I once went to Hyderabad on work and posted my plans about the same on social media.
Immediately folks responded saying, “oh you should go to Paradise for biryani”.
I remembered picking up biryani from Paradise in one of my earlier trips to the city and eating it in my hotel room. I wasn’t too impressed.
But then my biryani DNA is from Kolkata and I find it hard to take to biryani which has an excess of masala in it.
Anyway, most of the Paradise recommendations came from non Hyderabadis.
Then slowly the Hyderabadis began to speak up on Twitter. “Don’t go to Paradise. That’s for tourists. There is much better,” was the refrain.
I decided to go on a Hyderabadi biryani expedition. I checked out Café Bahar and then went to Shadab in the old city. Both recommended to me by Hyderabadis on Twitter and a gentleman on my flight. And, for the sake of research, I went to Paradise too.
This is what I found.
Firstly Mumbai owes Hyderabad an apology for saying that the biryanis we get here are Hyderabadi!
The Hyderabadi biryanis don’t have that confounding wet masala pastes and oil slicks that biryanis in places such as Jaffer Bhai, Noorani, Persian Darbar and Lucky in Mumbai have.
They are more subtle with delicate clumps of masala peeping through the rice. The biryani rice is firmer than in Mumbai. They serve the biryani with a dahi raita and chilli salan (sauce) unlike in Mumbai. The Andhra love for rice comes through in the high rice to meat ratio in the biryanis of Hyderabad. The Andhra biryani is different though from the Hyderabadi one.
My favourite in the trip was Shadab near Charminar where the tender goat meat, and the inherent heaty kick of chilli paste made the biryani alluring and worth the trip to the old city.
A close second was Café Bahar where the rice was subtly spiced and where the biryani was served with boiled eggs like they do in Kolkata.
We went to Paradise late one night. With its tasteless rice and dry chicken, this was a distant third.
I couldn’t make it to Bawarchi which had its fans among the local biryani mavens.
Which is your favourite Hyderabadi biryani place?
Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.