Enter the narrow lanes of Mahim and you might never know that Mumbai’s oldest sweet shop is located here. The vintage architecture of Joshi Budhakaka Mahim Halwawala may not be one that catches the eye at once but for the patrons, it is their go-to place for all kinds of sweets, especially the Mahim halwa.

India is known for its culture of mithaiwalas, and this particular shop has been around since 1783, when a humble man, named Maoji Joshi, laid its foundation. Starting off as a street hawker and cook, Maoji had a clear vision of leaving behind a well-established set up for his future generations. And it looks like he was quite successful in doing that. He managed to set up a huge structure, which has now been transformed into two shops in Mahim, facing each other.

Interestingly, the entire Joshi family resides on the top floors of these two buildings in several apartments while the sweet shop continues to serve its patrons. The structure is 70 years old but the vision is much older and today, you’ll find its branches operating beyond Mahim, in areas like Dadar too. In fact, since the shop is known for Mahim halva, Chef Varun Inamdar writes in a social post, "Pioneer in Ice Halva for more than 200 years. Well, legend has it that Mr. Joshi an old vendor of the famous sweet, was mobbed by the kids then who mischeviously called him 'budha kaka', meaning Old Uncle, which today has become their second name, literally". 

Source: Varun Inamdar/Facebook

They have automated many of their production processes, but what remains constant is their secret recipe. Guarded by the heirs of the family and passed down generations, there is absolutely no one else who has been given access to their kitchen, which is located inside the same building, apart from the Joshi family. Ramchandra Joshi is currently heading the business and running the original shop, along with his two brothers, Sunil and Ghanshyam Joshi.

In an interview with Slurrp, Ramchandra states that the reason behind the uniqueness and relevance of the mithais prepared at their sweet shop is the quality of ingredients that go into it. The aftertaste is proof of the purity of all the components that have been used to make the sweets. While this is all true, Ramchandra also highlights the stark reality, wherein the newer generations aren't ready to take over the business. He says, 'To sit here and run the business and tying a packet of 100-200 rupees...they may not". Located off the Bandra-Mahim causeway, the sweet shop is also in close proximity with the coast and that’s how the Mahim halwa was also born.

Did you know that the Mahim halwa wasn’t really an Indian invention? Well, it is said that the founder’s son, Giridhar Joshi, was visited by a Turkish traveller who made him taste lakum, a kind of Turkish candy. Following this, Giridhar got so obsessed with the flavour that he made several attempts for 20 years to recreate it until one day when his experiment gave way to a thin sheet of milk sweet that had gotten separated. Since halva was the name of a popular fish in the area and a fisherwoman remarked that the sweet tasted better than halva, the mithai came to be known as Mahim Halwa.

Source: Tanmoy Savardekar/Facebook

Interestingly, the name of the shop is an amalgamation of different events like Joshi was the family name, while Buddhaka referred to Giridhar’s nickname called out by local kids due to his grey hair. Mahim was the original place where the shop was established and halwawala is significant, because of the iconic sweet that originated here. From laddoos, sev boondi, and mohanthal to their signature Mahim Halwa, Mumbai’s oldest sweet shop might not be at the top of their business, but the aroma of their rich and pure sweet meats continues to lure passers-by in Mahim.