Hyderabad has a rich culinary history inspired by Mughlai cooking that has evolved for over hundreds of years. Famous for its hot and spicy cuisine, Hyderabad is never complete without a taste of the Shahi Dastarkhan, the Dastarkhan, or the dining place where the food is served and eaten is normally a low chowki (table) with mattresses and bolsters that provide seating in the traditional Indian style. Traditional delicacies of Hyderabad that have been inherited from the Nizams are predominantly meat-based and cooked with a liberal use of exotic spices. Hyderabadi cuisine features key flavours of coconut, tamarind, peanuts and sesame seed and sometimes even fresh fruit.
The Shahi Dastarkhan includes such mouth-watering delicacies as Osmani Murg Korma, Paneer Aur Ananas Ka Korma, Mirchi Ka Salaan, and the well-known Nahari, a dish is made from lamb trotters. However, the one dish that has been written about, even by travellers during the 18th century who visited this city, is the aromatic Biryani.
Biryani is a fragrant rice dish made from a mixture of spices long-grained Basmati rice, meat and yogurt. The name is derived from the Farsi word birian. Based on the name, and the cooking style It appears that the dish originated in Persia or Arabia. While some think it came from Persia via Afghanistan to north India, others think it was brought by the Arab traders via the Arabian Sea to Calicut, which had maritime trade with West Asia.
Besides the historical facts, the biryani’s story gets a bit spiced up with legends. One has it that Timor ‘the Lame’ brought it down from Kazakhstan via Afghanistan to north India. According to another fable, Mumtaz Mahal created this dish as a wholesome meal to feed the Mughal emperor’s army.
From the Mughals, the biryani spread to the Nizam’s kitchens in Hyderabad, as it did to Awadh (now Lucknow) and Calcutta. When Aurangzeb installed the Nawab of Arcot to oversee Aaru Kaadu region south of Hyderabad, he unwittingly led to the creation of the Arcot biryani. The biryani also spread to Mysore thanks to Tipu Sultan. Needless to say, it was a royal dish of the nawabs and Nizams. These worthies hired vegetarian Hindus as bookkeepers, which led to the creation of the tahiri biryani (a vegetarian version).
Dum means steam and dum pukht literally mean 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. In the best biryanis, grains of rice are well-cooked yet do not stick to one another. The meat, usually on the shank, is soft, well marinated and enhances the heady aroma of Basmati and the spices. Biryanis are best with Dahi Chutney and Mirch Ka salan, along with onion salad.
Hyderabadi biryani is traditionally made with uncooked, marinated lamb (kaccha gosht). It is layered at the bottom of a pan with rice in various stages of ‘doneness’— the topmost is more pre-cooked than the rice nearest the meat which is only 25 percent cooked. The point is to have perfectly cooked meat with flavourful rice, preferably in the same dish, although there are some versions of biryani in which the two ingredients are browned and cooked separately.
When you’re in Chennai perfect place to Visit for Hyderabadi Dum Biryani Is Rasavid, at OMR, Karappakam.