Dawat-e-Hyderabadi with ladies of Luqma kitchen studio

Traditional Hyderabadi dishes include much more than dum biryani, proves a team of women at Luqma kitchen studio

September 24, 2022 12:14 pm | Updated October 15, 2022 11:29 am IST

The team at work in Luqma kitchen studio

The team at work in Luqma kitchen studio | Photo Credit: G Ramakrishna

Raziya Begum, Farheen Begum and Syeda Anees Fatima collectively complete cooking a meal for 100 people by 9am every day. They are part of a team at the Luqma kitchen studio by Safa in Darulshifa in the Old City (Hyderabad), where I met them to explore how they dish out authentic Hyderabadi dishes like dum ka keema, khichdi khatta, khatti dal, bagara chawal, dalcha, shammi kebab, apart from the ubiquitous biryani and haleem. Luqma in Urdu means a morsel.

 One of the ladies mashing chicken and other ingredients in a traditional flat grinding stone to make shammi kebab

One of the ladies mashing chicken and other ingredients in a traditional flat grinding stone to make shammi kebab | Photo Credit: G Ramakrishna

The three ladies were busy with their order for a private lunch. While Raziya checked the khichdi to ensure that it was not squishy or getting burnt, Suraiya was busy tidying the kitchen and Fatima was wielding a traditional hand masher on the toor dal that had been cooked with tomatoes, salt and turmeric. Seated at a desk outside the kitchen was the manager of Luqma, Nahid, going through the orders for the week ahead.

Luqma is not a typical restaurant where one can place orders and sit down for a meal or take away parcels. It is a business incubator that supports disadvantaged women to start their own food businesses as a livelihood. It is an initiative by Safa (meaning a new page), a social enterprise that seeks to empower women and young girls who are victims of gender discrimination and put them on the path to a dignified living. Since cooking is a popular skill, Safa trains the women to use their culinary skills for a livelihood. It runs Luqma as a commercial kitchen by promoting authentic Hyderabadi dishes from traditional homes.

Fareesa Khan

Fareesa Khan | Photo Credit: G Ramakrishna

Co-founder Fareesa Khan says, “My sister Rubina Mazhar and I started Safa to give something back to the community. So whether one digs into mutton tahari, talawa gosht or a biryani, it is simply the true Hyderabadi home flavour.”

Raziya has five children and was widowed when her youngest daughter was less than a year old. With her husband being the sole earning member of the family, including her in-laws, she had to step in to become the breadwinner. Neighbours suggested Raziya enter the tailoring unit at Safa; there she heard about the commercial kitchen idea. Raziya says, “I love cooking, so when I was told there is training and we could make Hyderabadi food for food lovers, I was more than happy to join.”

The kitchen is now a life-saver not just for Raziya and her team but the families they support. Farheen says, “When we get feedback on our food, it makes us happy. We wouldn’t have known about our talent if we had not taken take this step.” 

The kitchen at Darulshifa can cater to to 3,000 people and is set up with the support of local and NRI philanthropists. Luqma is also engaged in preparing subsidised meals for schools, shelter homes and religious events on a no-profit (like an NGO) model.

Of the 10 women in the kitchen, three women work on rotation in the kitchen every day. When needed, they also take the help of other women who were trained at Luqma kitchen studio but are working in other departments such as handicraft and tailoring.

Open to all

Nahid says, “Anyone and everyone who wants credible Hyderabadi food can order our food. On the menu, there are some Hyderabadi speciality dishes and we deliver all over Hyderabad and Secunderabad through any viable delivery service, if one is unable to pick it up.” 

The team at work at Luqma kitchen studio

The team at work at Luqma kitchen studio | Photo Credit: G Ramakrishna

Luqma also has a small studio that could be rented out for curated meals, literary meets etc. “While we want more people to use the studio, we also want to make sure that the women here are comfortable. This is not a hangout spot; we would love to see serious and like-minded people utilising the studio to host Hyderabadi meals for their friends and family. It is a food experience that will delight those looking for traditional food,”  added Fareesa

Raziya says, “We have done breakfast orders as well for which we come in very early to deliver the order on time.”

The women of Luqma kitchen studio are doing a Hyderabadi food pop-up at Novotel Hyderabad Airport Shamshabad. The pop-up ends on Oct 2.

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