I know I am repeating myself, but Hyderabad food is so beyond Biryani. Yes, people there love biryani, but the regular Telugu meal is also there and it’s definitely something to be experienced. Personally, wherever I go, at least one meal should be in a local pice hotel and that helps me immensely to understand the local tastebuds. And it was no different in Hyderabad. The only difference is, it’s called as a mess there in Hyderabad.
Siva Raju Andhra Mess
It was my first lunch in Hyderabad and I was walking along the street to find a local mess. Renowned food blogger and my friend Sabyasachi da told me that there will be few, near the Yashoda Hospital and as usual, he was not wrong. So, my first experience was at Siva Andhra Mess. and let me be honest, it’s one of your friendly neighborhood regular food joint, and not anything special.
This place is meant for everyday lunch/ dinner for local people and so only fresh everyday food was expected. The setting is basic and you need to pay beforehand and start with your food. Biryani is there, but what intrigued me, was the meal. Like our very own pie hotels, they also had one basic vegetarian thali and chicken/ fish can be ordered as extra. Few basic items are already kept there on the table and get refilled once empty. The Sambar, Rasam, Potato Sabzi, one Sour Dal and one achaar. and the thali comes with unlimited servings with rice and papad and one bowl of sour card. The serving of rice is also unlimited, so need not worry.
The sambar was not like the ones we get here. It had a strange balance of sweetness and sour taste and let me be honest, tasted really different. But my choice was the sour Dal- it was brilliant. The achaar was probably made from yum (sadly, I couldn’t make it out), but had a lovely spicy zing.
The chicken curry had a lovely aroma of whole black pepper and crushed curry leaves and 5 good pieces in it and was so unlike anything that we get in Kolkata. It had hot, but not spicy (if you know what I mean) watery curry. And once you have this thing with the hot rice served, it gets pretty addictive. The whole meal had cost me 220/- with one vegetable thali and 2 whole portions of chicken curry (5 pcs each). And my Hyderabad food trip started on a lovely note.
On the flip side, the lady at the counter thought that I was not eating a good volume of rice because I was not liking the taste and was kind of sad. But, honestly, I couldn’t make her understand that I can’t eat that much.
Sri Kakatiya Deluxe Mess
So, if there is a good local singer in your locality, there is always is a master. And in Hyderabadi mess culture, the award arguably goes to Sri Katiya Deluxe Mess, Ameerpet. Locals call it as one of the best Andhra Mess in Hyderabad and rightly so. Sabyasachi da made it a point that I go there and himself took me for lunch. This place tucked inside a commercial lane at Ameerpet and for an outsider, using Google map is recommended.
On the other side of the road, there is the parcel/ takeaway counter for the same establishment. And the counter is superbly managed. The pricing is quite reasonable, and that probably speaks for the sales volume.
The food at Kakatiya Mess
As per the rules of a pice hotel … oops, Mess, a table is shared with strangers and a superb bonding is made. For example, in our table, we had this principal from one private college. That gentleman, quite enthusiastically, taught us how to add the gunpowder and ghee to rice and when to wait for the hot rice to appear. Now, these are the small small things that make a place stand out.
This mess is a much-sophisticated version of the earlier one with a proper seating area and AC. In fact, the setup can easily match a proper dine-in restaurant. Apart from the regular items, they served us the kheer and the usual bowl of sour card was there. Sabyasachi da ordered for a mutton fry and a tasting portion of Prawn fry reached the table along with it. The mutton fry had small chunks of boneless mutton dry cooked with a coarse spice mix and was quite spicy. The prawn fry was quite similar and cooked with shrimps. But honestly, the mutton fry was much superior in taste.
But if you’re going for any Andhra Mess, DO NOT FORGET TO HAVE THE HOT RICE WITH HUGE DOLLOPS OF GHEE AND GUN POWDER. The combo is the insane and best part of any meal- IMHO.
Price for lunch for two of us with two veg thali and one plate of Mutton fry as extra was 460/-.
Ulavacharu is arguably among the best Telugu restaurants in Hyderabad and Secunderabad and is known to present a taste of the typical cuisine to the public. Technically, Ulavacharu is the name of a very very popular gram dish (kind of Rajma) and the restaurant is named after that. It’s a fine dining place, which boasts of hosting the who’s who of the Telugu celebrity circle.
Some Gyan on Telugu cuisine
Telugu cuisine can be broadly divided into 3 regions- Coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema, Telangana cuisine. As the name suggests, Coastal Andhra reflects the coastal food along the Bay of Bengal coastline. The dishes are rice-based and use a lot of fish. Ulavacharu is a famous dish from this region only. The southern regional cuisine can be named as the Rayalaseema cuisine- bordering Karnataka. The food is super spicy and the use of chilly is very very prominent here. What we understand as the hot Telugu cuisine, is from this region. In this Rayalaseema cuisine, thokku is pretty popular- so like the Bharta of Bangladesh.
The Deccan plateau from Telangana state can be called as the typical Telangana cuisine. Apart from rice, roti (made from Millet and Ragi) is extensively used here and mutton is consumed heavily. A use of Tamarind, red chilly and asafetida is heavily used. And Ulavacharu showcases cuisine from all these places… Please check this Wikipedia link for more details.
Food at Ulavacharu
First things first, though it has some dishes from the Telangana province, Ulavacharu serves primary food from Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra regions. They spoil one with options- let me be honest. If someone is coming from outside and wants to experience Telugu food, this is probably the best place. But, you need someone who knows the food, to accompany you and to guide you through what to order. Two pcs of laddu were served while we waited for the food. and in the assortment of chutney, I was seriously impressed with the one with Gangaura. It has a slightly earthy smell, w=something which I am unable to express here.
As a starter, we had Bangla Kodi. In Telugu, Bangla means potato and Kodi is chicken. This dish is chicken managed inside potato chips and battered and deep-fried. the spicy chicken was complemented nicely by the potato. Godavari Prawn was a usual (but damn tasty) spicy shrimp dish, wherein the Bamboo chicken, unlike many other places, was cooked actually inside a Bamboo. And we could clearly make that out from the musky aroma in that.
I understand, Ulavacharu is a damn famous dish, but sadly it didn’t suit my palate. Maybe the aroma of Gangaura leaves was an acquired taste, or I had too many dishes to taste. The regular chicken curry was served with rice also, for me to taste.
though Hyderabad is called as the Biryani capital of India, the range and variety of Pulao in Telugu cuisine is mind-blowing. they have an unlimited number of pulaos and Biryani was not really looked upon highly. We were served Rayala Gadi pulao and Gadwal Kodi Pulao- both from the chicken variant. The Rayala Kodi pulao was more subtle and was flavored with green chilly. The heat from the green chilly was balanced finely by the sweetness of the fried onion. And as its, a pulao, the meat was cooked with the rice, imparting its aroma within.
The Gadwal Kodi Pulao was more on the spicier frontier. And by this, I mean, it’s really really spicy stuff. The taste of chilly was very prominent and the whole damn thing was served on an egg omelette. when I asked for the reason, the owner Mr. Vijaya Reddy told, that it’s there to balance the hot taste. And I must say, I was blown away by them. Maybe, they made us taste too many dishes and didn’t allow us to pay the bill, but still next time I go there, just one whole portion of Rayala Kodi Pulao is what’s going to be my order. Apricot Delight was the dessert and it’s basically kind of apricot-based pudding. But honestly, after this heavy meal, it was a burden.
All I can say is, Telugu food is much beyond the usual Biryani fare. And in fact, there is rarely any biryani there, apart from the royal kitchens of Nizams. but the sheer variety of Pulao and the fine balance of spicy taste and sourness is surely something, that needs to be experienced.
This was my first tryst with the cuisine and I am sure that there’s much to be explored. If you want to share anything about this with me, please feel free to write in the comments section below.
Bon apetit !!!
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