Maharaja Mummadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar, the 19th-century king of South India’s Mysore Kingdom, was bored. He had a serious sweet tooth, but he’d grown tired of the creations of the royal kitchen. He told his cook, Kakasura Madappa, to create something new. In response to the directive, Madappa created a fudge-like concoction called Mysore pak. More than a century later, Madappa’s descendants continue to sell Mysore pak from their Mysore-based shop, Guru Sweet Mart.
At first, Mysore pak—made from a deceptively simple combination of sugar syrup, chickpea flour, and ghee—may not seem like a royal creation. Consider Guru Sweet Mart’s modest layout: While the storefront display is stacked high with multicolored milk-based sweets, the Mysore pak is often kept in crates on the floor. But that’s not because the sweet is unwanted. It’s because the store’s proprietors have maintained such an elevated level of Mysore pak-making, their creation simply can’t stay on the shelves. While small stores across South India sell mediocre Mysore pak that can be either too wet or unpleasantly chalky, Guru Sweet Mart’s version is the antidote to uninspiring imitators: soft, with a toasty ghee smell and a lusciously melty mouthfeel. It is also an instant sugar rush you will feel in your veins.
The three brothers who currently run the shop, Kumar, Natraj and Shivananda, along with their cousin, Guru Prasad, keep the small storefront fragrant with fresh Mysore pak brought from their home kitchen several times a day. While they fiercely protect the recipe for their sweet, they have revealed that they clarify their own butter and grind the chickpea flour in their kitchen. At the base of it all is a simple syrup, made of sugar and water, which, in the Kannada language, is called pak. It’s still debated whether Kakasura Madappa or the king himself gave the dish its signature name, combining the name of the sugar syrup with the kingdom. What is certain, however, is that Madappa’s family continues to honor its legacy by churning out a gooey, toasty creation fit for a king.