link rel = "image_src” href=”preview-image-here.jpg” / expr:content='data:blog.metaDescription' Sukanya's musings: HYDERABADI CUISINE

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Hyderabad – The capital of Andhra Pradesh.
It was founded in the late 16th century by the Qutab Shahi dynasty, a line of rulers known for their beautiful "monuments, mosque and mistresses". In 1589, Mohammed Quli Qutab Shah decided to shift his capital from Golconda to the banks of river Musi. Consequently, a city adorned with magnificent palaces and mosques, embodying a style of architecture that was unique to the place - the domes and minarets dressed with splendid stucco ornamentation - was born. In 1724 taking advantage of the waning Mughal Empire the viceroy of Hyderabad Asaf Jah, declared Hyderabad as an independent State and founded his own dynasty. So begun the dynasty of the Nizams of Hyderabad, a dynasty that would, for seven generations, rule the kingdom, a dynasty whose scions would be included among the "richest men in the world", a dynasty under which traditions and customs of Islam flourished and a dynasty under whom Hyderabad developed into a focus for arts, culture and learning and the centre of Muslim India. The Nizams held sway over Hyderabad until 1948, when the State was merged with the Indian Union.
A state located in the south of India influenced by the north Indian and Mughlai cuisine.
When u talk of the rich Mughlai or Nawabi food we cant forget the Hyderabadi cuisine which is unique, a fusion between the north and the south. A rich marriage of 2 cuisines. The word "Nawabi" is as synonymous with the Hyderabadi cuisine as "Shahi" is with Lucknowi. These terms conjure delicacies that are rich in taste and texture with mouth-watering aromas. Hyderabad's 400-year-old culinary history, like its culture, is unmatched by any other state in India. In fact Hyderabad was known for the spectacular way its aristocracy entertained. Of all the Muslim cuisine, Hyderabad is never complete without the mention of the "Shahi Dastarkhan". The Dastarkhan is the Dining place where the food is served and eaten. It is normally a low chowki for the dining table and cotton mattresses for squatting and bolsters for the back rest. The Dastarkhan holds a place of reverence in every household. The Cuisine of Hyderabad has been influenced by various regional and religious cuisines, both Indian and Foreign, despite which it has been able to create an identity of its own. It has also been able to contribute towards making Indian cuisine popular world wide. The "Biryani" from this cuisine is one such example. What makes the Hyderabadi Cuisine special is the use of special ingredients, carefully chosen and cooked to the right degree. The food is very rich, spicy and aromatic, to match their lifestyles. They use plenty of whole spices, Whole cardamoms, cloves and cinnamon are daily used spices to flavour their dishes, also used abundantly are are the key flavours of coconut, tamarind, peanuts, cashwenuts, sesame seeds and chilly(which is used in abundance in the entire Andhra Pradesh). Some exotic ingredients significant to this type of cooking include tamarind flowers, drumstick flowers and leaves, and rosella leaves(rosella is a sour herb which enhances the taste of dishes. It looks like spinach it is also known as Lal Ambari in Hindi). Their style of cooking is also unique, the food is usually slow cooked. It is cooked on Dum. Dum pukht refers to a slow method of cooking food. ''Dum'' means steam and ''dum pukht'' literally means to choke off the steam. The food is placed in a pot, usually made of clay, and dough is used to create a tight seal to prevent steam from escaping. The food is slowly cooked in its own juices and steam, allowing herbs and spices to fully infuse the meat or rice, preserving the nutritional elements at the same time.
Most of their dishes are cooked on a handi (Shallow wide flat bottomed). You could easily say that handis are their favourite cooking vessel. The Masalas or the rich blend of herbs, spices and condiments give the dishes a base, or what is popularly known as "Gravy". Some of these blends are a well-kept secret that pass only down the family line or from the Ustad(Teacher) to his Shagird(Pupil). The head cooks or the "Khansas" were an asset to the household, and were treated with due respect. The "Kebabs" in Hyderabad need a special mention, the "Shammi Kebab" is one such popular dish. The Kebabs are originally from Greece!! The Hyderabadi meal is never complete without the bread from the kilns of the local bakers. The breads from this cuisine are equally popular, be it rich "Sheermal" or "lukmi" (bread stuffed with savory mince meat). Bread is not only an accompaniment to the meal but also forms a base for a popular sweet dish "Double Ka Meetha".

Though most of their fare is non vegetarian, The Hyderabadi cuisine also offers a lot of mouthwatering dishes for vegetarians. It is the only cuisine of the sub-continent that can boast of a major vegetarian element which has much to do with the local influences. Considering that the elite of the erstwhile Hyderabad state came from the north of India and was almost entirely Muslim, this is a little surprising. The nation's vegetarians, of course, stand to gain by it And so do we as my blog is dedicated to vegetarianism and vegetarian cooking.
There is 'Bagara Baingan', a rich spicy preparation of brinjals and Mirchi-ka-salan (Mirch-ka-sabu), a preparation of chillies in a creamy gravy. Apart form these, the 'Tomato Qoot' is an aromatic puree of tomato with flavorings and 'Shahi Dahi Vadas' which are lentil dumplings in Youghurt sauce.
On the dessert menu, Hyderabad is famous for double-ka-meetha (a bread and cashew nut pudding) also known as Shahi Tukda, Badam-ki-Jhab (marzipan or a candy), Another popular sweet dish is the 'Qubani-ka-Meetha' which is a stewed apricot dessert and 'Dil-e-Firdaus', a rich, milk-based sweet are widely eaten. During the festival day of Id-ul-Fitr, it is traditional to serve 'Sheer Korma', the delicious 'Kheer', made with 'Sevian', dried fruits and dates. Apart from these delectable desserts, one can also enjoy a wide variety of fruits like Mangoes, 'Anabshahi' grapes, custard apples, etc. Their sweet dishes are also quite unique and rich. Sweet dishes usually include milk as a major ingredient.

After consuming such rich food, we come to an end of this gastronomic journey with a 'Paan'. Which aids in digestion and serves as a mouth freshner.

Refer to Vegetarian Hyderabadi dishes like the Rumali Roti in my blog


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