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Karnataka's sweetmeat to go global

Ask about Karnataka's most popular mithai and Mysorepak is the obvious answer. However, there is another sweetmeat that many swear by, the kunda, from Belgaum in north Karnataka. The sweetmeat makers, Purohits, have been boiling and reducing hundreds of thousands of litres of milk for the last 60 years, giving those with a love for sweet tooth in northern Karnataka and Goa, the coarse brown sweetmeat called kunda.

Very regional, but cult-like in its popularity, the kunda is now being taken to the rest of the country by the 'Camp Purohits', as they are called. And Goa is the first pit stop.

"This is one of Karnataka's most popular sweets after the Mysorepak. It is distinct because you rarely find kunda outside of northern Karnataka. We want to take this mithai to the rest of India," KS Purohit, the patriarch behind the Camp Purohit brand, told IANS.

"We started 60 years ago in Belgaum, which is also called 'Kunda nagri' (city of kunda). We were not the inventors, but one of the first to manufacture on a big scale and sell it. Today, we manufacture 600kg of kunda every day, i.e. 18 tonnes a month, which is sold across eight stores," Purohit said. The Goa mithai store was launched on June 9.

While the recipe for kunda is simple enough, the origin of this mithai is rooted in rustic charm.

"Gangaram Mithaiwala, whose shop still runs at Shahpur in Belgaum, used to have a mithai maker named Jakku. One day, Jakku left the milk boiling and forgot about it. He returned only when the milk had nearly dried up and was reduced to a brown paste. He added some sugar to it, and it tasted lovely. That is how this mithai was born," says the 70-year-old KS Purohit.

And why did he name it kunda? "That was his daughter's name," Purohit said.

Purohit's son Raj, an actor in Hindi and Kannada films, says that the Camp Purohit brand was now slowly beginning to switch from traditional packaging to vacuum and tin packaging, with an eye on exporting the product.

"We have begun to export kunda to Saudi Arabia and Mauritius. Already, we are sending some stock to Singapore and Malaysia as and when the demand arises," Raj said.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Vishnu Wagh, a kunda lover himself, said that Goans who have been seduced by the mithai are known to make weekend trips to Belgaum (it is nearly 115km from Goa) on a regular basis only to buy fresh kunda.

"It's a simple mithai and unique to this region, which is the USP," Wagh said.