As our train chugged out of New Delhi Railway Station, lots of thoughts were dashing through our brains (Tanya’s and mine). I had a feeling I knew what Tanya was thinking, revisiting her home of younger, happy days. I didn’t want to confess that my own thoughts were rather more banal. Only if you consider biryani banal that is. And if you do, nothing could be further from the truth.
Biryani in Hyderabad has almost a religious following. While Paradise is arguably the biggest name associated with it, we made a few surprise discoveries like Shadab which were worth many repeat visits. A crash course in the history of Hyderabadi cooking by the Head Chef at Kakatiya also helped us appreciate the telengana or sour element in the biryani so that we devoured it a little more sensitively (though not really less ravenously).
One of the brilliant creations pioneered by ITC is the low-fat, high-fibre raagi muffin. We polished off about five each to stave the fire in our palates after eating a crazy hot telengana chilli stew. Among the other hits were small fried banana dosas and chicken cooked in spinach. We learnt that not every food had to be from Hyderabad for a Hyderabadi to adopt it and feed it lovingly to visitors.
Of course, the best was always reserved for the last. The sinful desserts, with enigmatic names like khobani-ka-meetha and double-ka-meetha had us exclaiming and swooning so much that regular restaurant-goers in the city should have found us more than a tad weird. The thing about Hyderabadis is that they seldom glare, giving you ample space to do your own thing and do it with aplomb.
Street food in Hyderabad was another fabulous discovery. Having trudged all over Old City, photographed its monuments, people and shops, we decided to sit quietly and soak in the chaos, and how better to do that than with mirchi bajji (chilli fritters) washed down with vast quantities of fruit juice.
In Hyderabad, you can never have enough juice.
After an evening of squash at Secunderabad Club or a busy day selling handkerchiefs outside Mecca Masjid, fruit juice is the way to go.
Of course, there is the other camp which feel a glass of juice can never match up to the joys of the teeth-numbingly sweet irani chai, with so much sugar that the spoon stands stiff in the cup. But let me not get into politics here, i belong to a third camp really, the falooda fan club. With its neon pink and green, i was in love with falooda even before i tasted it.
On the last day, even as Nidhi was having Shadab biryani packed for Bodhi (who had threatened her with dire consequences lest she didnt), we made a final meal-stop for what is called genuinely southern fare. Of course, the choice was not incidental. We needed something that could be made, fed and paid for in the same amount of time as the biryani was prepared. But Anand Bhavan (in Patthargatti) surprised us with their vada and rava dosa, served paper-crisp and scrumptious, and mopped off just as quickly as it was served.
As we settled for the journey back, i knew two things: 1) Hyderabadi food is fabulous and 2) i’ll still be thinking of biryani on subsequent visits to the city.
If you’re from Hyderabad or have visited it and made interesting finds, do drop us a line. We’d love to put it in the Hyderabad Travel Guide, coming soon!