Discovering Biryani in Hyderabad

Touchdown in an ultra-sleek Hyderabad airport. Probably one of the best airports I’ve been to on my trip and a little of a culture shock after Madurai tiny airfield. With great excitement, I rushed into the town famous for its distinctive cuisine, which includes Hyderabadi biryani and Hyderabadi Haleem. Hyderabad was historically known as a pearl and diamond trading centre, and it continues to be known as the City of Pearls. Many of the city’s traditional bazaars, including Laad Bazaar, Begum Bazaar and Sultan Bazaar, have remained open for centuries

After the fall of Delhi in 1857, the migration of performing artists to the city particularly from the north and west of the Indian sub-continent, resulted in a mingling of North and South Indian languages, cultures and religions, which has since led to a co-existence of Hindu and Muslim traditions, for which the city has become noted. 

I was meeting my great friend Sharang, who played host this time on his home turf.  Sharang and I had shared meals in Delhi after meeting in a backpackers; he was probably one of the greatest friends I met on this trip.  Welcoming me into his home without question. Only in India could you find such an amazing human and the spirit of sharing and humanity so alive. To think we only knew each other for a few short days in Delhi now culminating an everlasting friendship.

Back to the topic at hand. You can’t talk about biryanis without mentioning the Hyderabadi Biryani. Cooked with either mutton or chicken, and laced with rich ingredients, Shah Ghouse Restaurant in Toli Chowki, Hyderabad recipe for dum biryani is the stairway to heaven and this is where our journey began.

What is biryani you ask…. It’s a perfect mix of basmati rice, spices, chillies, saffron, cardamom and other ingredients meat marinating for 10-12 hours soaking it in yoghurt and layering it between rice which has a wonderful aroma of its own in a deep vessel with narrow top and cooked on wood or charcoal. The taste, fragrance and detail to perfectly cooked meat is what makes it an irresistible dish, restaurants usually serve it with sides like flavoured yoghurt, chilli sauce and salads. Hyderabadi biryani is so special are its subtlety of taste, erudition of method, flamboyance of style and the richness of spices.

The deliciously complex blend of flavours, spices, and aromas in biryani have come to epitomise the zenith of Indian cuisine. Hyderabadi biryani is generally believed to originate in the kitchens of the Nizam of Hyderabad. It originates as a blend of Mughlaland Iranian cuisine in the kitchens of the Nizam, rulers of the historic Hyderabad State. With its roots stemming to the Kachhi method, a unique method of cooking the raw marinated mutton and the rice with an extraordinary application of yoghurt, papaya and lemon juices. The addition of fried onion, mint and coriander leaves make it a true royal Indian carnival At Shah Ghouse you find this party firmly being held on ones palate. 

The evolution of biryani spans many centuries, many cultures, many ingredients and cooking styles. From an army dish to a dish fit for royalty, the biryani today is a pan-India culinary favourite. Sharang and I decided to share an enormous array of dishes, but the biryani will forever remain etched in my memory, as my new-found friend and I ate quietly, licking our fingers and downing the local drink Thums Up (a fizzy drink that makes Coke seem like a child’s play). I felt quite at home. Hyderabad, you have just fucked me.

The energetic city of Hyderabad is everything you imagine historical India may have looked like. From its narrow alleyways, bazaars buzzing with activity, random cows and dogs meandering through the streets, ancient architecture, and the food! Let’s not forget the famed Hyderabadi Biryani and Hyderabadi Haleem.


Hyderabad : A Visual Snapshot

A Passage Through India