Ragi, coconut, jaggery. These are the mainstays of Vijay Sweets, an 11-month-old business in Coimbatore that has given much-loved traditional sweets and savouries a vegan spin. Founded by Aravind B in early 2018, the shop delivers a range of treats to 1,900 pincodes around the country. But their reputation rests on their soft, almost crumbly Mysore pak.
“Mysore pak is basically made with ghee,” explains Aravind during a short visit to Chennai, “But we have removed the ghee and replaced it with coconut milk. So it has the same texture and taste of a ghee Mysore pak, but has no animal products, and also much fewer calories.”
One tentative bite of this dessert reveals the familiar, rich sweetness that most of us have grown up loving: the vegan recipe has nothing in it to alienate old-school aficionados. And it shows.
“We sold close to four tonnes of Mysore pak alone, this Diwali,” boasts Aravind. In addition, there are four varieties of halwa and 45 varieties of namkeens like murukku and sev, all made in Vijay Sweets’ “completely vegan kitchen”.
“I’ve been a vegan for six years now, so I wouldn’t do anything that is non-vegan,” he says. It just made logical sense to him.
“I was an animal lover from the beginning, and used to rescue animals. I have been a volunteer for Humane Animal Society since 2011; I help get these creatures adopted. So eating one animal and saving another didn’t make sense to me.”
Thus began his culinary experiments with the traditional foods he couldn’t bear to part with. Coconut milk is just one of the switches he has made in these recipes.
“There are a number of processes we had to change,” he says, “For example, halwa is usually made with maida or refined flour. Though vegan, it isn’t a very healthy ingredient. We make a Tirunelveli halwa with ragi milk and wheat milk instead of maida.”
The texture, he insists, is 95% similar. “Ragi milk is ragi soaked in water overnight and then ground, so it has a floury texture of its own,” he explains, “I don’t need to add any other flour to it.”
His ultimate aim, he says, is to make vegan food look tasty and affordable. A price hike is out of the question, and even unnecessary. “Our vegan Mysore pak costs ₹100 less than the regular Mysore pak.” The input costs, he clarifies, are lower when you go vegan. Probably because his ingredients are inherently local and commonly used in the region. “When you use coconut milk appropriately, adding it in at the right temperature, you don’t need a lot of it. So the new ingredients are actually lowering my costs.”
“We used to sell our products in plastic containers, but now pack it in cardboard. From plastic wraps, we have switched to cloth wraps,” he says, adding that this is the only part of the business where his costs have seen an upswing. “But it makes us feel less guilty, so we don’t mind letting go of ₹2 or ₹3 from our profits.”
Vijay Sweets’ products can be ordered from www.vijaysweets.com. Their outlet is located at 9/11 A, Cheran Nagar, Selvapuram, North Coimbatore. For details, call 9865534555.