The quintessential sweet for festivals, social gatherings and religious ceremonies across India is the hugely popular laddu made with a variety of local ingredients and desi ghee. The most iconic laddu that has made its way to Russia, USA, UK, Asia and Europe is the sinfully rich Thaggu Ke Laddu from Kanpur.
Thaggu Ke Laddu literally translates to laddu made by a cheat and its tag line ‘Aisa Koi Saga Nahi, Jisko Hamne Thaga Nahi‘ that translates to ‘There is no relative or friend whom we have not cheated’ speaks volumes of the creativity and sense of humour of the founder.
Ram Avatar Pandey ran away at the age of 13 from a village in Bhitargaon and came to Kanpur to learn the secrets of running a business. He improvised on his wife’s laddu recipe and began to sell laddus on a thali. His laddus were widely appreciated by the locals and this sowed the beginnings of a successful business.
At the peak of the Freedom struggle, Ram Avatar Pandey, a staunch follower of Mr. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi attended his public meeting where a clarion call to Indians to avoid the usage and intake of sugar put him in a dilemma. Sugar was referred to as white poison with the potential to destroy one’s health.
Ram Avatar Pandey used large amounts of sugar in his laddu, peda and kulfi preparation and decided to educate his customers on the evils of consuming too much refined sugar by naming his shop Thaggu Ke Laddu. He also started Badnaam Kulfi that literally translates to disreputable kulfi to echo the same sentiment.
Sixty years have passed since the business has started and it has managed to maintain its pristine reputation of offering delectable laddus that are really bad for your health! The laddus are still prepared in the traditional method using the original recipe and excellent local ingredients. Two types of laddus are sold here namely Kaju yukt laddu (made from suji, khoya, gond (gum), sugar, cashew nuts and cardamom) and Special laddu (made from suji, khoya, gond (gum), sugar, pistachios, almonds and cardamom).
A little desi ghee is poured in a large kadai to which gond is added and stirred till it becomes nice and crispy. This is taken off the flame and allowed to cool after which it is crushed using a rolling pin. Next, the nuts are roasted in desi ghee and kept aside.
In the same kadai, suji is first lightly fried and then a little ghee and an equal measure of sugar and a pinch of cardamom powder are added. Khoya is added to this mix and continuously stirred till it starts binding. The powdered gond and roasted nuts are added. The mixture is transferred into large trays.
A dollop of ghee is applied in the hands and small-sized balls are made when the mix is still warm. The laddus are allowed to set for a few minutes.
This famous sweet of Kanpur is loved by locals and visitors from across India.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian