It’s the holy month of Ramadan and arguably one of the best place to explore its myriad culinary connections is Hyderabad.
It is sweltering hot at 43 degrees on a sultry May afternoon but feels much warmer but the workers at the factory of the famed Pista House in Nanal Nagar are unfazed as they are engrossed in making the famed Haleem. Rows and rows of hot stoves fuelled by wood fires are blazing hot and the stages of making the Haleem itself is fascinating to watch. The process involves cooking the meat for over three hours until it becomes very tender. Then the wheat mixture is added and pounded together till they become a homogenous mix. Then special spices including cumin, cardamom and others are added and mixed together to and cook for 45 minutes after which ghee, some milk and oil is added. After this the Haleem is packed and transported to the different Pista House outlets in the city where it is sold out in a mere four hours. Mohammed Abdul Mohsi, Managing Director, Pista House says, “during Ramadan we make about 2000 kgs of Haleem each day in both of our factories and during the weekends this goes upto 4000 kg. We use traditional equipment while cooking to maintain the flavour. The wooden hammer used to pound the meat is made newly each year. Since this is a time when people pray through the day, we want to ensure that they break their fast with good quality food.”
And while Haleem may lead the Ramadan delicacies there is more as you make your way to the old city in the by-lanes of Charminar. At Shah Ghouse that dates back to 1984, you can sample Gurda Bhaji, Khichdi Kheema, Dum ki Biryani, Boti Kebabs, Paya Nihari PayaZubaan, Chicken Nahari Special, Tandoori Chicken and Sheermal apart from Biryani and Haleem. The Akbar fast food center is known for its famed Chicken 65 while the 30 year old joint Nayab is the place to head to for Kheema Roti, Haleem, Biryani and Bheja Fry. Hotel Shadab in Ghansi Bazar serves Haleem, Bheja fry, bhajjigurda, paya, nihari and keema. However if you are vegetarian fret not, for there are several options here including vegetarian Haleem as well. Stop by at MatwaleDoodhghar that serves delicious Lassi and a special Falooda topped with malai and khoya. The Milan Juice center serves delectable Avocado Juice, Yamani Dry Fruits, Milan Junction, Blood Punch and Kiwi Juice as well as mulberry shake and mango based thick drinks. My vote however goes to the Nimrah Café & Bakery that was started in 1993 by Abood Bin Aslam. Serving crunchy Khopra Biscuits made with coconut, Shirmal (saffron-flavoured traditional flat bread) and a variety of fruit cookies that team perfectly with the Sulemani (black tea), Cutting chai (strong and small portions) and Khade Chamachki chai this place located adjacent to Charminar is a great way to start your food journey. When you are here, stroll to the Mehboob /Murgi Chowk and you will see stores lined with more food. Do try the dahi wada, another favourite at this time in one of the tiny shops opposite the Mahboob Chowk Clock Tower. Govind Dosa, also known as Govind Ki Bandi is where you can sample Butter Dosa and Rava Dosa with coconut chutney that ensures you are in culinary heaven.
However if the crowds and the sensory overload of food and its aroma gets to you, try the special delicacies at Novotel Hyderabad Airport (NHA) where Executive Chef Varun Movva and team dish up a meal to remember. Incidentally the team at NHA conducts the Ramadan Food walk annually as part of its experiential city visits. The dishes served for the Ramadan menu include Paya Shorba with Shirmal Pondo, Oats Aur Dhaniya Shorba, Pathar Ka Gosht, Murgh Malai Seekh Kebeb, Beja Gurda Fry, Murgh Kalli Mirch, Tandoori Murgha Dhakni Talahuwa Jinga, Tawa Machili King Fish, Irani Samosa, Pyaz Ka Pakoda, Hara Muter Ki Shami, Tandoori Malai Hara Gobi, Palak Our Soya Ki Seekh, Kurkure Mushroom and Nawabi Paneer Tikka. The main course includes the Haleem, Paya Ki Nihari with Taftaan, Chicken Khorma, Achi Mahi Kalia, Hyderabadi Mutton Dum Biryani, Chicken Khorma, Paneer Siyamirch, Khadi Dal and Kahiri Ka Do Pyza. The dessert spread includes the very sinful Double Ka Metha, Kubanika Metha and Sheer Koorma.
Chef Varun explains, “the Hyderabadi biryani starts with raw mutton and is topped with par boiled rice and cooked it on a range. After 15- 20 minutes it is sealed and cooked and there is heat from both sides, so the meat and rice are both cooked to perfection. We use traditional spices like Khus ki jhad and Patthar Ke Phool in our potli masala to ensure the food tastes authentic.” The incredible variety of food certainly has a wonderful connection with Ramadan, so make sure you check it out – and do not count your calories.
This story first appeared in Sakal Times dated 28 May, 2019 here: