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Zaika-e-Nizam: The Nizami Spread at Orchids

Locked in one of the busiest corners of the city, ITC Fortune Park Sishmo is a crowd’s favourite for its delectable spreads. The experience at any of the outlets at ITC Fortune Park Sishmo is always a culinary journey for any connoisseurs. The on-going Hyderabadi food festival “Zaika-e-Nizam” at Orchid definitely caught our food roving eyes. The spread and the menu been delicately engineered by Executive Chef Pabitra Muduli. As always this was an invite by GM Mr. Sharma for the food review. As we stepped into Orchid our olfactory confirmed the typical spices of the Hyderbadi kitchen. Zaika-e-Nizam is typically a spread meant for the select few and it is synonym to Hyderabadi food. Say “Hyderabadi food” and one thinks of the feudal gastronomically feudal lifestyle and a lavish cuisine that is rich and painstakingly laborious. Be it kebabs, the kormas, or the biryanis, it all entails many hours of marination, fine grinding and slow cooking. This art of leisurely cooking is dying. Thus when one devours: the Biryanis, Mirchi ka salan, Shikampuri kebabs that represent the bygone era, when food was the king. The Hyderabadi’s are great gourmands and very passionate about their food. They eat to satisfy their palates rather than for survival. It is often remarked that Hyderabad’s live to eat. Not many know that the Hyderabad State actually had a Kulcha (bread) embroidered on it.

The distinguishing factor of Hyderabadi food is the sourness, which has the Andhra influence. There is a variety of souring agent used in the cuisine. Such as chigur (tamarind shoots), green and ripe tamarind, ambada leaves, lemons, green mango, dried mango powder, karonda, tomatoes, yogurt and pomegranate. There was a time when use of the souring agent reflected a person’s status. Chigur used by lower middle class, lemon by the middle class, green mango by the upper middle class and grapes and pomegranate by the affluent.

Nizams were known to be connoisseur of food and are instrumental to give the distinct Hyderabadi Cuisine. And, they truly were. They brought the Middle Eastern twist to Indian subcontinent and believed in food assimilations deeply. Hyderabadi food has its own distinct identity, a unique taste and exceptional flavour. It is a blend of the cultural traditions of the North with the sauce and spice of south and is a true –blue example of cross-cultural interaction. It is the meeting point of rich Mughlai cuisine symbolised by almonds, saffron and khoya and local condiments like coconut, tamarind and green chilli. The Nizami cuisine represents the multi cultural and secular nature of its population. The food like the language – a Hyderabadi version of Urdu – is harmonious mingling of Persian, Arabic, Telugu and bit of Marathi. A legend has it that Nizam of Hyderabad had 49 types of biryani cooked for him! From Kacche Gosht ki Biryani to Qubani ka Meetha, Nizami food has always captured our heart through our taste buds.

With plethora of options available, we tried Haleem, vegetarian Shikampuri Kabab, Mirchi ka Salan and Kacche Gosht ki biryani sealing it by Qubani ka Meetha.

Haleem is the one of the must have concoctions of wheat, lentils, meat and of course, spices. When we are talking Indian food, we can never forget our deep love for spices. Haleem is a much-needed energy shot during the month of fasting. Being rich in proteins and carbohydrates, Haleem turns up to be the highly adequate food. Slow cooked Haleem earns the right to be eaten at a slow pace. Chef Pabitra prepared the Haleem with much love and care. It was rich, and had the perfect porridge like consistency filled paced up with succulent meat. One spoonful of Haleem can transcend you to a buttery heaven. Dressed with brown onions and cashews, these garnishes add a crunchy texture to the otherwise soft Haleem.

It is known that Shikampuri kebab which has chef’s heart in it. Shikampuri kebab is belly filling and a Nizami delicacy. With creamy hung curd at its centre, this kebab had the right balance of vegetable goodness and rich spices. The chef took extra care for the presentation. Served and platted with delicious Mint and curd chutney, the flavours of the kebab had the gastronomical delight. Once you take a bit of this soft, delicate kebab the addiction is there till its over!

Magic started when Chef lifted the cover from the brass biryani pot. The aroma of flavourful spice made us stir our heads and olfactory which followed the aroma. Hyderabadi biryani is the polar opposite of Awadhi biryani. When it comes down to biryani, it’s all about the balance. Kaccha gosht means raw meat. The secret of this dish is the meat, which is marinated overnight with various aromatic spices. The taste of kacche gosht ki biryani is definitely different as the meat is juicy and tender. One spoonful of this treat opens the pandora’s box of flavours. It is served with a dahi raita and mirchi-ka-salan with love. The rice is par-cooked with whole spices. And set to cook thoroughly in a sealed covered pot on a slow fire.

Mirchi ka salan
If you are having Hyderabadi biryani, it can never go unaccompanied by Mirchi Ka Salan. This mouth watering Salan has a base of peanut and white sesame. And there is a punch of tartness, which is given by the Hyderabadi cuisine staple with Tamarind. A moderately spiced curry with chillies in it, Mirchi ka Salan is major accompaniment for Biryani.

Qubani ka meetha
No meal is complete without a dessert. And if you are having Hyderabadi food, the dessert has to compliment the meal! Qubani ka meetha challenges your mouth to rethink and urges you to take another bite of this dessert. Qubani ka Meetha is made by soaking apricots in sugar syrup and mashed till it reaches a marmalade type consistency. Qubani ka Meetha is a classic Hyderabadi dessert. The taste of this concoction is captivating, as you can taste the tang of the apricots and sweetness from the syrup.

This is how you sum up a hearty day. For us, the showstopper was undoubtedly the Qubani Ka Meetha urging us to have a next date at ‘Orchid’ very soon

With referral input from Sanjeev Kapoor and Harpal Sokhi

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