2021 was a year of experiments and novelty, but, the biggest trend of the year was the rise in native cuisines
Looking beyond biryani
When a non-Hyderabadi hears the word Hyderabad, their mind is most likely to have a picture of biryani, that’s how synonymous the Nizamian city is with food. We have our own cuisine that’s known and loved across the globe for its unique blend of spices and cultures. While serving the best of our own, the city also aces making food from other cultures and places. Persian, South Indian, North Indian, North-Eastern, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Mexican, French — you name it and we have it. Right from authentic flavours to fusions, Hyderabad is home to a variety of tastes and flavours.
Despite it all, the food and beverages industry in the city took a hit during the pandemic, like most others. Even though food delivery apps tried to be a saviour, there was only so much they could do. But the good news is that the city not only survived, but thrived once the lockdown was lifted. From the biggest of restaurants to the smallest of eateries, Hyderabadis leapt to do what they love doing the most — binge-eat! Albeit, with health and hygiene being given utmost priority. The Covid scare pushed customers and restaurateurs to prioritise proper sanitisation, which came as a silver lining amid the pandemic.
2021 was a year of experiments and novelty, and a successful one at that. With restaurants having to remain shut for a couple of months during the first half of the year, DIY kits came as a saviour to many. Restaurants delivered marinated chicken, grills, sauces etc., to customers’ homes, who could prepare their food fresh and hot, and preserve the rest for later. The same idea also worked wonders for DIY cocktails!
Next, the year saw the city bloom with several new cafes and restaurants coming up with interesting themes and cuisines. From an exotic French-themed patisserie to simple, clean and green street food, the city saw it all.
Echoing the city’s live and let live ideology, more and more eateries have grown to be gender inclusive and sensitive. Several of Hyderabad’s cafes today, old and the new ones that came up, are queer community-friendly. The city also saw a rise in pet-friendly spaces. Believing our furry friends are a joy and not a hindrance, spaces organised bring-your-pet-to-breakfast events.
But the biggest trend of the year has to be the rise in native cuisines. Authentic Telangana, Andhra and Rayalaseema dishes filled our hearts and tummies this year. Proving Telugu cuisine is beyond just pappu and pachadi, restaurants in town delved deeper into our culture to cull out and whip up the rich, real and raw flavours of our State. That said, some authentic cuisines, and not just fusion foods, tickled our taste buds this year. We were more open to enjoying foods from around the world as they were - without having to add to them our tadkas and masalas!
Not to forget, Hyderabad grewing by leaps and bounds in the green direction. Established and new brands came up with vegan foods. Nevertheless, experts and bloggers feel Hyderabad is yet to get to where our metropolitan counterparts are, food-wise. It looks like we’re making steps in the right direction, with people like Shaaz Mehmood, owner of Olive Hyderabad and partner of Olive Bar & Kitchen, being elected as the managing committee member of the National Restaurant Association of India.
Masterclasses were a rage through the second lockdown and beyond. Signing up for a cooking or baking workshop had become the new activity for many over the weekend, with several cafes, restaurants and culinary studios hosting these sessions. Conducted by culinary experts, these workshops introduced participants to a variety of cuisines and helped them learn the intricacies of the art of cooking
Addictive melodies, slick choreography, production values and an endless parade of attractive South Korean performers have put K-pop on the international map. In fact, Korean popular music was such a rage in Hyderabad in 2021 that it created a curiosity and demand for Korean cuisine
One for the ’gram
Through the second wave, when we were all confined to our home once again, the culinary world began to live on social media, especially on Instagram. From finely plated dishes to gooey, messy desserts, photos of food flooded the photo-sharing platform. Breakfast, lunch, diner; Hyderabadis were constantly posting photos of every meal
Taaza Kitchen, Madhapur
Social media was abuzz with posts about Taaza Kitchen in Madhapur is. Known to serve the best of South Indian (read Bengaluru) breakfast in the city, Taaza Kitchen has been receiving only the best of reviews. The place, apart from its authentic taste, has been winning brownie points for its standard of hygiene and affordability. Telugu brothers Vignesh and Raghavendra, who lived in Karnataka for close to 25 years, decided to bring the best of Bengaluru’s taste to Hyderabad
New on the block
Sauce On The House
If you are a sauce-lover and can’t finish a meal without one, Sauce On The House was the place for you. Located in HiTech City and Banjara Hills, this cool drive-in was the talk of the town for all the right reasons. You get unlimited sauces and dips with your food. Now, isn’t that bliss?
Tiny ‘chef’ Smera
Eight-year-old ‘chef’ Smera K wowed netizens with her baking and icing skills. Her mouth-watering, detailed, artistic cakes seemed like they were straight out a fairy tale. She goes by @chef_smeracurrenyl on Instagram and enjoys a fan following of 45.8k
This café in Tellapur started an initiative under which it brings together the elderly for some good food and nostalgic conversation. The project aims at connecting baby boomers and helping them narrate their nostalgia. The cafe has decided to do this every month
Middle Eastern desserts a hit
After shawarma, and mandi, Middle Eastern desserts made their way into Hyderabad. Until two years ago, these were served only at a few authentic Kabul, Istanbul and Arabian restaurants. But 2021 saw several restaurant chains in the city and even street joints selling Knafeh. The soft, cheesy, less-sweetened pastry, Knafeh or Kunafa and mithai-looking mini pastry Baklava became extremely popular
The pandemic put the spotlight on the need to follow a healthy lifestyle, which means there’s no room for junk food, a.k.a fast carbs. Hyderabad had several low-carb snack options to offer, which were also lip-smacking good
This year, the Internet went crazy with netizens going live or recording themselves eating copious amounts of food in one go. The trend, called ‘mukbang’, started in 2009 on the real-time Internet South Korean TV service AfreecaTV, but was made popular by YouTubers and Twitch streamers
Niloufer street at Lakdikapul was all over social media for its good ’ol Malai Bun. To get a taste of it, all one had to do was reach the cafe by 3 am. Creamy, mild, a bit sweet and salty, the malai is dressed with a teaspoon of sugar (some prefer a tablespoon) and is served with a freshly-baked bun. Dunk a piece of the bun in the malai and let the rare combination knock you
out of the park
Bringing home a global trend, bakers created waves by packing cakes with oodles of frosting, which when unleashed, is pure magic. The trend involves a tall cake, layered with butter cream frosting and topped off with a slurry, ganache centre. A plastic sheet holds all this in place. Once pulled up, it’s a tsunami of happiness
Gopi Byluppala, The Culinary Lounge
Gopi Byluppala, the founder-CEO of The Culinary Lounge in Jubilee Hills, rolled out a programme under which he would teach budding chefs all the works -- right from cooking to people skills. His plan is to take 100 chefs under his wing as part of the project, which is the first of its kind to take off in Telangana
The Willow Bake Shop, Banjara Hills
This quirky hangout, which offered lip-smacking grub and was an ideal chat-up space for many, downed its shutters in August. The shop was known for its ever-changing menu, with some names too hard to pronounce but easy on the palate. It had 162 types of tarts, including the Portuguese egg, and 50 varieties of croissants. People from all corners of the city would grab a table and spend hours chatting
A Babu Rao, Niloufer Cafe
The signature tea at Café Niloufer is the result of a master blend by the café’s owner A Babu Rao, who came up with three new tea powder formulas this year. Calling himself more of a blender than a businessman, Rao mixed over 200 tea powders to make three brand new tea powders
Chef Vikramjit Roy, The Tangra Project
Chef Vikramjit Roy brought to Hyderabad The Tangra Project. Tangra is a region in east Kolkata that traditionally housed tanneries owned by the people of the Hakka Chinese origin. They’re known for the famous Indian-Chinese cuisine everybody loves.