Hyderabad is a meat eater’s paradise.
Rich in history and steeped with gastro-culture, Hyderabad has something for everyone. And then some.
Our trip to Hyderabad was planned, voted for, and booked all under 2 hours. It helps to have people who love to eat in your team. Ramzan (or if you prefer Ramadan) in Hyderabad had been a long pending item in my bucket list. We’d heard fabulous stories about the how the Nizam’s city gets completely transformed during the festive season and couldn’t wait to see ( and eat) for ourselves.
It was a weekend trip. We took the Jet Airways flight out of Mumbai (which was delayed by an hour, thank you Jet! NOT!) and reached out hotel by 10 pm. Thank fully one of our ex colleague Rachit, who is a local resident of Hyderabad, and food lover par excellence, was there to guide us! Now haleem and Hyderabad go together. So when he suggested we do a Haleem hop that night, there was no arguing with that!
Haleem is a pasty porridge textured dish. Slightly thickened with broken wheat, pulses and spices. It is slow cooked with mutton for 7-8 hours, with loads and loads of ghee. This slow cooking brings out the meat flavours which blend well with the spices and make haleem one of its kind! Originally from the Middle East, haleem is now an extremely popular Hyderabadi dish, which is mostly available only during Ramazan. Originally haleem is supposed to be bland, but like everything else that comes to our kitchens, it was masala-ed. And like Shoaib Daniyal says – “what we’ve done to it with our dals and masalas is nothing short of high art.”
Our first stop was Sarvi. A popular local join that serves Irani Haleem – a version. Sarvi was packed to the gills at 11 in the night. We barely got a spot and ordered their regular haleem. They have a special haleem which has cashews and cream. Sarvi’s haleem was thick, gluey and delightful. They serve it with a garnish of fried onion and mint leaves. The fried onion flavours the haleem and the mint refreshes the mouth. Smart!
After Sarvi our next stop was Charminar and the old city! The old city night market is something else! During Ramazan the night market goes on till the wee hours of the day.
Our first joint was Shadab. We had heard great things about Shadab’s briyani too. We ordered haleem and a plate of special mutton biryani. The ‘special’ part was an extra serving of mutton. The haleem was fine, the garnish this time fried with the mint leaves, which I prefered less to the unfried one served at Sarvi. The Biryani, however, was a disaster. It stank of staleness. And when we pointed it out to the waiter, he didn’t seem to agree with us, but was intent on force feeding us. We had to insist he get us our bill so that we could be on our way. Phew.
Haleem is a heavy dish and one small bowl is a meal in itself. Time for a long walk!
So we ambled along the brightly lit streets of Charminar – this magnificent 16th Century structure which has become Hyderabad’s most recognizable structure. There are many theories about the origin and purpose of the structure. Wikipedia has a detailed explanation, as always.
You might wonder what ‘s the fun of walking in a crowded street at 2 am in the morning, but trust me, the experience is absolutely enthralling. Vendors selling bangles in thousands of colors, heady smells from sweet shops, attar shops (perfumeries) lining both sides of the road, and countless tea shops and bakeries going about their business.
We stopped at Nimrah cafe and bakery for Hyderabadi chai and Osmania cookies. I was fortunate to stumble on something known as chand biscuit. These melt in your mouth cookies are shaped like a crescent moon (and hence the moniker) and have very mild and hence pleasant rose flavour.
The tea is sweet and is made by boiling the tea and milk separately, and then mixing before serving. A little too sweet, it is an instant refresher. Nimrah Cafe and Bakery is located on the other side of the Charminar towards, Pista House.
And that brings me to our next haleem at the Pista House. Now Pista House has its legions of fans who swear by its biryani and haleem amongst other things. You pay the waiter, who will queue in lieu of you, and get you your haleem. At 3 AM we had to wait for 20 minutes before we got our share of the haleem.
Lightly flavoured and piping hot, it was worth the wait. But what made our walk to Pista House all the more worthwhile was the mindblowing psychedelic light works that they have adorned the walls of Pista House with. Rows upon rows of fancy LED lighting execute perfectly timed patterns, which would put an EDM Concert light man to shame. That they also do an India Flag in perfect colors was a bonus! Check out this video to see what I mean:
It was 4 AM and we were not done. Well we spotted this pathan saab selling some Arabic kahwa. In the words of the great Paul – “it looks weird, we must try it.” And so we did! What a surprise! Piping hot, and full of flavours of elaichi, ginger, clove, this kahwa settled our over-stuffed stomachs immediately! So good that I got a pack of the kahwa mix home.
On the way back to our hotel, our gracious host asked if we would like to have a masala dosa at Ram ki Bandi (Ram’s stall), which we had to kindly decline for obvious reasons.
This bought us to the end of a happy, well spent, and yummy day 1. Now to brace for day 2! Stay tuned!