill proof packaging.

The jury is still divided on whether their Mysore Pak, or Mysore Pa as they term it, nails the traditional brief on the gram flour fudge. But Sri Krishna Sweets has forayed into well packaged snacks that are bound to be a hit with the NRI market.

Their murukku comes in ziplock tetra packs. There are cheese vatthals alongside the usual tomato and onion vadaams and vatthals. Tired of the same chutney/sambar/podi for your idli and dosai? There is a mindboggling array of thokkus packed neatly in small jars that can go into your suitcase and into your fridge later.

Image courtesy: Deepa Harishankar

There are dozens of mixture varieties; tetra sealed, of course. Parents, anxious about their sons and daughters not getting (Indian) food, buy several of these thokkus, podis and ready mix masalas. They are quite handy and can be consumed with rice or readymade rotis. They also make excellent dips for idli and dosai.

 The packaging at SKS has become a USP of sorts. From ‘Neem flower crisps’ that promise to revive a dead appetite or a bad tummy to ‘dried mango’ for your tangy cravings, SKS leaves nothing out in the traditional South Indian kitchen.

Swipe your card and pack them straight into your check in baggage. Tired of beverages like Coke and Pepsi? There are Pudina and Lemon Sharbats packaged like expensive whisky brands. Tea masala comes in swanky mason jars. Your grandmother’s Veppilai Katti has also had a facelift at SKS.

Image courtesy: Deepa Harishankar

Adyar Grand Sweets is a pioneer in the segment. Pulikkacchal/Puliyodharai mix, onion thokku, curry leaf and coriander thokku and sambar powder from GSS have probably been flown out of the country ever since the Chennai airport started international operations. 
 
Image courtesy: Grand Sweets/ www.grandsweets.com

It is a surprise that customs officers abroad do not take a minute of their time to assure Indian passengers that they will indeed find food in the new land after looking at all the bottles of food!

Ask for NRI packing and the GSS store assistant is happy to do a doubly sealed packaging wrap on your pickle bottle. Decades back, the brand operated out of a single, hallowed outlet in Adyar. Today, many streets in Chennai have franchise outlets of GSS.

Image courtesy: Grand Sweets/ www.grandsweets.com

The GSS brand is also on Amazon now, which means that the Grand Sweets ‘hand’ murukku (kai murukku) can be ordered from anywhere in the US. Home is, after all, where the murukku is.

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