Hyderabadi cuisine is a combination of Mughlai and South Indian dishes.
Andhra Pradesh’s cuisine has two major influences. The Mughals brought tasty biryanis, haleem (pounded, spiced wheat with goat or mutton) and kebabs. The Andhra style is vegetarian and famous for its spiciness.
Hyderabadi cuisine was developed after the foundation of Qutub Shahi dynasty, promoting the South Indian native cuisine along with their own. Hyderabadi cuisine had become a princely legacy of the Nizams of Hyderabad. It is an amalgamation of Mughlai, Turkish and Arabic along with the influence of the native Telugu and Marathwada cuisines. Hyderabadi cuisine comprises a broad repertoire of rice, wheat and meat dishes and the skilled use of various spices, herbs and natural edibles.
The key flavours are of coconut, tamarind, peanuts and sesame seeds which are extensively used in many dishes. The key difference from the North Indian cuisine is the use of dry coconut and tamarind in its cuisine. All types of cooking involve the direct use of fire; slow-cooking is the hallmark of Hyderabadi cuisine. Meat dishes are prepared by the technique of dum—(sealing the dish with dough and gently simmering its ingredients over a slow fire, to increasing the absorption of aromatic spices).
The two most popular dishes in Andhra Pradesh are Hyderabadi Biryani and Hyderabadi Haleem.
Hyderabadi Biryani is Hyderabad’s most famous meat-and-rice dish; the Nizams served some 26 varieties of biryanis for their guests. An authentic Hyderabad meal invariably includes a mutton biryani. Hyderabadi Biryanis incorporating chicken, lamb, beef or vegetables instead of mutton are also popular.
Haleem is a seasonal delicacy of wheat, meat and cooked for hours to a porridge-like paste. This traditional wheat porridge has its roots in Arabia, known as harees. Haleem is a seasonal dish which is made during Ramzan (Ramadan).
If you’re travelling around Hyderabad during Ramadan (known locally as Ramzan), look out for the clay ovens called bhattis. You’ll probably hear them before you see them. Men gather around, taking turns to vigorously pound haleem inside purpose-built structures. Come nightfall, the serious business of eating begins. The taste is worth the wait. In September 2010, this love of the dish was taken a step further, being patented as ‘Hyderabadi haleem’; prohibited to be served under that name unless it meets the strict quality guidelines.