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The Golden Goodness of Banana Chips Served the Nagercoil Way

The best snack ever!

The best snack ever!

There’s an easy way to test if one is from Nagercoil (or thereabouts). Just offer him or her chips. Yes, good old banana chips bought from any random place out of town. Chances, are, the Nagercoilite will say, “No thank you,” or just take a couple of them for the sake of courtesy and munch on them half-heartedly.

On the other hand, offer him or her a handful of chips from a certain ‘Ramalaskhmi Sweets’ in Nagercoil and watch the fireworks. The eyes light up immediately and a look of understanding passes between the ‘offerer’ and the offered, a look whose message can only be decoded by another sharing the same hometown (to put it broadly, the same district).

There’s something about those chips that spoils us for life. We simply cannot relish chips from anywhere else after that steady dosage we all grew up on. I know that true blue Mallus swear by the fresh banana chips fried in coconut oil, a remarkable ambassador of the delightful cuisine offered by God’s Own Country. But despite all the common aspects – especially on the culinary front – that we share with our neighbours, when it comes to chips we beg to differ.

Just another nondescript shop. But the stuff they sell is to die for.

Just another nondescript shop. But the stuff they sell is to die for.

Ramalakshmi Sweet Stall sells other snacks too. Everything fresh and delicious. But it is the chips that they are known for. Then comes their Mixture. But let’s focus on the chips for now.

So what’s so special about the chips from Ramalakshmi? Honestly, I do not know. But they do have a slightly different appearance, thicker with the surface puffed up and bubbled, while the regular Kerala style chips are usually flat and thinner. When I scarf them down, I am too busy enjoying the symphony of flavors on my tongue to diagnose it too closely. Maybe it’s that slightly spiced flavor or that tantalizingly elusive hint of garlic on the tongue. Now you taste it, now you don’t. You get a whiff of it and try to trace it down to its origin, but it disappears before you can get a firm grip on it. By then, the taste overpowers you and you simply choose to close the investigation and lose yourself in the crisp delight breaking up in your mouth.

In all its golden goodness

In all its golden goodness

Maybe the secret lies in the fresh oil used to fry the chips or in the goodness of the locally grown plantains. Maybe its the mix of spices used to spiff things up. Or maybe it is just an acquired taste. Maybe we, especially the ones who have flown away to far off lands taste with our hearts rather than our tongues, making us pledge unswerving loyalty to these chips; but I do know people who have crossed over to these chips even after being brought up on the pure coconut oil fried ‘authentic’ varieties. I know Nagercoilites who adamantly refuse to eat banana chips from anywhere else. Most homes mandatorily have a continuously refilled stock of these chips. There are those who have them regularly couriered to wherever they live and people like me who dedicate a whole bag just for those chips after a trip home.

Chips weighed and packed under the watchful eyes of the gods and the founder.

Chips weighed and packed under the watchful eyes of the gods and the founder.

These chips are not just a snack. They can practically be eaten at any time. Unannounced guests dropping in? Bring out a plate of chips. Puttu and pazham looking unappetizing? Crush in some chips into the puttu to quickly perk things up. No fish curry for lunch? Boring dinner? All it takes is a handful of chips to brighten up that plate and turn your meal into a delectable feast. 11 O’ clock hunger pangs? Break out the chips. Perfect to munch on during trips and during snack breaks. These chips don’t just go with your 4 O’ clock chai. They are the anytime, anywhere kind.

And when I think of those chips, my fondest memory takes me back to our dining table back home – my morning cup of tea lovingly made by my sister-in-law, shared with a bowlful of chips and a side of succulent gossip.

They taste just as good in a cup too:)

They taste just as good in a cup too:)

I can already hear the crunch!

Pictures Courtesy: D Ramesh and Jayashri Ravindran.

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42 responses »

  1. Are there any other famous brands for banana chips in South India? This seems like a non branded shop.

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  2. K C Balasarangan

    Chechi! Huge fan of your articles. I don’t think anyone else has put the thoughts of a Kanyakumari-ite in words, better than you. Nor has anyone got a better perspective of our land, including the biggies in the literary diaspora. Special mentions to “The Dilemma of a Kanyakumari Mallu” and “Ozhimuri Effect” articles. Extremely glad, and proud. Keep the literary essence flowing from the roots of Travancore. Much love and respect from a fellow Kanyakumari-naadan. 🙂

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  3. Can i get them couriered? Please let me know. Awesome blog anyways 🙂

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  4. can anyone provide me the contact number of this shop….

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  5. Also there is another sweet shop in nagercoi shop name is “Palani Sweets”.kottar.kanyakumari main road there chips and halwa are fresh so much crispy and delicious its a nice sweets shop in nagercoil i really love it

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  6. Their halwa is also fresh and better than tirunelveli halwa. Tirunelveli folks may not agree ! 😛

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  7. Nothing beats the Nagercoilian chips! I just love your posts and recently came to know that my mom and you both went to the same college, around the same time too!

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  8. What You Say Is True… Am From Nellai Town, Living Now @ Madurai
    My Dad Studied @Nagercoil So He Knows The Taste Of Ramalakshmi Sweet’s Chips. So We Buy Chips Whenever We Go To Kerala To Visit My Cousin. Am Damn Sure Other Plaintain Chips Can Beat Their Tastes….

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  9. Nice article on my favvvorite snack. My brother’s friend from nagercoil brings us loads of chips whenever he visits us.. I dono where he gets it but tastes so so good. 🙂

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  10. Hi,
    Could you pls let me know about the location of Ramalakshmi Sweet Stall? I regularly buy chips (taste just as what you described) from Murugavilas at Marthandam – a cute little shop just opposite the CSI church, along the main road.

    Sreejith

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  11. shaji, when we meet again in february 2014 god willing, do bring me a packet ok..

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  12. Awesome Remi..!

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  13. reena dhinesh

    Went to Nagercoil and then came back to Chennai in a minute….

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  14. But the chips always attracts you NRIs more than the locals like us who pass the shop every day. Nothing to beat it say my sons and brother and our check in bags are always filled up with these freshly packed – courtesy ‘Pepsi’ Selvam. We always wonder why he is called Pepsi Selvam .He has to be called ‘ Chips’ Selvam.

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    • Yes, Rajam chechi. since it is within your reach you all don’t realize its speciality. we who have flown away are the ones who crave for it. i guess it is because we do the tasting more with our hearts rather than our tongues. biting into those chips, we taste our childhoods, our happy places and a delicious dose of nostalgia!

      and he’s called ‘Pepsi’ Selvam? that’s funny. We really need to rename him.

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  15. So true and nicely written 🙂
    My bag of chips

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  16. Nirmala. P.Thangvaelu

    nothing to beat Ramalakshmi Sweet Stall

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  17. Can I get them couriered? Yummyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

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  18. Vino Kingston

    Good one Remitha! I am bringing a bag of chips back in my next trip 🙂

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  19. ஏலே மக்கா நம்ம ஊர பத்தி அக்கா எதோ இங்கிலி பீசுல எழுதிருக்கு லே

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