The area is renowned for its food,known as Hyderabadi or Deccani cuisine,which is steeped in culture and tradition. Meat and rice are staples, as well as carefully chosen spices which combine to give distinctive flavours. However, patience is crucial: cooking everything slowly is something this cuisine is famous for. One of the most iconic, distinctive and popularrecipes is a Hyderabadi biryani.
A traditional Hyderadbai biryani is made using meat and rice. Goat or mutton isthe traditional option, although contemporary chefs often substitute it for chicken or lamb. Basmati rice, lemon, yogurt, saffron and coriander are also crucial elements of the dish.It is also possible to make a vegetarian version using carrots, peas, cauliflower, potato and cashew nuts.
One of the reasons for the unique flavour and texture is the way the dish is cooked – in an air tight pot (a handi) over coals with a very low flame. The rice is therefore infused with the spices which the meat has been marinated in, giving the dish a particularly strong and rich flavour.
Importantly, there are two types ofHyderabadi biryani, Kachchi and Pakki, both cooked in a similar way. The main difference is in the way the meat is prepared.
For a KachchiHyderabadi biryani, meat is marinated with spices overnight and then soaked in yogurt. Before cooking,the meat is sandwiched between layers of heavily spiced long grained basmati rice.
Alternatively, for a PakkiHyderabadi biryani, the meat is marinated for a shorter time and cooked before layering with rice. In Pakki Agni the dish is cooked with gravy, prior to baking.
In all cases, the cooking process is elaborate and known as the ‘Dum’ method. This involves using a handi which is first sealed with dough before it is steamed over coals. As a result the meat is cooked by the heat from the coals and the rice is steamed. Cooking the meat perfectly is essential, so meticulous attention to time and temperature is vital and contributes to the unique flavour and texture achieved.
There are a number of dishes normally served with a Hyderabadi biryani, including ‘dahi chutney’ which is made with yogurt and onions, alongwitha green chili curry and a salad with onion, carrot, cucumber and lemon wedges.
If reading about a Hyderabadi biryani has made your mouth water, consider booking a table at one of London’s best fine dining Indian restaurants. Although you’ll find the menus at these eateries full of contemporary flair, there’s a real sense of tradition woven into the atmosphere and menu to create a unique experience which may challenge what you’d expect from Indian food. There is likely to be a number of biryanis to choose from, all a million miles away from what you may have previously experienced at an average high street curry house. There will also be a range of both meat and vegetarian options available to suit all tastes.