Pehlwan rewri — a cultural hallmark


Customers swarm Pehlwan Juice House in Chakwal to buy rewri.
Customers swarm Pehlwan Juice House in Chakwal to buy rewri.

CHAKWAL: In the heart of Chakwal’s Chhapar Bazaar, there is a food centre which is packed with customers all day. This food centre is the Pehlwan Juice House.

Contrary to its name, fruit juices are just one of the many items offered by Pehlwan Juice House. Their Murgh Pullao and Samosay Channay are also very popular with diners, as are their ice creams and sweets.

Over the years, the eatery has evolved into a cultural hallmark for Chakwal’s residents, and any trip to Chhapar Bazaar is incomplete without a stop at the juice house. From the district’s influential residents to low-income customers, it attracts people from all walks of life.

Though the juice house is known for many things, whether it is their savoury dishes or their juices, Pehlawan Juice House is famous for its ‘Pehlawan Rewri’.

Rewri, a crunchy sesame sweet usually eaten in colder weathers, has its origins in Assam and Maharashtra.

To make it, gur, or jaggery, is first mixed with glucose and then melted.

Desi ghee is added into the mix and is cooked on low heat for a few hours. It is then left to cool.

Sesame seeds are baked separately and are used to coat the now-cooled gur and ghee mix.

The bite size rewri is then packed and sold in markets all over the country, and even abroad, by different traders. Interestingly, all of the four ingredients used in making the delicacy come from other districts.

The crunchy, chewy sweets are usually eaten at night, after dinner.

Freshly made rewri at Pehlwan Juice House. — Photos by the writerFreshly made rewri at Pehlwan Juice House. — Photos by the writer

Saeed Aftab, Pehlawan Juice House business manager, said: “People in Chakwal eat rewri with roasted groundnuts,” and added that in the north the sweet is eaten with green tea, and also just on its own.

People often gift the sometimes gaily wrapped packets of rewri and Chakwal natives that are settled aboard, and those from other areas too, look for ways to have the sweets brought to them by visiting friends and family.

The sweet made its way to Chakwal some 64 years ago, when the late Fazal Elahi, a sweet vendor, began making rewri in 1951.

After his grandson, Zaffar Iqbal, was born in 1959, Mr Elahi named his rewri ‘Zaffar Rewri’, which quickly became a household name in the district.

The late Haji Mohammad ‘Pehlwan’ Nazeer soon caught on to the trend and began to sell his own ‘Pehlwan Rewri’ with his brother-in-law, Haji Gulsher.

More rewri brands have since emerged in the market, but Pehlwan Rewri remains the most sought-after.

“The secret to our product’s fame is the desi ghee; it has been made with desi ghee since the beginning, some four decades ago,” Mr Aftab said.

He said that Pehlwan Rewri is also exported to other countries by Karachi-based exporters.

“We don’t export it ourselves, but some other businessmen are making the most of it,” he said.

When they began, Mr Nazeer and Mr Gulsher used to make 15kg of rewri a day. Now, decades later, Pehlwan Juice House sells 1,000kgs of rewri ever day during its peak season.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2015

Courtesy DAWN