My visit to Hyderabad, the City of Nizams has been, by far, one of the most enriching and fulfilling culinary experiences. A city that takes pride in its food, Hyderabad is truly spellbinding. Discovering street food was an experience in itself; however, meeting the epitome of Hyderabadi cuisine, Nawab Mehboob Alam Khan was a near divine experience.
The origin of Hyderabadi food is a confluence of varied cultures, Indian and foreign. Known for its spicy character, Nawabi cuisine is a combination of varied aromas, fragrances, textures and colours. They use lemon, tamarind, yogurt, tomatoes, vinegar, raw mango pulp and citrus fruits. The spices used are caraway seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, cassia buds, muskmelon and watermelon seeds. However, the two magical spice blends are Bhojwar masala (contains coriander, cumin, sesame seeds, peanuts, bay, lichen and coconut) and Potli masala (a combination of around 32 spices).
My encounter with the city could not have been complete without the guidance and mentorship of Nawab Sahib, fondly known as Baba. An extremely well-travelled and charismatic personality, Baba’s knowledge of Nawabi culture and tradition is unparalleled. Having been invited to his home for dinner was a true privilege, and I even hoped to imbibe a little of his culinary genius, observing his dexterity in the kitchen. For dinner, I had the most heavenly experience with some of Baba’s creations Maraq, Haleem, Raan, Sofyani gosht biryani, Baghare Baigan and Gajar.
I was also invited to a typical Hyderabadi breakfast of Math kibhajiandey, khagina, kheema and khichdi. On a Sunday, I visited Baba’s farmhouse in Vikarabad where every Sunday, Baba offers food to villagers and children.
Hyderabad is truly a treasury of riches when it comes to culture. I am grateful to Baba for enriching my knowledge of food and the traditions of the land of Nawabs.