Hyderabad is the flavour of the month at the Vivanta by Taj, Thycaud

If indulging yourself in the sheer gastronomic delight that the cuisine of Hyderabad is known for is your idea of a memorable dinner, Vivanta by Taj at Thycaud in the city has got just the menu for you. The hotel is organising a Hyderabadi food festival till November 10 at its Fifth Element restaurant, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. And if the thought of Haleem, Kache gosht ke biriyani and the sinfully sweet temptations of Kubani ka meetta arranged in a buffet does not do the trick, know that the hotel has gone a step further in ensuring the authenticity of taste. Preparing the dishes that will be on offer is Abdul Khader Jeelani, a man whose family has perfected the dishes of the Nizams for generations.

Chef Jeelani is no stranger to bringing recipes to life, with over 23 years of experience working at the best hotels in the business, and conducting food festivals all over India. On top of that, he has also taken Indian cuisine to the far eastern shores of Japan, having contributed to setting up a speciality Indian restaurant there. The roots of his culinary skills can be traced back to the kitchens of the Nizams, where his grandfather worked.

“My grandfather used to be part of a team of around 30 or so who were in charge of preparing food for the rulers nearly 65 years ago. My father then learnt from him in later years and the tradition has carried on since,” he says.

The appeal that food has to Jeelani and his family is understandable, seeing the wealth of different delicacies the region has produced and adopted over the years. “Hyderabadi cuisine has similarities to that of Lucknow, and nearby regions, with subtle variations, which can even come down to how tamarind is used in the preparation. There are many different ways of preparation for different events and there are a lot of factors involved in cooking,” he explains while describing the intricacies involved.

Despite being proficient in a wide variety of dishes, his favourites are Haleem (a thick paste made with meat and spices) and Kache gosht ke biriyani (an example of the famous dum biriyani that Hyderabad is known for). He goes on to narrate a story about how Haleem evolved as a result of having to feed thousands of Irani soldiers who had arrived in the Nizam’s presence, necessitating a simple and nutritious dish that could be prepared in large quantities.

The reason behind treating the city to such an extravaganza was explained by Jose Thomas, executive chef at the Vivanta.

“It is no secret that we Malayalis love meat, and what better preparations to treat ourselves to than the rich meats and gravies of Hyderabad? Chef Jeelani has taken great care in making sure that the native taste of the recipes is captured, even bringing in spices and the apricots used in Kubani ka meetta along with him. This is a great opportunity to experience the dishes that have developed in the Deccan region due to the unique cultural and religious requirements they have had over the years.”

Sumptuous food and a few great stories to go with it, the perfect recipe to attract foodies in the city. Be warned however, with rich cashew and almond aplenty gracing those gravies, this is nothing short of a banquet, so have a light lunch before reaching for those car keys.