Munch on crunch on, take your muncheon

Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon

Where else can you satisfy the pleas of your palate better than Hyderabad? Not just an eyeful of delight, the nawabi city gives a mouthful of pleasure too. While its majestic monuments take the breath away, its cuisine sets the taste buds tingling.

The erstwhile rulers are known for fabulous jewels and splendid palaces. But not many know that they had a weakness for a rich diet as well. Sample this: Biryani Dulhan, Yeqni Palou Shirazi, Khorma Murgh, Kabab Gul Khatai. A shahi spread any which way. That was the royal repast. But for lesser mortals, there is plenty to choose from.

One is on a voyage of flavor in Hyderabad. A flavor that whets the appetite and leaves one asking for more. A feast for eyes and palate. That's what one experiences here. The area around Charminar which has an ambiance all its own is also the place that provides the delectable fare. Sample sheek kabab, sink your teeth into tandoori chicken, or relish the dum-ka-murgh. Of course, biryani remains the all-time favorite and epicureans' delight.

Hyderabad cuisine is a delicious blend of Mughlai, Turkish and Arab food. The recipes are usually spicy and aromatic. But what distinguishes it is the use of ingredients in the right proportions and the judicious use of spices. The slow cooking method, the hallmark of Dum Pukht form incorporated in the Awadhi cuisine, is another characteristic feature. Of course, cooking to the right degree makes all the difference. So rich and wide is the fare here that one is spoiled for choice.

Some of the classic dishes are Kachche Gosht ki Biryani, Khichdi-Kheema, Mirchi-ka-Salan (chilly curry), Dalcha (mutton and lentil delicacy), Paaya (bone soup), Nehari, a sheep trotter soup eaten with hot unleavened bread called Kulcha, Pathar-ka-Gosht (mutton seared on stone slab), Baghare Baigan. The popular deserts consist of Qubani-ka-Meetha (apricot pudding), Double-ka- Meetha, and Sheer-Khorma (vermicelli pudding with milk and dates).

Over the din and buzz of shoppers, the fragrance of mouth-watering cuisine hangs heavy in the old city. And as the evening draws near it becomes simply overpowering. Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt. But one never seems to have enough of the Hyderabadi delicacy. Till the 1990s it was the Madina Hotel where true-blue Hyderabadis headed for the rich culinary experience. The hotel inaugurated by the 7th Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, was known for its authentic Hyderabadi biryani. Now the famous landmark is shut down and many other restaurants have come up to satiate the foodies.

Come Ramzan and the city is on a roll. The hottest dish during this Muslim month of fasting is Haleem. And of late it has become the success mantra. Not just big hotels even roadside kiosks rake in the moolah. It is essentially a mix of finely pounded wheat and mutton gravy. The lip-smacking taste comes when the 'teen gaf hamwazan' principle is followed. It means having gehun (wheat), gosht (meat), and ghee in equal proportion.

While politics divides, biryani unites. Whatever the season, it is the dish that rules the roost-rather the palate. And it sure packs a punch. For some, it is the dish to die for. As many as 15 different types of biryanis were popular during the Nizam period. The 'Khwan Nemat-e-Asafia' includes Biryani Rumi, Biryani Mahboobi, Biryani Nargis, Biryani Hazar Afreen. As the name suggests, the 'Dulhan Biryani' is highly decorated with fried banana in the covering of 'warq' (silver foil). Matbaqe Asafia, a book about the royal kitchenette of the sixth Nizam, Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, lists out a variety of pulavs, khichdi, do-pyazas, khormas, kababs, and naans. Also, a whole lot of chutneys (condiments) and achaars are mentioned.

Cuisine that is never clichéd. Most of these dishes are still being made in Hyderabad. If your mouth is doing the tango, you are not to blame. The best way to resist temptation is to give in to it. Why not try out?


J.S. Ifthekhar

J.S. Ifthekhar is a senior journalist with nearly four decades of experience. Ifthekhar cut his teeth in journalism at the Indian Express before he moved to The Hindu. He was also associated with the Siasat Daily, Telangana Today, Deccan Chronicle, Onlooker magazine, Newstrack, Detective Digest and a few news agencies. He has written on different subjects and aspects of Hyderabadi life. However, his passion remains literature in general and Urdu poetry in particular. He is equally concerned with culture, heritage, civic affairs and problems confronting the man in the street. As a journalist he has taken up cudgels on behalf of the underprivileged and many of his stories in The Hindu saw the government promptly taking corrective measures. Ifthekhar has authored two books - Hyderabad - The Nawabi City on The Move and Haj - The Spirit Behind it. He has also translated two books from Urdu to English. His third book - Urdu Poets and Writers , Gems of Deccan  - is just released. Loves to write and writes to live. Can't imagine doing anything else.

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