Ram Asrey

Gol Darwaza

In 1805, when the Chhattar Manzil was newly built and the Qaiserbagh palaces were not even thought of, Ram Asrey set up a sweet shop. He began with peda and flavoured sugar candy. Ram Asrey had the technical prowess to crystallize aromatic khas, cardamom and saffron with cane sugar. He then invented the malai gilouri or malai paan, that six generations after him have made famous throughout the world. It is said that Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was prescribed the malai paan by to help him overcome his addiction to paan. The royal physician opined that the Nawab would forget the betel leaf if the malai paan was served to him! This confection is prepared from a thick layer of cream that forms on milk cooked for a long time over a low flame. A pad of cream is wrapped around a stuffing composed of milk solids, nuts and their flavoured candied sugar. Babloo Tripathi who is in charge of the establishment tells us: “Ram Asrey Halwai is the oldest sweet shop in Lucknow that has continued in operation for six generations. We have many branches, but what you get here cannot be matched by others. Nawabs, kings, and after independence, prime ministers have enjoyed sweets that we make. Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee agreed on only one issue—Ram Asrey’s malai paan is one of the best sweets in the country! Till the 1950s and ‘60s, ours was the only establishment where the malai paan could be had. In those times, blotting paper was used to soak up excess ink from written documents. Some halwai tried to make up a malaai paan with blotting paper, but obviously the people of Lucknow gave him a bad time! Nowadays, many sell malai paan, but there is nobody quite like us. We also sell red- and black-carrot halwa and sohan halwa in the winters. Anyone who has our halwa never settles for halwa from anywhere else. We sell many other kinds of sweets, savouries, nuts and dry fruits, about which I will just say ‘taste and see for yourself!’” The most endearing feature of this establishment that we noticed was that if a small child wants something worth merely five rupees, and a customer who has ordered stuff worth 500 is waiting, it is the child who is given priority.