Hyderabad Beyond Biryani: 6 Must-Haves In The City Of Pearls

The cuisine of Hyderabad reflects the confluence of the Nizami and Telugu eating traditions, making it a delight for culinary enthusiasts wanting to explore the city’s best dishes
places to visit in Hyderabad
The must-have Irani chai from Nimrah caféhyderabadfoodtrip/Instagram

It is likely that when someone says Hyderabadi food, the first thing that pops into your mind is Biryani. The Hyderabadi biryani is amongst the most popular Biryanis in the country. Originating in the kitchens of the Nizam, the biryani is a result of the marriage of the Mughlai culinary style and local culinary styles. While it certainly lives up to its hype and is a must-have for those visiting the city, it is only one in a sea of many delicious dishes unique to the metropolis. 

Hyderabad's culinary scene is a rich tapestry of cuisines influenced by the Mughalai, Turkic, and Arabic culinary cultures, adopted and improved by the locals. Before the advent of the Mughals in the city, the local cuisine was shaped by Andhra's flavours, which included ingredients like rice, millet, tamarind, turmeric, curry leaves, and homegrown vegetables.

As an ode to such an interwoven culture, try out some of the less-popular but equally mouth-watering local preparations the next time you're in the metropolis.

Some of these are:

Hyderabadi Haleem

Hyderabadi Haleem is a local delicacy that is available only during the month of Ramzan and is usually consumed during Iftar. Haleem combines meat, broken wheat and lentils, spices, desi ghee, caramelised onions, rose petals, and nuts in a fragrant, meaty preparation. The major elements, like the meat and lentils, are cooked separately, usually overnight, and then mixed till a paste-like consistency is achieved. The texture of haleem is akin to that of a thick, sticky (yet flavourful) stew.

What to eat in Hyderabad
It is said that Haleem became popular in the city under the last Nizam, Nizam Mir Osman Ali KhanShutterstock.com

It is said that Haleem became popular in the city under the last Nizam, Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan, in the first half of the 20th century. A noble from Yemen in the court of the Nizam, Sultan Saif Nawaz Jung Bahadur, is believed to have further popularised the dish among the nobility which soon made its way to the locals. 

Given its popularity and cultural significance, Hyderabadi Haleem was given a Geographical Indication (G.I) Tag in 2010 becoming the first non-vegetarian food to have received said tag. 

Where to eat: Pista House, Shah Ghouse, Cafe Bahar, and Shadab are popular restaurants in the city where you’ll find a large gathering of men, women, and children feasting on Haleem in the evenings during Ramzan. 

Patthar ka Gosht

The making of Patthar ka Gosht involves slowly cooking meat on a large stone slab heated using firewood
The making of Patthar ka Gosht involves slowly cooking meat on a large stone slab heated using firewoodImage Source: Wikimedia Commons

Patthar ka Gosht is a Hyderabadi speciality that tastefully embodies the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. 

The story goes back to the 19th century when Nizam Asaf Jahi VI used to take frequent hunting trips. On one such hunting trip, the royal cooks, who would accompany the Nizam and prepare meals for him, realised they had forgotten their skewers and tools to prepare kebabs. Instead, they improvised by heating a large stone with firewood and cooking the mutton on the stone. The Nizam liked the meal so much that it was replicated in his royal kitchens, and, to this day, remains popular in many parts of the city. 

Cooking meat on stone is not an activity unique to Hyderabad; For instance, the Arabs, too, have historically roasted meat on stones, in large pits called Mallas for centuries. Despite this, the anecdote behind the origin of the preparation, and the silky flavour of the dish itself, have made a place for it in the hearts of all the old-timer Hyderabadis. 

Where to eat: While most 5-star restaurants and hotels serve patthar ka gosht, the most popular place to have the dish remains Bade Miyan Kababs, behind the Ramdas statue near the tank bund of Hussain Sagar.

Irani chai and Osmania Biscuits

Hyderabad’s iconic Irani chai is a milky concoction believed to have been brought to the city by Persian settlers who arrived in India during the colonial period. 

The chai is made by steeping tea leaves in water in a container, while milk is condensed in another. Once the milk has condensed, it is taken off the heat and topped with black tea. The traditional beverage is usually served in a classic white mug and saucer. Deviating from the traditional Irani chai that doesn’t contain sugar, khoya (dried milk solids, also known as maawa) is added to the Irani chai of Hyderabad.

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Irani chai and plate of Osmania biscuits at Nimrah Cafenimrahcafeandbakery/Instagram

Irani chai is best drunk with another of the city’s loved creations, Osmania biscuits. Osmania biscuits are sweet-savoury biscuits that gained popularity during the rule of Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan. There are various stories on how the biscuit became a favourite of the Nizam. One of the stories says that during a visit to Osmania General Hospital, the Nizam realised the large time gap between when the patients' were given lunch and dinner. He instructed the administration to serve biscuits to the patients in-between the two meals. The cooks prepared biscuits that were both sweet and salty and soft enough to be served to all patients, and that is how Osmania biscuits came to be made.

Osmania biscuits, made from milk, flour, cardamom, salt, and sugar, are among the first snacks to have received royal patronage. 

Where to eat: The Irani chai-Osmania biscuit is a classic combination in the city and makes for the perfect evening pick-me-up, which is easy to find in old Irani cafes. Grand Hotel, Alpha Hotel, Nimrah Café, Shah Ghouse, and Cafe Niloufer are popular places to indulge in the snack. You can also buy boxes of Osmania biscuits to take back with you!

Baghare Baingan

Hyderabadi cuisine
Baghare BainganShutterstock.com

Baghare baingan is a vegetarian delicacy made by combining purple brinjal with gram flour, coconut milk, tamarind, and peanuts among other ingredients. "Baghara" loosely means “tempering” or “seasoning”. Also known as baingan ka salan, it was first introduced to the Mughals from Tashkent and later became popular in Hyderabad.The stuffed eggplant and delectable, simmering curry make it a local favourite.

Where to eat: Many restaurants serve authentic bagara baingan and a quick search online will give you a list of places where you can eat. Some of the well-known restaurants include Cafe Bahar, House of Bagaara, and Bagara & Biryani, among others.

Pachi Pulusu

Pachi pulusu is another vegetarian preparation made from tamarind, curry and coriander leaves, and spices. A raw tamarind rasam or stew that is usually enjoyed with hot steamed rice, the recipe for pachi pulusu originated in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh as a way to use up leftover tamarind pulp. Since Hyderabad was once the capital of the state, many elements of Andhra cuisine have seeped into the culinary bedrock of the city. 

Owing to its lightness, pachi pulusu is a popular summer dish. Multiple variations of the dish have sprouted across the state and in other southern Indian states as well. 

Where to eat: Following the right recipe, pachi pulusu can easily be made at home using tamarind, chillies, mustard and cumin seeds. You can also visit a local tiffin centre in the city and try authentic pachi pulusu.

Qubani Ka Meetha

Qubani is the Urdu word for apricot, and this popular dessert dish is essentially made of stewed apricots.

It is widely believed that apricots were brought to India by Emperor Alexander. Years later, when Babur came to India, he was surprised and ecstatic to find his favourite apricots in the Indian subcontinent. It was he who first made qubani ka meetha, crafted with dried apricots. When the Mughals moved towards the south, so did qubani ka meetha, which, interestingly, received better patronage in Hyderabad than in Delhi. 

A local favourite dessert, the hot stewed apricots are usually served with custard or ice cream, making this delicacy the perfect way to end your meal. 

Where to eat: Some of the places that you might want to visit to try fine qubani ka meetha include Utsav in Secunderabad, Parivar Dhaba, and Ohri’s Silver Metro, amongst others. 

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