Budaun’s famous pairray

March 28, 2021

Mumman Khan’s family introduced this sweetmeat to Budaun, a district of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in northern India, in 1860

Mumman Khan’s family business is booming. Their 160-year old dessert, Budaun’s famous pairray, has a unique taste and quality. They are currently selling their niche product in Asif Colony, Karachi. Only one shop in the city offers Budaun’s pairray. The decades-old family business is now managed by the fifth generation. Budaun, the Indian city where the dessert originated, is about 1,256 kilometres away from Karachi. Its taste and aroma, Khan claims, has remained the same over the years.

Mumman Khan’s family introduced this sweetmeat to Budaun, a district of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in northern India, in 1860. Mumman Khan was in the military. After the 1857 War of Independence, he retired and started the business in Budaun city to provide for his family.

Budaun has immense religious significance for both Hindus and Muslims. Many notable people belong to this city, including Nizamuddin Auliya, the sufi; Sultan Shamsuddin Altumash, Razia Sultana, Maulana Abdul Hamid Budayuni, Ada Jafari, Shakeel Budayuni, Dilawar Figar, Fani Budayuni and Ismat Chughtai.

“After the death of my great grandfather Mumman Khan, my grandfather Hamid Khan took over the business. He maintained the quality and taste,” says Mehmood Alam, the current owner of the business in Karachi. Hamid Hussain Khan opened outlets next to the shrines of sufi adepts, dargahs and temples. On the occasions of an annual urs or mela, he would set up temporary stalls. “Later, he introduced his traditional sweets to the rest of India,” Alam adds.

“My father, Zahid Hussain Khan, who was born on September 15, 1934, in India, migrated to Pakistan after partition. After settling in Karachi, my grandmother Hamidun Nisa and my father started making Budaun’s pairray from home. In 1950, they opened the shop in Karachi’s Asif Colony area and resumed our family business,” says Mehmood Alam.

In the beginning, his father supplied the traditional pairray to various Irani and Malbari hotels and shops in Karachi. Mehmood Alam says that people belonging to Budaun city and the Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh, who now live in Karachi, often visit with their children and grandchildren to purchase the delicacy.

“After settling in Karachi, my grandmother Hamidun Nisa and my father started making Budaun’s pairray from home,” says Mehmood Alam.

“I have been running this sweet shop, with my younger brother Asif Khan, for the past 35 years,” Mehmood Alam says. They had started another branch in Al-Karam Square, Liaquatabad, in 1983. “We ran that shop for over 35 years, despite violence and strikes in Karachi, but we were compelled to close it in 2020 during the (pandemic) lockdown,” he adds.

Mehmood Alam is open about the recipe for this dessert. The pairray are prepared with khoya (condensed milk) and sugar. After roasting the khoya and adding the sugar, the mixture is cooked on a low flame for four to five hours. When the mixture turns brown, they are done. “We just add a thin layer of powdered sugar on top,” Alam says.

He says the pairray remain fresh for 15 days even without refrigeration. After that, they will start drying out but not deteriorate nutritionally. The technique, handed down by their elders, has not changed. “Some of our customers started eating these pairray in their childhood. Now, when they come here with their grandchildren, they say that the taste is exactly the same,” he said.

Zahid Ali Shah, a salesman who has been working at Mumman Sweet Mart for six years, says, “my duty is to deliver the sweets to various shops and to carry out home deliveries.” The owner pays Zahid Rs 20,000 per month for 12 hours of work a day. Zahid says that he is proud to deliver this decades-old traditional sweet all over Karachi.

“I have not found taste and quality like that of Budaun’s pairray anywhere in Karachi,” says Muhammad Shamim, a resident of New Karachi, who came to Asif Colony with his two children to purchase Mumman’s pairray. “I was introduced to the dessert by my father, who used to bring me here,” he says. He recalls that 44 years ago the sweet was sold for Rs 12 per kilogramme. Today, he says, I purchased one kilogramme of pairray for Rs 720. “The good thing is that they have maintained the quality and the taste,” Shamim says. “I usually purchase Budaun’s pairray for my family on special occasions.”

“The shop is not too big, but the sweets they are selling are very tasty and not too costly,” says Shahid, another customer.

Hamza Khan, the 24-year-old son of Mehmood Alam, who deals with the online orders that Mumman Sweet Mart receives, says that they mostly get online orders from abroad and other provinces of Pakistan. Orders come in from the United States, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Japan and the United Kingdom. The shipping is through commercial courier services.

“We have several varieties of pairray. Some are shaped like a heart or a flat circle, others have dry fruit chunks. The prices vary accordingly,” says Hamza. Many people, he says, order this dessert around Eid holidays. During the holy month of Ramazan or when they arrange Quran Khawanis, these pairray are distributed among guests.

“We charge Rs 200 to deliver online orders in Karachi. For orders from other provinces and abroad, the delivery charges are different,” he says. They have been social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Hamza says that one can find Budaun’s pairray in Mardan, but they do not come from his family’s business. People from Mardan, who now make this dessert, had been to Budaun after partition and learned the art from some relatives of Mumman Khan, he says. “The taste is almost the same, but we are the original founders of the Mumman pairra,” Hamza claims with pride.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Karachi. He can be reached on Twitter @Zafar_Khan5

Budaun’s famous pairray