Talk of Hyderabad and one thinks Biryani and Haleem. Their Nihari has gained currency too. But there’s so much more to the food the city of the Nizams offers, and it’s worth taking a trip to Hyderabad (and the twin city of Secunderabad) simply to sample the amazing assortment of culinary heirlooms.
From minced meat stuffed pastry and meat cooked on hot stones to fiery Andhra style curries and delicious Telengana snacks and pickles, Hyderabad will leave you spoilt for choice.
CHAR KONI NAAN
These thick but soft, square naan breads (they come with a curiously patterned crust), best paired with meaty stews and curries, is a culinary heirloom, over 160 years old, the city has inherited. The best ones are found at naan shops in Purani Haveli area in the old city and among them one shop in particular stands out, The Khadeem Munshi Naan (they have been much written about in recent years). Drop by in morning or in the evening (they open only for a couple of hours, twice a day) and pick up a few.
An export from the royal kitchens of Hyderabad, the Shikampur is a gorgeously spiced minced meat patty stuffed with eggs (or even a mix of onions and hung curd) and deep fried. The preparation i a painstaking process but the result is worth the wait. Hotel Shadab, another iconic eatery in Hyderabad (best known perhaps for their Haleem) makes Shikampur but only on Fridays. At INR 50 a piece, it is worth a try.
PATHAR KA GOSHT
Pathar ka gosht (meat cooked on stone) is a dish where the meat is marinated in spices and slow-cooked on a slab of hot stone (unpolished granite) placed on a bed of hot charcoal. The result is thin slices of deliciously tender, spicy and smoky meat, that are to die for. Old timers ruefully admit that the dish is one of the city’s dying culinary legacies. You could try the dish at places like Shahi Dastarkhwan in Lakdikapul, Four Seasons in Tolichowki or Sarvi restaurant in Banjara Hills.
The Hyderabadi khichadi is a spicy mix of masoor dal (red lentils) and rice (more like a pilaf), and is typically paired with Khatta (a tangy soupy dish usually made with tamarind) and Keema, a spicy curried minced meat. Shah Ghouse, one of the city’s legendary restaurants serves it for breakfast, but you must reach early since the khichdi runs out within a couple of hours. You can also head to Hotel Nayaab in Ghansi Bazaar and try their version of khichadi (served only for breakfast). While you’re here ask for a cup of their feted Irani chai.
Talawa Gosht is basically the Hyderabadi version of a mutton fry – a dry, spicy fried meat dish traditionally paired with typical Hyderabadi khatti dal. The dish features on many a restaurant menu, but one of the best places to try the dish is at Alhamdulillah in Nampally, another iconic eatery in the city.
VEPPUDUS AND PULUSU
There are few restaurants in Hyderabad serving fantastic Andhra food – fiery Pulusu (sour curry) and Veppudus (fried) – that will leave you licking your fingers despite runny eyes and nose. A must-try dish is the Gongura Mamsam (mutton cooked with sorrel leaves) or try a typical Andhra style chicken curry. And there’s Royyala (Prawn) Iguru for seafood lovers. A few places where you could try Andhra food in Hyderabad are Rayalaseema Ruchulu in Jubilee Hills (they have a few other outlets too) and Ulavacharu.
KHEEME KI LUKHMI
This is a delicious snack, or breakfast item– parcels of fried dough stuffed with minced meat and onions braised with typical Hyderabadi spices. Dunk these soft and crisp pockets of meat in fiery chutneys and wash them down with a steaming mud of Irani chai. Innocuous hole-in-the-wall eateries in the old city (and the bylanes around Charminar) dole out a few good ones. You can also head to Hotel Savera in Malakpet or try Hotel Alpha on the Railway Station Road (in Secunderabad), which comes recommended by the locals.
Hyderabad offers a fantastic selection of pickles and it’s not just pickled mangoes and lime that we are talking about. They make pickles with everything from tomato and gongura leaves to chicken and goat meat – their fiery Gosht ka achar (pickled goat meat) will blow your mind. Take a walk through the labyrinthine lanes around the Charminar and you’ll find a number of traditional pickle shops to choose from. A good place to pick up a few bottles is Deccan Achar in Nampally that has a mind-boggling assortment of 34 different kinds of pickles.
A trip to Hyderabad is incomplete without exploring other distinct cuisine in Telangana. At Simply South, their Telengana specialties include Telangana Kodi Roast and Palakura Pappu, a home-style spinach and lentil preparation. Or head to Telangana Ruchulu to sample typical Telangana-style Talakaya (meat from the head of goat or fish) curry. At Pramada’s near Indira Park you could sample a fantastic assortment of Telangana-style snacks like Sakinalu and Sarva Pindi, delicious spiced rice flour discs, and fiery pickles. At Sree Devi Swagruha Foods (in Nacharam) try the pheni, a light, flaky fried pastry dusted with powdered sugar.