Ashwin Rajagopalan (with inputs from NDTV Food) | Updated: May 25, 2018 10:58 IST
Ramadan is one time of the year that many Hyderabadis are willing to brave the crowds in the old city to sink their teeth into delicacies that are sometimes not available around the year.
It's well over 35 degrees at 8 pm but that doesn't deter Chef Varun who has carefully plotted my route through the city's iconic dining establishments along with Zubair Ali of Hyderabad Food Diaries who organises food tours in the old city. The atmosphere is festive, the old city is teeming with foodies and shoppers, alike. This is only the first weekend of the Ramadan month, Zubair tells me that it will get busier as we get closer to Id-ul-Fitr .
We take you through some of the best dining options in the Old city of Hyderabad through the month of Ramadan:
The best Haleem in India: Proud Hyderabadis will tell you that their haleem - the quintessential Ramadan porridge with pounded meat blended with broken wheat, barley and lentils - is the best in India. After sampling the haleem at two iconic establishments, I completely agree. There's PistaHouse, arguably the most popular stop for haleem in Hyderabad. They also ship their haleem across India and around the world. There's also Shah Ghouse that's not as popular, but serves an even finer haleem in my opinion. Saima Afreen, a local food and lifestyle writer who accompanied me, tells me that the key ingredient is a high-quality wheat that locals call the sharbate gehun. Do check out the haleem at both Shah Ghouse and Pista house that are just a few buildings apart and take your pick.
Haleem at Shah GhouseMatwale Doodh Ghar: I've always maintained that tiny establishments with a couple of items on their menu usually ace it. This hole-in-the-wall lassi establishment is a case in point. Regulars queue up to buy the falooda and the lassi here. The falooda doesn't feature a key ingredient that you normally associate with a falooda across India - vermicelli, but has a generous quantity of basil seeds (sabja seeds) that lend a unique texture. Rooh Afza is the common thread between the lassi and the falooda here; it doesn't just lend a pink hue but also cools things down in the summer.
Matwale Doodh Ghar
Akbhar: This restaurant knows their chicken and also knows how to pose for Instagrammers. Their chicken 'master' struck the perfect poses as we snapped away. The outlet's boneless version of chicken 65 that is coated with a thin batter and deep fried is a must-try and so is their chicken fry with bone. But, my favourite dish at this restaurant is what they call the warqi paratha that is made with very little oil. It almost has the same textures as a rumali roti but is not crafted on an 'ulta tawa'. It's the perfect bread for their chicken fry.
Akbhar's bone less chiken and warqi paratha
Milan: it's not just all meat - this is not a walk I'd recommend for die-hard vegetarians, Milan was a welcome cool break on a hot summer night. The mulberry juice with fresh mulberries is terrific and so is their seasonal mango mango falooda with mango pulp, basil seeds and a dollop of cream. It's also a great vantage point to snap images of the historic Makkah Masjid and the Charminar.
Also Read - Ramzan 2018: 8 Places In Hyderabad That Will Make Your Iftar A Memorable Affair
Nimrah bakery: Aslam who runs this bakery is proud of his bakery's melt-in-your mouth biscuits and refreshing tea. He takes me through his visitor book and tells me that the secret of his current famous biscuits. They are all made in a wood-fired oven and except for a few puffs, the entire produce is pure vegetarian and eggless. I'd recommend the Osmania biscuits, the pistachio biscuits and a special braided bread that's a Ramazan special. It's soft, flavoured with a hint of saffron and very addictive. This is one item that isn't available round the year.
Nayaab: The eatery has a reputation for its offal dishes that most people love or loathe. The paya is one dish that you must try here. It's served with a unique bread - chaar koni naan that takes its name from its square shape. The restaurant's biriyani is another big draw.
Shadab: It's almost 1:30 am by the time we arrive at this popular restaurant and the waiting time for a table is over 30 minutes. Hardly surprising, Shadab serves the best Hyderabadi biriyani I've ever sampled. It's not as well known as some brands that have set up shop across south India but locals like Zubair swear by Shadab. Do try Hyderabad's most famous dessert while you're here. The qubanika meetha at Shadab keeps things simple - no food colours and additives. Just stewed apricot with a slight smoky taste (that probably comes from the wood-fired stove) served with a small dollop of cream. The perfect sweet ending to a food walk through some of Hyderabad's iconic food establishments.
Shadab Hyderabadi biriyani
In one sentence: This food tour is a great way to experience places and food during Ramadan in Hyderabad you would never know otherwise.
Varun, the Executive Chef of the Novotel Hyderabad Airport is visibly excited. He's about to be a tourist in his own city. The 'old city' around the Charminar is hardly an hour away from his hotel and yet it's a world away for the city's large IT workforce and residents like Varun who stay in the city's newer neighbourhoods.