Mughals took control of the region back in late 17th / early 18th Century. Traditionally, Hyderabad was known as the diamond and pearl trading centre of the world – and continues to be referred to as the City of Pearls to this day. In fact, many of the bazaars that have been trading for hundreds of years are still open today. However, beautiful jewels are not the only reason the Hyderabad region is famous– the eclectic and delicious food has also placed Hyderabad on the culinary map.
The cuisine of Hyderabad mainly consists of rice and meat dishes, but there are so many variations that locals from the region never get bored with their food. The skilled use of chefs with different historical influences means spices are used to perfection, as are different vegetables, fruits, breads and rice. Turmeric is a key ingredient in lots of Hyderabad dishes, as it has a warm, peppery and slightly bitter taste. It can also be used for various medical reasons, for example it can be used as an anti-inflammatory.
One particularly popular dish from Hyderabad is chakna, a well-seasoned stew made from goat tripe and various other digestive parts sourced from different animals. This is a speciality among Hyderabadi Muslims who particularly enjoy using every available part of an animal and leaving minimal waste. This dish uses ginger and garlic combined into a paste, turmeric, cardamom and both red and green chillies for added flavour and depth.
Bagarabaingan, on the other hand, uses no meat and is a traditional Hyderabadi aubergine curry. Young aubergines, or brinjal, are used along with masala paste and peanuts for extra texture. All these are combined with white sesame seeds, grated coconut, onion, turmeric and coriander to create a flavourful, but perhaps milder dish than you might expect from Hyderabad.
A Hyderabadihaleem is also very popular. This is a meat stew containing lentils and a pounded wheat paste. This was originally an Arabic dish, but the Hyderabadi locals used various spices to make it their own – including turmeric. This dish can take a long time to cook, as it is traditionally cooked over a low flame on a fire for up to 12 hours. Ghee is used for richness and lentils for thickness, as well as spices such as cumin, cinnamon, saffron, jaggery and of course the already-mentioned turmeric. Fruits and nuts are also included in the dish, with pistachios, cashews, figs and almonds all making an appearance for added flavour and texture.
The most famous dish from Hyderabad, however, is the Hyderabadi biriyani. Traditionally this dish uses lamb and rice, but modern variations often use chicken as well. Basmati rice is used along with succulent chunks of mutton to create the bulk of the dish – but, again, spices are used to round off the dish. Ginger, garlic, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, lemon, mint, turmeric and yoghurt create a fantastic dish with a distinct and heady aroma and taste.
To sample such dishes in the UK, made by chefs who truly appreciate spices and use them to astounding effect, head to one of London’s top Indian brasseries for a truly tantalising experience.