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So, what’s khaas about Barkas?

A chicken mandi platter

A chicken mandi platter   | Photo Credit: arranged

This Ramzan season, we set out on a long overdue journey to see for ourselves what is it about Barkas that excited foodies of the city

Getting to Barkas isn’t as easy as hopping into a car and going on a joyride for a fun food hunt like we do to Old City or Tolichowki during Ramzan – or so we would find out the hard way. The fact that Barkas and its great food had been in the local news and food blogs had us curious enough to set out to get a taste of the famous Khabza and Mandi. So, what if we are not accompanied by someone familiar with the place to lead us, we have a car and GPS – should be a fun adventure.

Our route: At 5 in the evening, we set out with just one vague suggestion from a friend: “Get off the PVNR express way from Mehdipatnam and take the first left.’ . More than enough because, “Hey, we have Google Maps for the rest of the way. It should not be a task to find it.”

With the GPS activated, we are led to landmarks that we had seen in photos taken by seasoned Barkas foodies – sure signs that we are on the right track.

Navigating through a maze of roads, we made sure not to miss any important turns. Yet at one point, we had to ask a young lad for directions and after a few “left, right and straight” as per his suggestions, there we were. We were finally out of ‘Pans labyrinth’ and suddenly the navigation, which had only moments ago failed to connect, announces that we had reached our destination. It was 6:30; just in time for iftar.

This is it? Really? This looked like any other quiet area in Charminar, except for the fact that you don’t see a single sign selling biryani or haleem. A couple of stalls sold meat, another couple of shops sold haleem and the rest were of shops that either sold clothes or other knick knacks. Maybe we aren’t in the right place? A couple more calls and we got another lead – “Look for Yum Yum Tree food court.”

So we began a new search for Yum Yum Tree, the name of the restaurant which was on everyone’s lips — at least those who have been raving about Barkas.

A ‘U’ turn from our current location and we were on the arterial road again, we had hardly driven a few meters when the first sight of what looked remotely like a food court came to our view - ‘Mataam Al Arabi’ with a separate ‘family section’ located right opposite the Barkas cemetery. We stop, walk up the rickety steps and are welcomed by young boys who are happy to see the first customers of the day.

Keeping with the Arab tradition of the Yemeni soldiers who were the first residents of the area, the main dishes on the menu were the Khabza and Mandi – aromatic rice eaten in the traditional way — guests sit on the floor and eat out from a big common plate set on a little stool. The boy at the restaurant who promptly replied, “Saudi se hai, madam,” when we asked where he was from, listed out the menu in fluent Hyderabadi Hindi even before handing the card over to us.

Since it was too early for dinner and their mandi had ‘just opened’ (meaning the food just got ready) we decided to pack some and drive ahead to see the barkas hooplah. We drove on, found nothing to be excited about and realised that Charminar was a better place to experience the city’s Ramzan spirit.

It was interesting to note the fact that people in Barkas themselves are quite unaware of how much publicity they receive in the city - while for us getting there is something of an odyssey that we have to plan and make an event out of, for them it is just another day at the restaurant/eatery. Nothing momentous.

To avoid the tiny lanes on our way back 26 kilometres we ask locals for a safe and easy exit: “Seedha, jakey take right at bridge and you will be at Mehdipatnam.” Wow, that was easy. But not for long, we found ourselves lost again because the ‘seedha’ was not less than 15 km from where we stopped. In the process we went past Channdrayangutta PS, Falaknuma Palace, Madina Colony, Enginebowly, Phoolbagh, Kalapattar, Meccah Colony and hit the Nehru Zoological Park.

Convinced we are lost and phone almost dead we didn’t know what to do next. The thought of landing up bang in the middle of Old City in its post- iftar rush hour was a frightening one and it was this anxiety that we dashed towards the first sign of familiarity - traffic cops who were just as surprised to see our sudden appearance.

“Go, straight and take a right, you will come to Pillar no 125 and you will be at Mehdipatnam,” they inform us. And so we did another ten minutes and thus ended our over 60 kilometre hunt to find out ‘what’s khaas about Barkas’.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 11:07:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/so-whats-khaas-about-barkas/article6225428.ece

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