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A nawabi affair

For a gastronomic treat, Navaratna, the restaurant at Hotel Le Royal Meridien is organising a Hyderabadi food festival, till June 1.

THINK HYDERABADI food and what comes to mind are mouth-watering biriyani and succulent kebabs. And rightly so, an authentic Hyderabadi meal is never complete without these two dishes.

A Hyderabadi food festival is on at Navaratna (ph: 22314344), the restaurant at Le Royal Meridien till June 1.

On entering the restaurant one is transported to the world of Nizams with a live performance of ghazals and qawalis helping you unwind after a hard day's work.

Starting with the soup, the pudina tamatar ki shorba (tomato and mint broth) and the paya nariyal ka shorba (stewed lamb trotters soup with grated coconut) had the right kind of tanginess and spice to whet the appetite.

For starters, we had shikampura boti kebab (lamb and lentil kebab). It had a distinctive taste of tamarind, which according to the executive chef, Mark Crocker is one of the key ingredients in Hyderabadi cuisine. "Hyderabadi food is a synthesis of the rich ingredients of Mughlai food such as almonds, saffron and khoya combined with souring agents like tamarind and green mango. As a result, most of the dishes have a slightly sour taste to them," he says.

But what makes the food special is the use of ingredients carefully chosen and cooked to the right degree. Nowhere is this truer than in the preparation of biriyani. Unlike other South Indian preparations, a Hyderabadi biriyani is made with uncooked meat, marinated with hung curd and spices. The rice is placed on top of the meat and is cooked on a slow flame in a clay handi sealed with dough. The flavour and seasoning of the marinated meat seep into the rice and once the seal is broken, the aroma will make anyone crave for a bowlful.

"Herbs, spices and condiments are added to give a unique taste and texture to the dishes," says chef Mansoor Ali, who has been flown down from Hyderabad for the festival. No wonder the biriyanis are a major hit. The recommended biriyanis are katchi gosht biriyani (lamb biriyani cooked in a local Hyderabadi way) and Hyderabadi murgh dum biriyani (rice cooked with chicken and spices to your liking).

The sheermal, (bread made out of unleavened dough) which came along with mirchi ka salan (large spicy peppers cooked in pickle gravy) was a bit bland but the haleem (mutton kheema and broken wheat cooked with herbs) more than compensated for it.

The dessert, qurbani ka meetha (made out of apricot jam), we are told, is one of the fastest moving desserts in most Hyderabadi restaurants. Though a bit too sweet, the dessert goes well with fresh cream, custard or even vanilla ice cream.

The festival is on from 7 p.m. to 12.30 p.m. on all days and also for lunch on Saturday and Sunday.


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