If you haven’t had biryani in Hyderabad it wasn’t a biryani…
I’m a bit biased but if you haven’t had biryani in Hyderabad it wasn’t a biryani, it was pilau. For those who don’t know what biryani is, it’s a dish consisting of meat and rice cooked in spices, a delicious testament to the cosmopolitan kitchens of the Nizams. Many cities fight over the biryani but we’ve claimed the dish as being truly Hyderabadi in somewhat of a hostile takeover.
The method of cooking a biryani is different in Hyderabad. To give you a comparison, Hyderabad food versus say food in Lucknow is like Italian food versus French food. Italians are a little more liberal with the way they cook – throw in a bit of this, a little bit of that. Love plays a very big role. Whereas in France, like in Lucknow, they’re obsessed with the finesse and the way things are perfumed and presented.
On this tour we first give people a complete understanding of the region’s culinary history including its Persian influences and how this mix of north and southern cooking came together. We take you through the markets to see all the local spices and vegetables then for lunch at a family home to show you how biryani is cooked from scratch.
Most Hyderabadis would say that the best biryanis are cooked at home and each variation is unique because everyone has their own way of cooking it. You can eat, traditional style on the floor or at a table if you wish. You’ll also be able to interact with the family, see past photographs and hear stories about their lives. People find this quite fascinating because you don’t often get the opportunity to meet these very traditional local families.
Sometimes we take people to a wedding hall where there’s biryani being cooked for around 1,000 people. There’s usually one crazy head chef who will be screaming around the kitchen along with some wonderful assistants. The process is a little different when it’s being cooked at that scale – they have these massive pots with fire underneath covered with hot coals on top – it’s almost like a baking process.
For me, it’s very much about the history and the culture of food not just the eating of it! When you’re eating, it’s almost automatic but what you don’t realise is that there are all these stories hidden behind each bite.