Shibu Sudevan stirring halwa | Photo credits: Sreejit R. Youth
Is there a signature halwa in Thiruvananthapuram? Yes it has. It was a social media post that led me to Kadakkavoor, about an hour’s drive from the city, where a family has been making and selling homemade halwa for over four decades.
At Chekkalavilakom junction, behind the now-shuttered Kadakkavoor market, is Sheeja Niwas, where Shibu Sudevan is carrying forward the legacy of the halwa business started by his maternal grandfather, Gopalan Natarajan.
Two men taking turns stirring pudding with a large ladle uruli (Huge brass pot) When we reach Halwa Veedu, as Shibu calls it now. “This is the first batch of the day. usually, we start at 5 in the morning and it takes at least five hours to get the halwa to the right consistency. Today we are running late. Once we get it out, we will start preparing for the second batch,” says Shibu.
Broken wheat based halwa with jaggery and sugar | Photo credits: Sreejit R. Youth
Gopalan, who ran a hotel and had a catering business, prepared this halwa for functions including weddings. When he passed away, his wife Premalatha Natarajan and their daughter Sheeja Sudevan took over. “It was difficult to continue with the catering business and hence we decided to focus on halwa. That was in 1995,” says Premlata. In 2013, his younger son Shazaan took over. A few months back, he went ahead to start a separate halwa outlet. That’s when the elder Shibu, who used to work in Dubai, came back to run the business.
“I have been watching my grandfather work since I was 12 and I just couldn’t let it go. So I decided to return home and keep the business going,” says Shibu, 46.
(From left), Shibu Sudevan, his mother, Premalatha Natarajan, and his sister, Sheeja Sudevan | Photo credits: Sreejit R. Youth
There are two types of halwa – dark chocolate colored halwa with jaggery and light brown colored halwa with white sugar. Rest of the ingredients are the same – broken wheat, rice flour, cashew nuts, ghee, oil and cardamom. “There is no refined flour, which is usually used to make halwa,” he explains.
In the evening the broken wheat is soaked for two hours. Then it is grinded well and filtered to obtain milk, which is kept aside for six hours. “It is then mixed with rice flour and sugar or jaggery syrup and cooked uruli, We keep stirring it non-stop to prevent it from sticking to the bottom uruli, Coconut oil, ghee and nuts are added at various stages of preparation. Cardamom is added just before it is taken off the stove,” explains Shibu.
Shibu Sudevan | Photo credits: Sreejit R. Youth
Premalatha recalls that her father learned this preparation from Thirunelveli, famous for halwa.
Fifty to 100 kg of halwa is prepared daily. “Its shelf life is not as long as that made from refined flour. It will stay fresh without refrigeration for up to three days. However, it gets tougher as the days go by,” says Shibu.
During the festive season, especially Onam, at least 1,000 kg of halwa is made and the men work in multiple shifts to meet the demand.
Regular orders come from those traveling to West Asia, or from families around Kadakkavoor and the nearby Anchuthengu village. “Wedding orders have come down over the years as caterers prefer to serve ice cream or cake or other sweets with halwa,” says Shibu.
While jaggery-based halwa costs Rs 180 per kg, sugar-based halwa costs Rs 170 per kg. It will be distributed all over Kerala. Contact: 7025000425, 7306653872