Ramadan Repast: Ifthar delights from the Nizam’s kitchen
Hyderabad has always been irrevocably entwined with its food, be it the famous biryani or the classic Hyderabadi haleem, most of which finds its origins in the kitchens of the Nizams, the rulers of Hyderabad. Extravagant in their cuisines, the Nizams, especially during the month of Ramadan, were known to throw ostentatious ifthar parties, serving up hundreds of dishes.
Providing a sampler of the feast in Chennai is Hyatt Regency, which is hosting the Nizami Ramadan Repast, a festival curated by Chef Surender, Chef de Cuisine from Hyatt Hyderabad, who promises
to take us on a journey into the kitchens of the Nizam.
Haleem on my plate
We begin our preview (of select dishes) with the appetiser — a decadent sikampuri kebab, that falls apart on a single bite. Sikam, we are told means stuffed, and this minced lamb patty comes stuffed with yoghurt, mint and chilli before it is pan-fried. This is followed by Hyderabad’s famous mutton haleem, a rich, slow-cooked porridge of cereals and meat. Traditionally served with a garnish of lemon, browned onions and mint, the chef recommends we eat it the same way and we are not disappointed. We recommend you try the live stations, where the haleem will be cooked and served piping hot, right before your eyes.
Served as an extension of Spice Haat’s regular buffet, the festival will feature about eight dishes (including biryani), two starters, three kinds of haleem and two desserts. The menu is a rotating one and will have new dishes every day for the entire length of the festival. Our vegetarian main course is a delicious kaddu ka dalcha (bottle gourd cooked in a selection of five different kinds of daal), served with a bread flavoured with ajwain and kalonji — an effort to appease those who want to try vegetarian dishes at the festival.
But it is the Hyderabadi kache gosht ki biryani that stands out for us. Explaining the process, Chef Surender says, “This style of cooking the biryani is unique to Hyderabad. The marinated raw mutton is added to rice that has been parboiled and then it is cooked along with the rice. A sharp contrast the usual pakke gosht ki biryani where the mutton is cooked before it is cooked in dum-style with the rice.”
Dessert is yet another classic, kubani ka meetha, apricots cooked in sugar slurry served with a dash of fresh cream — a tad sweet for even those with a sweet tooth. The seviyan muzzaffar however, is a better alternative, the preparation of which involves cooking dry roasted vermicelli in sugar syrup, dum-style and garnished with dry fruit.
At Spice Haat, Hyatt Regency, till June 25. Dinner only. Meal for one: Rs 1,450+taxes.