Hyderabadi biryani – The Aroma of Savoury


What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone talks about the city of Hyderabad? The iconic Char Minar? The giant Chowmohalla Palace? Zoological park? The serene statue of Buddha in the middle of the Hussain Sagar Lake? If you love food, the first image will be that of a spicy steaming Hyderabadi biryani.

The Hyderabadi Biryani with the herbal warm scent of spices that makes every foodie drools at just the imagination. Hyderabad is popularly known as the ‘City of Spices’. The availability and ample production of various spices in the State has influenced the food culture of the Hyderabadis. Hyderabadi dishes are spicy flavoured and colourful. Some of the salient features of Hyderabadi food are the key flavours of coconut, tamarind, peanuts, green chillies, dried red chillies, pepper, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and clove. These spices are used liberally in cooking. The key spice is chilli, which is used in large amout. Hyderabadi dum biryani is enjoyed by the majority of Indians and people world over. There is no doubt that this is one dish people all over will eat and enjoy well.  This biryani manages to mark its place in every ceremony and occasion throughout the seasons across the globe. The aroma wafts to reveal the richness and spices that this concoction is known for.

Based on the marination and cooking style, Hyderabadi biryani can be broadly classified as kachi or pakki. The difference is quite simple. In kachi biryani, the marinated meat and rice are cooked together in a slow flame. In a pakki biryani, the meat is marinated for a lesser time and is almost cooked while the rice is semi-cooked and both are then arranged in layers and steamed. In most places, the biryani is served with a mirchi ka salan, which is basically a peanut and whole green chilli gravy, and dahi with chopped onions and raita.

The word Hyderabadi biryani in itself has the essence, the versatile aroma, taste and looks that can trigger any familiar South Asian’s taste buds. The world famous Hyderabadi Biryani more of a Mughal origination is prepared with a lot of spices, soft mutton pieces, curd (yoghurt), rice and the special ingredients of saffron and other garnish like raisins, cashew nuts and even caramelized onions give it the cut out of the rest of the varieties of biryani in this land of tradition and folklore . It is not only a delicacy in Hyderabad households but is also a favourite at the hotspots, getaways and restaurants in the city. In Hyderabad, biryani is prepared in massive quantities and is a primary source of business and income especially during the wedding seasons of July and December. Here the biryani has its own history and versatility for every typical Hyderabadi.

All biryanis are great but there are a few things about Hyderabadi biryani that make people go crazy.  There are a few reasons that have endeared the biryani to the Hyderabadi people. One thing that people always comment on is how every grain of rice seems to be imbued with so much meat flavor. That is a result of the cooking technique. It takes hours of preparation and slow cooking on coal in true dum style. Unlike most other varieties where the meat is cooked first, in Hyderabadi biryani you cook the raw marinated meat and par cooked rice together in the oven. So as the meat is cooking, the juices release themselves into the still-absorbant rice. The manner in which this spicy dish is made may be the reason that makes Hyderabadi biryani popular. Another difference is the combination of spices. Some biryani varieties are strong and spicy or use a colorful mix of vegetables. But true Hyderabadi biryani uses a subtler mix of ingredients – people love it for being bold, but elegantly aromatic. The explosion of flavours in biryani satisfies people all around. Unlike other popular foods, there is no strict recipe for a biryani. In fact every home has its own recipe. Whatever the reason, the best way to find an answer for this question is to have a plate of biryani in one of the numerous Hyderabad joints that serve the dish.

Residents and biryani lovers in Secunderabad though love the Shadaab restaurant near the charminar for its sumptuous Biryani and in Hyderabad. This is an old city specialist and has been around for 14-15 years. One gets to savour biryani here in its true essence even though the restaurant has also started offering localised Chinese. The biryani is first-rate, reasonably priced and extremely popular with locals and visitors alike. Food lovers from Hyderabad suggest ordering a Shadab Special Biryani that is a combination of mutton and chicken. Bustling with people most times of the day, this is a must-visit for anyone on a biryani trail in Hyderabad. One has to wait a minimum of 10 minutes to get a table. This place is also popular for its haleem. It is the biryani from Hyderabad House that is highly revered. Hyderabad House is a takeaway joint like Domino’s with a distinctive logo, located all around Hyderabad.

Najeeb of Hyderabad House remarks that “Fast food outlets like KFC, pizza hut, Mc Donalds, Dominos and Chinese chicken dishes have failed to overtake biryani. They face a stiff competition from this easily digestible dish that can be eaten daily, unlike fast food items”.

Jamaludheen of Garden Restaurant, Secunderabad noticed that with the city population increasing and more people preferring to dine out during the weekends or depending on takeaways, the demand for the delectable dish has only increased. He said that for some Hyderabadi biriyani is a staple dish and can never tire them.

The Paradise restaurant in Secunderabad is one of the best places to have the spicy aromatic Biryani in Hyderabad. This restaurant started from a small shop and has gradually grown into a three story building, most of which are full throughout the year. The food at Paradise, inspite of all the fame it has, is fair priced and big on quantity. It is believe that the price is one of the basic reasons for its enduring popularity. This restaurant is considered as the favourite spot for having a plate of Hyderabadi biryani. Special Chicken biryani is the most well liked dish at this restaurant. The Paradise Restaurant itself claims that their biryani is the world’s favourite biryani. The other best places for biryani are Bawarchi Restaurant, Café Bahar, Parvez hotel, Greenland Hotel, Hotel Niagara and Pakwaan Restaurant.

Muhammed Nafees is working at Paradise restaurant for last four years. Nafees is a specialist in preparing biryani. “Our customers are passionate about food, and we took into account their views – how they look for comfort food and seek flavors of home-cooked meals. We conducted our own in-depth research when designing these new menus, as well as looked at trends and new innovations within the catering industry. All these elements have contributed to our enhanced menu offering across Hyderabad,” he explained.

“We visited this couple of times. This was a decent restaurant some 3 years back when we first visited. Taste and flavor was good then. The spicy Chicken biryani is the best they make” says Abhinand about Paradise restaurant at Parklane, Secunderabad.

“The secret technique used for dum and the masala which are used to make the dish are unique to the city,” says Mohammed of Moghal Caterers. Mohammed was shocked when he receives and order from Malaysia to prepare Hyderabadi biryani for a grand function.

Forty eight year old Sahibul Akbar has 30 years experience behind the art of cooking Biryani. It is a feast for the eyes, watching the process of Akbar preparing biryani. According to Akbar, the biryani has influenced a Hyderabadi’s toungue so strongly that usually other famous dishes of Hyderabad takes a back seat. It takes an extra ordinary taste for other dishes to beat the competition of biryani. He also request to go out for Biryani by making sure that our appetite is super strong and our stomachs are completely empty so that we can indulge in a pure, unadulterated, sumptuous taste of Hyderabadi Biryani.

Once a dish for royalty, today the biryani reflects local sensibilities and traditions and is a popular and common dish. Biryani is one of the most versatile and universal foods. Everyone loves Biryani but no one can claim it. The mind boggling varieties, the mouth watering recipes can be a fun lesson in history and geography because they have all been adapted using local ingredients in mind.  Some would even go as far as to say that for a restaurant to survive in Hyderabad, it must have a biryani on its menu. It won’t be a wrong statement if someone opines that the Biryani is the most ubiquitous dish in Hyderabad.