The Jeelani menu at Vivanta by Taj offers some rare Nizami dishes by a man with a very interesting past

His is an almost fairytale sort of story. He grew up at a time when his father was an Ustad in the Nizam’s kitchen. Since school was too far for him to attend, he would routinely be put to work alongside his father. Now a senior chef at Vivanta by Taj, Abdul Khadeer Jeelani loves to whip up traditional Hyderabadi delicacies, especially little known delights from the Nizam’s own kitchens. It is to celebrate this that Viva, the all day dining eatery at the hotel, has decided to add a special Jeelani menu to their regular a la carte one.

The newly introduced menu offers some interesting Nizami dishes like the Murgh Lapeta, Mevve ke Kebab, Machi ke Shammi, Jungli Murghi Ka Salan, Kaddu ka Dalcha, Palak ka Halwa and Gosht ka Halwa. Chef Jeelani has fond memories of cooking up a storm with his father back then. “I would assist my father in the Nizam’s kitchen when I was young. But one day when he had gone to the market to buy supplies the guests who were expected, arrived early. We couldn’t make them wait so I made them Tala Hua Gosht. I’d watched my father make this several times but had never attempted it myself,” he smiles. By the time his father returned the guests had been served the foodand were appreciating every morsel. Incidentally, chef Jeelani’s family relocated to Karnataka in 1971 and he worked with his father at a guest house. It was in the 1980s that the vice president of HR of Taj, who was attending a conference in the area, happened to taste some of the dishes cooked by Jeelani. “He asked for me and offered me a job with the Taj. I’ve been with the group ever since. First in Bengaluru and now in Hyderabad,” he says. A part of the Jeelani special menu that offers a range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian Nizami dishes will also be featured in Viva’s regular buffet spread. What makes the menu even more interesting is the fact that each of the kebabs has been paired with delightful cocktails and mocktails to heighten one’s culinary senses. So if you were to bite into a delectably tender Murgh Lapeta, grilled chicken wrapped around some chicken mince and dry fruits, or devour a rich Mevve Ka Kebab, a delightful vegetarian kebab made with paneer, khoya and dry fruits, don’t forget to ask for a beverage of your choice. The Mevve Ke Kebab for instance is paired with Falak (a cocktail made with Kahlua and milk) while the Mutti Kebab goes very well with a Mirch Mumtaz (orange juice with green chilli seeds) or the Kala Khatta (Rum, lime juice and mint). So while guests get to experience some Nizami-style cuisine they get to do it with a twist.