After shawarma, and mandi, Middle Eastern desserts are making their way into Hyderabad
Desserts from the desert
After shawarma, and mandi, Middle Eastern desserts are making their way into Hyderabad. Until two years ago, these were served only at a few authentic Kabul, Istanbul and Arabian restaurants. Now, several restaurant chains in the city and even street joints have started to sell Knafeh. The soft, cheesy, less-sweetened pastry, Knafeh or Kunafa and mithai-looking mini pastry Baklava have picked up popularity in the city. CE speaks to restaurants and street joints exclusively selling these desserts, thanks to the growing demand.
“Kunafa was available for a very long time in Hyderabad, but was restricted to very few places that have a Middle Eastern influence, such as Barkas, and some families in other parts of the city,” says Zubair Ali, a city-based food blogger.
Since about two years ago, a few places that serve authentic Middle Eastern delicacies have also started to sell Baklava. “Now, there are individual stores dedicated to the business of selling Baklava and Kunafa in the city. These delicacies have a local touch, with chefs experimenting with ingredients. We now get chocolate, Nutella, zafrani and extra-cheesy Kunafas. Even star hotels have started serving Baklavas,” the food blogger adds.
All the places that serve Mandi have started plating Kunafa, including Mandi@36 at Jubilee Hills, Road No 36, Spice 6 at Banjara Hills, Road Number 12, and Azeebo at Madhapur. Whereas in the old city, besides Mandi joints, there are individual eateries exclusively selling Middle Eastern desserts. For instance, Captain Kunafa at Yerrakunta in Barkas, serves only Kunafa and Baklava. “Many home chefs, too, are serving these on weekends at Barkas, for we have a tongue that devours for Middle Eastern delicacies!” Zubair adds.
Zohair Ahmed from Captain Kunafa says, “There are many Mandi restaurants here and numerous Shawarma joints. I came up with this venture last year, and it has been doing well. People from the other side of the city, including Hitec City and even Secunderabad, who come to Barkas for Mandi, don’t leave without stopping for Kunafa. It is probably because we have a Persian influence in the various foods of our city.”
Restaurants and Middle Eastern dessert stores say that these delicacies are giving stiff competition to Indian sweets. “We saw a spike in sales during the festive season. We ran out of stock during Dasara. We thought it was just a lucky day, but the sales hit the roof during Diwali too,” says Shakeel Ahmed, one of the managers at Kunafa Station in Tolichowki.
“I was surprised to see people ordering online boxes of assorted Baklavas. The combos are preferred during Ramzan and Bakrid, from the last two years, even during Dasara and Diwali. We don’t experiment with ingredients to maintain authenticity,” says a staff member at Gourmet Baklava, Banjara Hills, Rd No. 3.
Other foods making their way into Hyderabad
Madfoon: This Arabian meal is a combination of meat and rice. It has a mild earthy taste because of the spices used and the flavour of mutton cooked under the earth. The dish comes from Al Hudaydah, Yemen
Baba Ghanoush: This Levantine appetiser is made of mashed eggplant, various seasonings and sometimes tahini. This dish is available at a few restaurants in Barkas on weekends