Hyderabad Cuisine

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Food trails

Rahul V Pisharody, April 3, 2023: The Indian Express

The Charminar trail begins at Badshahi Ashoorkhana, the second building constructed in the newly found Hyderabad in 1592. After a tour of the premises and a peek into Shia traditions as well as the life and times of rulers, the group heads to the nearby restaurant for a bowl of delicious Haleem and a visit to the bhatti (a brick and mud kiln) where the process of its preparation is explained. Sibghatullah notes that the Hyderabadi haleem is the only meat-based food in India to get a GI (geographical indication) tag.

The next stop is Ashoorkhana Naal-e-Mubarak Kalan, a hidden gem from the same era tucked away from the busy street en route to Charminar. Sibghatullah explains the exploits of Mughal emperor Aurangazeb who brought down curtains on the Qutb Shahi dynasty, wiped out traces of the city and plundered the wealth. “A few Ashoorkhanas, Dargahs and Masjids are all that remain from the era. There were several royal palaces and the Ashoorkhana here indicates that a palace used to be here,” he says.

The walk to Charminar is through the pathergatti market which is Hyderabad’s first stone arcaded market built over a century ago symbolising the city’s progress towards advanced construction techniques and the use of modern building materials. While a stop at a tiny stall near Machli kamaan (one of the four archways near Charminar) and an adjoining kebab joint not only offers mouthwatering freshwater fish fries and seekh kebabs, Sigamany adds the archway did not get its name from the famous stall. “It was tradition to hang a fish made of wood in the centre of the kamaan during every equinox (March 21) for good fortune and prosperity as per Persian culture. The kamaan being on the northern entrance was the chosen one,” he adds.

After a quick stop for a refreshing lassi in one of the lanes, the walk proceeds through what was once called Mahboob ki Mehendi, an erstwhile red-light area that was originally known for dance, music and the royal courtesans for nearly four centuries, to Petla Burj for some street-side pathar ka gosht (meat prepared on a wide stone on a flame) and marag (a mutton soup with dry fruits) along with some crispy laccha paratha. Sibghatullah says there is much more than Haleem and the debate over which is the best during Ramzan.

Many of these streets turn into food streets after 10 pm and serve until 3 am delicacies that are hyperlocal and lesser known to the general public. After a sumptuous meal, the next stop is for dessert- Gajar ka halwa with malai. The walk back to Charminar passes through areas that were once a hub of traditional medicine that offered different kinds of pain relief and is laced with stories of a thriving cycle-taxi business that is not in vogue anymore. The walk ends with a cup of Irani chai and meetha paan at a couple of must-visit joints.

The group has charted six walks for the month. Each walk would start around 9 p.m to cover a trail of two kilometres over the next three hours with about eight to 10 stops. While Sigamany had started the secret Ramzan walks in a small way in 2018 and 2019, the initiative took a beating during the Covid pandemic. With the Deccan Archive coming in, the scale and resources are much bigger now, he says.

Hyderabad Cuisine

Culinary secrets of Hyderabad's 7th Nizam

The Times of India

Culinary secrets of Hyderabad's 7th Nizam

The niece of the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad is sharing her family's culinary secrets, and everyone is invited. Past a heavy wooden door flanked by trellised walls, through an arched passage that runs under a ceiling embellished with intricate patterns, moonlight sneaks in through metal bars in windows on one side of the gallery to gently light up art that adorns a parallel wall. Even more beautiful is the gentle tinkle of laughter trickling from a room at the far end.

Inside, giggling children stand around a stern ancestor as she taps an attendant with the tip of her cane, diamond bangles jingling with each movement of the bony wrist. With the end of a rope tied to his big toe, the attendant who was to fan the dining family has dozed off, and although his programmed foot successfully operates the colonial ceiling fan, his snores are unacceptable.

This memory is one of several from Kunwar Rani Kulsum Begum's past, one that was dominated by her grandmother Buggo Begum, the force behind Reza Yar Jung Haveli in Darushafa in Hyderabad. Neither Kulsum, niece of Nawab Mir Yousuf Ali Khan Salar Jung III (former prime minister of the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad), nor her sister were allowed into the kitchen. The family's culinary secrets would only be passed down to the dulhan ranis — women who married into their family — not those who'd secede to another.

Kulsum Begum is a shade more generous with sharing secrets, though. The food consultantwith ITC hotels has opened up a treasure of royal Hyderabadi recipes for a special menu that's being served at the hotel's Parel property until today. "The recipes I've shared are my nani's (maternal grandmother). My dadi was tight-lipped, although I did manage to eek them out of my sister-in-law," she smiles. It was the same with every royal family, says Begum. "Guests would compare preparations at parties, each one trying to outdo the other. Keeping secrets fuelled healthy competition between the ladies."

In fact, Begum reveals, young girls weren't taught cooking. It was assumed they'd have khansamas. "Even when we travelled, our kitchen staff would accompany us, preparing aspread of safari food — pathar ke kebab prepared on heated, unpolished granite," she says. A girl was meant to cook, keeping her husband's preferences in mind. "She may as well learn that at her sasural then."

Married at 16 into a Lucknow family, Begum wrote copious letters to her nani, moping aboutmissing her food, eventually convincing her to share recipe through detailed letters. "Lucknowi food is sweeter," she explains with a warm smile, "while in Hyderabad, we like khattan — tartness — in our food." The ghosht ka shikampur that's available on the menu she has designed, supports her observation. A layer of curd and chutney are ensconced in the aromatic, melt-in-the-mouth meat patty that dwarfs American portions. "You youngsters don't eat enough nowadays," she says, reminded of how her family pampered her when she lost weight around her teens. "They insisted that I do nothing but sleep and eat, and my mother brought me food in bed." Back then, Begum recalls, people assumed that a young girl was thin only because she was ill. Or that the family had met a misfortune. And so, food was rich. "Dry phulkas only made it to the dastarkhan (dining place) when a family member was unwell."


Mutton (a mix of chops, marrow bones and cubes from the shoulder) - 1 kg Rice - 500 gms Inions finely sliced - 200 gms Ginger paste - 10 tbsp Garlic paste - 6.5 tbsp Red chilli powder - 3.5 tbsp Chopped coriander - 6.5 tbsp Chopped fresh green mint - 5 tbsp Yoghurt - 10 tbsp Lemon juice - 1.5 tbsp Milk - 3.5 tbsp Pinch of saffron Oil - 7 tbsp Ghee - 7 tbsp Green chillies - 4 Cardamom - 4 Cloves - 2 Cinnamon stick - 4 Caraway seeds - 3 tsp Peppercorn - 2 tsp Nutmeg - 1/2 tsp Few flakes of mace Salt to taste


- Grind the chillies, cardamom, clove, cinnamon stick, caraway seeds, peppercorn, nutmeg and mace to a fine powder. Heat oil in a pan. Fry onions till golden brown. Crush in a pestle mortar when cool. Marinate the meat in ginger and garlic paste. Add yoghurt, salt, red chilli powder, coriander, mint, green chillies, ground spices, lemon juice, crushed onions and the oil in which the onions were fried. Mix well and marinate for about four hours. - Wash the rice and mix with a cup of well-beaten yoghurt. Add saffron and half cup milk. Set aside. - Take a heavy bottom pan with a tight lid. Transfer the marinated meat with the marinade to the pan. Spread the rice over the meat. Sprinkle the saffron milk over the rice. Dot it with a dollop of ghee. Cover and cook, first over high flame, then over medium-low heat till the meat is tender, the liquids are absorbed and the rice is cooked. - Scoop out portions carefully so that the layering remains intact, and serve steaming hot.

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