Good Food, Great Stories- Being a Hyderabadi- I

Even while I was planning on the current post, I realized it was going to be long.   But when I completed it, it was way longer than I expected or wanted it to be.    So, I modified what I was writing and my thinking.  The result is the series:  Good Food and Great Stories.

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Now into the post:

Why is food as an experience important? At least to me it brings back memories.

My first trip abroad all by myself was to attend a conference in Dresden, Germany when I was 24 years old.  The coffee that I had in a quaint cafe overlooking River Elbe is still in my memory.  That September afternoon by myself, the smell of coffee and the awesomeness of the moment. IT WAS GOOD.  I am sure most of us relate experience to good memories.  When it comes to experiences, good food definitely plays a part.  The taste of some dishes or in fact even the smell of it, transports us back in time, it evokes such strong memories that you can consciously and vividly recall an event related to it.

As mentioned earlier, this post is the start of a series on good food and all the great memories and stories associated with it.  I believe and I think so do you that there is no dearth of memories or experiences when food is involved. Grandmother’s secret recipe or those exotic dishes you ate when you were visiting places.    Here is to all the awesomeness involved in food, stories and memories.

It is festive season in Hyderabad.  And you can only relate to it if you are from Hyderabad or if you have visited Hyderabad especially during Ramadan.   The spirit of the city is such that it transcends everything else and is a representative of the culture.  So in one word, it does not matter what you are and whom you believe, you are A HYDERABADI.

I was born in Hyderabad and was raised a few years before my family moved to our hometown, the beautiful Visakhapatnam, a quaint coastal city in Southern India.  My father because of his work, had to stay in Hyderabad most of his working life till he retired.   So, while we were in our hometown most of the year, we spent few months in Hyderabad whenever we had school off and later when I completed my education, I worked in Hyderabad for a while.

So, I can relate to being a Hyderabadi, as they call it and feel great about it too.   While the spirit is always festive in the city, the month of Ramadan is even special.  And the best part of the entire season- food!!!  All you can find at this time is big stalls on the roads where delicious food is served. Now Hyderabadi food is a gift of the Nizams, who have ruled Hyderabad for close to 4 centuries.   The locals fondly say that Hyderabadi food is made out of leisure and love for it.

Even if it is this particular season under discussion is over, a true Hyderabadi will eternally love the Irani chai, Osmania biscuit, Paradise Biriyani and Qubani Ka Meetha.  The list goes on!

In this post, all I intend to do get a little spirit of Hyderabad and the great food into this post.  I might not be very successful, but I still want to give it a try.

To satiate my senses AND my memories, I made the special Hyderabadi Biriyani and a dessert “Double ka Meetha” last weekend.

Here comes the first entry on back to back posting on ” Good food and Great stories- Being Hyderabadi”.

ImageHyderabadi Pakki Biriyani

Before that I need to assert:

The authentic biriyani uses lamb and sometimes chicken. I being a vegetarian, used vegetables.  The technique is same, just substitute meat for vegetables.

There are two traditional methods of preparing the Hyderabadi Biryani: Kachchi Briyani is prepared with raw meat which is marinated in yogurt and then cooked along with the rice by sealing the vessel.   Pakki briyani the meat, (in my case, the vegetables) is cooked and layered with the cooked rice.

For the vegetables:

  • Potatoes, carrots, beans – Diced and cut
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • Green chili, ginger and garlic made into a paste -2 Tbsp
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 Tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 Tsp red chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns – crushed
  • 2 green cardamoms, crushed
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Coarsely chopped mint leaves- 3 sprigs

For the Biryani

  • 2 cups Basmati rice, washed, and soaked in water for 20 min. Drain in a colander and set aside.
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 1/2 stick of cinnamon
  • Grated nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp ghee
  • Salt to taste

Other items needed for layering

  • Fried onions
  • Yogurt- Saffron mix- Whisk yogurt with saffron. Add a little water or milk and whisk well. Keep aside, we will need it during the layering.

Biryani

The process:

Vegetables:

  1. Add all the ingredients from the vegetable section to cut vegetables and marinate for 2-3 hours.
  2. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan and add the marinated stuff and cook till it is done.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside.

Rice:

  1. Cook the rice along with the spices: bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, grated nutmeg and ghee.  Add salt. Cook till the rice is 3/4 done.
  2. Now proceed to the layering part.
  3. Layer some rice at the bottom of the vessel.  Arrange some fried onion followed by the cooked vegetables.
  4. Sprinkle some yogurt-saffron mix.  Follow with another layer of rice, onions and vegetables.
  5. Repeat till the entire rice and the vegetables are done.
  6. Top off with some rice.
  7. Garnish with some mint leaves.
  8. Cover tightly.
  9. Complete the cooking in microwave for 5 minutes.
  10. Serve with Raita.

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Note: Since the post was getting longer, I decided to break it in two parts.   Please follow the second part of this series for the dessert.

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