Living up to the image

SPICY FARE Biryani offered at the food festival

SPICY FARE Biryani offered at the food festival  

The Leela Ambience Convention Hotel presents a wide array of delightful Hyderabadi delicacies as part of the ongoing “Dine like a Maharaja” series

A book that I pick up and go through every now and then is Pratibha Karan’s Hyderabadi Cuisine. It takes me back to another era, and I enjoy reading the recipes and conjuring up all kinds of glorious images of the food the region is known for.

Last week, I had a glimpse — and taste — of that. My friend, the young and talented chef Ashwani Kumar Singh of The Leela in east Delhi had travelled to Hyderabad to put together a lip-smacking menu for its food festival series, “Dine like a Maharaja”. This was for the second leg of the festival, and focused on Hyderabadi cuisine.

I am greatly fond of the food of the region and have gone through the town with a fine-toothed comb in search of my favourite dishes from the region. I have spent many a fruitful Sunday at the Andhra Bhavan, lining up for their special weekly Hyderbadi biryani. Regular readers will know that the Hyderabadi haleem is a favourite of mine, and I get several boxes from a special haleem outlet in the city during Ramzan every year. So it was with a happy heart that I went there to try out the food that Chef Ashwani had prepared for the festival.

The festival is on till tomorrow (Sunday) in its open air restaurant at the Leela Ambience Convention Hotel near the Yamuna Sports Complex in east Delhi (Phone number 71721234). They have a dinner buffet (₹1591 plus taxes for adults and ₹800 plus taxes for children in the 5-12 year age group).

Gulab jamun

Gulab jamun  

The menu is vast — and has such delights as a platter of Telangana fry (spicy pakodas, paneer 65, masala mutton chaap and fried fish), kababs such as Hyderabadi subz seekh, Telengana seekh and murg tikka. There is Nizami tawa murgh, patthar ka gosht, Shikampoori kabab, tala gosht. Then, of course, they serve paya, haleem, biryani and a host of other dishes.

I started with the paya — soup made with shanks — which warmed me up. It was a thick soup, almost like gravy, and made me think that I perhaps prefer the lighter version you get in Delhi.

Good side dishes

The side dishes were all good, and I especially liked the thinly beaten patthar ka ghosht and the Shikampoori kabab, which carries a bit of hung curd giving it an interesting tangy taste. I have always liked lukmi — a small and crispy pastry with a filling of meat or vegetables. I didn’t have the keema lukmi, but had its potato cousin at the festival, and I must say it was rather nice. There was kaddu ka dalcha — a mix of dal with other ingredients, in this case pumpkin. I prepare dalcha at home with meat, and I am afraid I am not greatly fond of the vegetarian versions.

It was, I realised, my week for good haleem. I had some delicious haleem some days ago in Old Delhi — about which I shall tell you all on another occasion. But the chef’s haleem was excellent, too — nicely creamy and thick, and full of the flavours of fragrant spices.

The non-veg entrées also include nihari, handi ka gosht, dum ka murgh and a fish curry called royala iguru. I really enjoyed the lagan ka keema naqabi — a minced meat dish with a veil of steamed eggs over it. The egg gave its own taste to the keema, and the two did a nice tango together.

There was a huge dessert counter — with sheer khurma, date halwa, aloo kheer, carrot halwa, gulab jamun and falooda. I liked the nimish — known as daulat ki chaat in Delhi. The chef had prepared it differently, using just the froth of the milk for the heavenly dessert. The falooda — with sabja or sweet basil seeds — was a delight, a lightly sweetened milk-based sweet.

Chef Ashwani tells me that he spent days with chefs in Hyderabad, picking up useful tips about Hyderabadi food. He wields a powerful karchi, and I am sure he will go places. Hyderabad today, the world tomorrow.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 4:43:25 PM |

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