Feast at sundown
It’s the holy month of Ramzan and arguably one of the best places to explore its myriad culinary connections is Hyderabad
It is sweltering hot at 43 degrees on a sultry May afternoon but feels much warmer. The workers at the factory of the famed Pista House in Nanal Nagar, Hyderabad are unfazed as they are engrossed in making the famed Haleem. Rows and rows of stoves fuelled by wood fires are blazing and the stages of making the Haleem itself is fascinating to watch. The process involves cooking the meat for over three hours until it becomes very tender. Then the wheat mixture is added to it and they are pounded together till they become a homogeneous mix. Then special spices including cumin, cardamom and others are added and mixed together and it is cooked for 45 minutes after which ghee, some milk and oil are added.
After this, the Haleem is packed and transported to the different Pista House outlets in the city where it is sold out in a mere four hours. Says Mohammed Abdul Mohsi, managing director, Pista House, “During Ramzan, we make about 2000 kg of Haleem each day in both of our factories and on weekends, this goes up to 4000 kg. We use traditional equipment while cooking to maintain the flavour. The wooden hammer used to pound the meat is made each year. Since this is a time when people pray through the day, we want to ensure that they break their fast with good quality food.”
And while Haleem may lead the Ramzan delicacies, there is more as you make your way to the old city in the bylanes of Charminar. At Shah Ghouse that dates back to 1984, you can sample Gurda Bhaji, Dum ki Biryani, Boti Kebabs, Paya Nihari, Chicken Nahari Special, and Sheermal apart from Biryani and Haleem.
The Akbar fast food center is known for its famed Chicken 65 while the 30-year-old joint Nayab is the place to head to for Kheema Roti, Haleem, Biryani and Bheja Fry. Hotel Shadab in Ghansi Bazar serves Haleem, Bheja fry, Bhajjigurda, paya, nihari and keema.
If you are a vegetarian, fret not, for there are several options here including vegetarian Haleem as well. Stop by at MatwaleDoodhghar that serves delicious Lassi and a special Falooda topped with malai and khoya. The Milan Juice centre serves delectable Avocado Juice, Yamani Dry Fruits, Milan Junction, Blood Punch and Kiwi Juice as well as Mulberry Shake and mango-based thick drinks. My vote however goes to the Nimrah Café & Bakery that was started in 1993 by Abood Bin Aslam. Serving crunchy Khopra biscuits made with coconut, Shirmal (saffron-flavoured traditional flat bread) and a variety of fruit cookies that team perfectly with the Sulemani (black tea), Cutting chai (strong and small portions) and Khade Chamachki chai, this place located adjacent to Charminar is a great way to start your food journey. When you are here, stroll to the Mehboob /Murgi Chowk and you will see stores lined with more food. Do try the Dahi Vada, another favourite at this time in one of the tiny shops opposite the Mahboob Chowk Clock Tower. Govind Dosa, also known as Govind Ki Bandi is where you can sample Butter Dosa and Rava Dosa with coconut chutney that ensures you are in culinary heaven.
However, if the crowds and the sensory overload of food and its aroma gets to you, try the special delicacies at Novotel Hyderabad Airport (NHA) where executive chef Varun Movva and team dish up a meal to remember. The dishes served include Paya Shorba with Shirmal Pondo, Pathar Ka Gosht, Hara Muter Ki Shami, Haleem, Paya Ki Nihari with Taftaan, Hyderabadi Mutton Dum Biryani, Paneer Siyamirch etc. The dessert spread includes the very sinful Double Ka Meetha, Kubanika Metha and Sheer Koorma. The incredible variety of food certainly has a wonderful connection with Ramzan so make sure you check it out. And do not count your calories.