We have a standard notion that Hyderabad means Biryani and people there eat biryani 3 or more times a day. I am not saying that they don’t love Biryani, in fact, it’s called the Biryani capital of India. Kill me if you want to, but I’d love to say that more than Biryani, Hyderabadis love their rice dishes. those innumerable varieties of non-veg pulao, biryani and then there is Mandi. So, this blog post is on the places for Hyderabadi Biryani and Mandi.
Origin of biryani
The origin of Biryani is uncertain. In North India, it is traditionally associated with the Mughlai cuisine of Delhi and the Awadhi cuisine of Lucknow; in South India, it is traditionally associated with the Hyderabadi cuisine. The word “biryani” is derived from the Persian language. One theory is that it originates from “birinj”, the Persian word for rice. Another theory is that it derives from “biryan” or “beriyan” (to fry or roast).
Types of Biryani
There are two basic types of biryani: pakki (“cooked”, also pukka) and kacchi (“raw”, also kutchi). In pakki biryani, the cooked meat and cooked rice are layered. In the kacchi biryani, raw marinated meat is layered with semi-cooked rice before being cooked together. It is also known as kacchi yakhni. It is cooked typically with goat meat (usually ‘khasi gosht’, which is meat from castrated goats and often simply referred to as mutton) or with lamb, and rarely with chicken or beef.
The dish is cooked layered with the meat and the yogurt-based marinade at the bottom of the cooking pot and the layer of rice (usually basmati rice) placed over it. Potatoes are often added before adding the rice layer. The pot is usually sealed (typically with wheat dough) to allow cooking in its own steam and not opened till ready to serve. A boiled egg and mixed salad often accompany the dish.
It is featured in wedding feasts in Bangladesh, usually served with burhani, a spicy drink. Kolkata biryani comes under the first (pakki biryani) type, whereas the Hyderabadi biryani comes under the second (Kacchi biryani) type. Hyderabadi biryani, as per Md. Muradil from shadab, is cooked as the kacchi biryani. Raw meat is layered with rice cooked in 3 stages. And as per the layer, they’re distributed. Some mint leaves are thrown in and use of a heavy masala/ spice is what makes the Hyderabadi Biryani different from the rest.
So, how is Hyderabadi biryani different from Kolkata biryani ?
The primary difference between Hyderabadi biryani and Kolkata styled biryani is that the former is a kacchi biryani, wherein Kolkata styled one is a pakki biryani. A kacchi biryani has raw meat layered with rice cooked in 3 stages. And as per the layer, they’re distributed. Some mint leaves are thrown in and use of a heavy masala/ spice is noticed. The biryani is distinctly different with the aroma of meat. Hence the choice of meat is of primary importance. Wherein, for the Kolkata styled biryani, the meat is semi-cooked and layered with semi-cooked rice.
This being apart from the existence of potato. The subtle balance is more important than spice and meat. This is something I could make out by meeting the biryani makers from Hyderabad and Kolkata. If you know of any other differences, please write in the comments section.
Enough gyan, so let’s move on to my favorite Biryani joints in Hyderabad
I know Paradise is very very famous for Biryani in India. But if somebody looks for a good Biryani joint in Hyderabad, in all probability, shadab would be among the first ones to get featured. As per Sabyasachi da, who took the pain to take me around Hyderabad, this statement is made. Md Omer is now taking care of the business and is quite friendly. The place started as a small cafe for Irani Chai in 1950’s and gradually was converted into the restaurant in 1990’s by his father. And this gentleman joined while he was in school. It’s located very near to the famed Charminar and is divided conveniently into AC and non-Ac floors. The food remaining the same, pricing differs a bit.
The biryani they serve in one portion is huge, but that’s the standard feature in Hyderabad. Please be aware of it while ordering. A small portion there is larger than the special Kolkata biryani. Mir Ka Salan and watery raita come complementary with it. It was the same here. I must say, the biryani is good, damn good. But one thing, while ordering for the same, you should specify on whether you want a gila cut or sukha cut. Unlike Kolkata, they don’t mix them while serving in Shadab. We got the healthy non-oily sukha cut. The meat pieces are quite small and multiple in numbers and the biryani rice slightly spicy. But the mutton Biryani at Shadab was damn good in taste.
On Fridays over lunch, they serve something named as Baghara rice and Dalcha and as per the owner and Sabyasachi da, it’s something to be experienced. Maybe this will be there on my next trip.
Shah Ghouse was started in 1984 and today boasts of its 4 properties in Hyderabad only. Mainly known for its Haleem, the Biryani is also equally famous. I was taken there by Sabyasachi da in the quest for multiple varieties of Hyderabadi Biryani. Though this outlet is relatively younger, it had made its name. The biryani is more of a spicy, gila (moist) in nature and is a representation of a true blue Hyderabadi street biryani. But I must repeat, more than the biryani (which is pretty good), they are known for their superior Haleem during the Ramzan time.
As expected, the biryani here is spicy and moist. It hits the taste bud strongly and definitely not subtle. But honestly, this is one of the best Mutton Biryani that I’ve tasted on my trip. The gentleman serving us was slightly surprised at why two of us were ordering the small portion- but couldn’t help really. The Mirchi ka Salan and Raita were the standard accompaniments, but I’d suggest skipping the Salan particularly in this place. The biryani, on its own, is good to go.
Mandi@36 Arabian Kitchen
Now that we ‘ve covered two places serving good biryani, it was time for Mandi. Now mandi is something which is giving tough competition to Biryani in Hyderabad. Mandi is a rice and meat dish originating in Yemen. as opposed to Biryani, it’s very very subtle in taste and the meat can be ordered in two variants- either the juicy or the fried version. But we’ll come to that later. Let’s go for some gyan first.
Mandi uses a typical cooking technique which makes it different from the rest. Dry wood is used in tandoor to provide heat in Tandoor. The meat is then boiled with spices and this stock is used to cook the fine Basmati rice inside the tandoor. The meat is then hung inside the tandoor without touching the rice and fat melt from the heat mixed with it made it so tasty. This process is followed for 8 hours or overnight. Honestly, nobody is sure if such an elaborate technique is followed nowadays, but what the heck … I was taken to Mandi@36 Arabian Kitchen to have a taste.
It’s a nice place- a proper AC restaurant and the best part is that it’s always packed. The place is on the 2nd floor of a building and with a proper large waiting area. The seating is pretty comfortable and surprisingly, there is a section, where people sit on floors cross-legged and enjoy the food in a traditional manner.
The order was simple. One family mandi is good for 4 people. Sabyasachi da ordered for one family mandi and in it, he asked for 3 pcs of Fried meat and 2 pcs of juicy meat. The dish came in a large plate and with individual side dishes for us to eat. It’s subtle fragrant rice sprinkled with dry fruits and Fried onion. Fried meat may not be the actual term, but it’s more of dry roasted meat- supremely aromatic. They served some 3 varieties of chutneys (onion, mint and something else) with this, but trust me, they remained mostly unused- such was the aroma of the rice and meat.
And I can safely say, this was one of the best meals that I’ve tasted in Hyderabad. In fact, I carried two portions from my friends in Kolkata back in flight.
And the final spot for me, in my quest for Biryani, is the Meridian Hotel. Being a relatively new entrant, Meridian is one place, which everybody referred for biryani in Hyderabad. And my friend Taher Syed was kind enough to take me there. It’s a nice place with a separate counter for parcels. the sitting area is huge and as I sat there waiting for the gang, got filled up by 1 PM. There is a small parking area in front of it.
I always prefer taking guidance from my local champion foodie friends and that ensures knowledge of the items to be ordered. And quite confidently, Taher ordered for their Tala Hua Gosht and Mutton chops along with biryani. Tala hua gosht is a pam fried mutton heavily spiced with coriander leaves and chilly. The meat was done on a slow fire and that ensured the supreme softness. The dish was spicy but enjoyable. The mutton chops, on the other hand, are the sina (ribs) pieces from a baby goat, fried and tossed with heavy spices. These two dishes are something, on which great things are written about and I must say, beat the otherwise good mutton biryani.
Mutton biryani, on the other hand, was very very balanced. It was not over spicy and had a good mix of masala. The kacchi style of cooking was evident and that enhanced the taste. We ordered for some extra boti (mutton pieces) with the biryani and that worked wonders. The mirch ka salan here was probably among the best that I’ve tasted in Hyderabad. It was thick and quite spicy. Taher taught me to mix some raita (again the watery stuff) with the salan, and that toned down the salan for better consistency. Overall, the meal was fantastic and I’ll definitely recommend this place for someone with a love for Hyderabadi biryani.
My quest for Biryani in Hyderabad was coming to an end and I must admit, I’ve tasted multiple varieties of the same dish across the city. Each had its own special texture and spice mix. And unless someone tastes a few of them, it’ll be difficult to understand. The mandi, on the other hand, is a different game altogether. For someone with a subtle palate and with finer spice mix, it is pure heaven. So, will I rank it above the Hyderabadi biryani? Honestly, I am still confused.
BTW, please remember, before biryani, comes the Hyderabadi breakfast.
Bon apetit !!!
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And there was a great discussion on the journey of Biryani during this trip at The Peerless Hyderabad. Please check it here on Indian Express
Also, the news was on Telengana Today. Please check it here …