Diwali is all about indulging your sweet tooth, but it should be about quality, not quantity. Sid Mathur launched Khoya Mithai, a luxury mithai brand, in 2016—at a time when Indian sweets were more about mass than class—and spawned an entire industry of high-end Indian sweets. Cut to Diwali 2021 and they’re busier than ever.
For a ‘mithaiwala’, even a posh one, it’s a bit unprecedented to spend the first half of your career as a hotshot investment banker in London and the next half weighing the finer points of bal mithai caramelisation. But when you are passionate about something, you have to do what you have to do. In Sid Mathur’s case, that something is food.
The global financial crisis of 2008 gave Mathur pause. A couple of years later he returned to India and joined hands with childhood friend Riyaaz Amlani at Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality Pvt Ltd. As Director and Head of Food at Impresario, he was able to pursue his passion to the fullest, with such trailblazing ventures as Smoke House and Social. In 2011, he also founded Secret Ingredient, a food and hospitality consultancy which develops restaurant concepts for clients on a turnkey basis. That’s all the joy of creating a food concept, without any of the drudgery of running it on a day-to-day basis.
In 2016, Mathur turned his attention to mithai, or rather the lack of any decent mithai in the market. At that point, there was no gourmet mithai concept. All the Indian sweets were targeted at the mass market and adulteration and use of chemical colours was rife. Khoya Mithai was born out of nostalgia for a utopian past when sweets were not so sugary, used all-natural ingredients and were made with artisanal pride.
Extensive research has gone into the creation of Khoya Mithai. According to Mathur, Khoya is strictly traditional in its approach to mithai (you won’t find any matcha burfis on the menu here). They’ve only tweaked the process slightly to add that bit of finesse to each sweet. A sweet goes on sale at Khoya Mithai only after extensive trials and recipe development. The focus is on good quality ingredients and, of course, the looks-good-enough-to-eat packaging. Even the sweet-sellers of Old Delhi couldn’t help being impressed when they were offered a taste.
So what’s hot this Diwali? Ask Mathur and he’ll tell you that motichoor laddu is still the go-to for most North Indians around Diwali. This year, they have also launched bal mithai from Kumaon which evokes lovely memories of childhood and Nainital for Mathur.
They also have some savoury items. The bestselling one is a kachori that they launched almost by chance, after discovering their own halwai could make excellent ones.
Mathur’s is an interesting tale and, best of all, it has a sweet ending.