SNR Banana Chips
SNR, King of Banana Chips
Every one knows that Kerala is called God’s own country(to lure tourists) and everybody knows that she was carved out of the sea by a battle axe, wielded and flung by Parashurama, also known as a fiery ‘avatar’ of Maha Vishnu. Everyone also knows that Kerala is the land of coconuts, the name derived from Kera, the coconut. Also Kerala is famous for its hot weather, torrential downpours and placid backwaters. What many people do not know is that in the Malabar region is a small gap between the western ghats called Pallakad and Alathur is one of the taluks of Pallakad.
Alathur, a tiny off shoot town has the NH 47 National Highway passing through its entire length so it is well connected. It is also the home town of KP Keshava Menon the first editor of Mathrubhumi daily and Chembai Vaidynathan Bhagavater, famed Carnatic singer.
Also famous is its Banana chips and specially the SNR Banana Chips which has found its way into the Wikepedia too.The shop is a small one and looking at it you wouldn’t believe the amount of business it churns up in a day. Everyone in the Malabar district swears by SNR. Hygienically prepared, crispy and tasty, delicious and long lasting .It can give the other wafers a run for their money, if properly marketed.
Talking to the owners who are both Tozhilali and Modalali, (owner and worker)I came to know that they were satisfied and not interested in branching out further. The heat of Kerala merged into the heat rising from the frying chips as I stood outside the shop.It also sold Jackfruit fries and Kappa (tapioca) fries and an assortment of sweets.
I found myself looking at a stocky, typical mallu looking man with the moustache so common to the Southies. His lungi was hiked up and as he fried he wasn’t aware of
anything else. I had not informed them of my visit but they were quite amiable and ready to be interviewed.
The full form of SNR which had always baffled me was a tame Sabul Noor Muhammed Rawther. He was their Grandfather and the business was exactly the age of India’s independence - 60 long years! Now it was a family business run by four brothers Abdul Jabbar, Abdul Karim, Muhammed Rawther and Muhammed Mustafa.The ladies of the house also helped.
A booming vegetable business had somehow become ‘kai’ business. Kai meaning the unripe banana handpicked by their Grandmom from the markets of Trisur, Kollengode or Pallakkad, sliced just so, washed and soaked in turmeric water before being drained and fried in pure coconut oil fresh from the oil mills. For six months or more the chips stayed fresh and fragrant. Any other chips would give out a bad ‘chik chur’ after a month or so. The trick being not to reuse the oil but to pack them off to soap factories.
Abdul Karim told me that SNR chips had been tasted by Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Jayalalitha. The Kerala ministers like Karunakaran, (late) Vellicharan were of course regulars and eminent actors like Mammooty and Mohan lal also relished SNR. Abdul Jabbar gleefully remembered how there was a near stampede when Suresh Gopi,the actor had personally come to the shop to buy Chips.
They had no need to export as people carried them as far as the USA and South Africa and returned for more. I felt my heart tug when Abdul Karim humbly said that they were thankful to the Lord for being kind to them and they wanted the youth of today be honest in their dealings and not be swayed into easy money making schemes involving dishonesty .Hard work always pays....
Indeed,as I crunched into a SNR banana chip I fully agreed with them.