Over tales of lost Hyderabadi cuisine and Jani mamu’s recipe collection, Sandhya Ramachandran chats up with Radha Rao who is in town to host the Hyderabadi Food Fete at GRT Grand Copper Point.
The first thought that struck me when I first spoke to Radha Rao was how passionate she is about food and how much I’d love to taste her cooking! That is the kind of person she is, effervescent and full of stories to tell about every dish she has carefully planned for the Hyderabadi Food Fete on at the GRT Grand Copper Point till 11th November.
Radha always had leanings towards food, as it was her father who opened the first of its kind Udupi restaurant in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. Radha’s interest drifted towards Hyderabadi cuisine when she came under the influence of her uncle, the gourmet Chef Mir Hussain Ali Moosavi, whom she fondly calls Jani Mamu.
“I inherited all his recipes. He would go to the chowks (by-lanes) in Hyderabad searching for old books about food and cooking. Then he would patiently translate it from Arabic or Persian to Urdu. I translated them to English, although he would often tell me, ‘beta, learn all the languages’ to get the exact recipe,” she explains.
Radha feels that biryani and haleem have become synonymous with Hyderabadi food and the lost traditions of Hyderabadi households, especially the Muslim families, need to be revived. And in this attempt, the Hyderabadi Food Fete was born, thanks to Radha’s enthusiasm and Mr.Sitaram’s (Culinary Director at GRT Grand) long-standing love for this cuisine.
I ask her to tell us more about the menu (and the tales they carry too!). She begins with the Badam Ke Rab, a sweet dish that likens almonds to God’s food. “It is an old recipe. No one has it, as far as I know. We got it from an old book from one of the chowks,” she elaborates. Her haleem dish has, along with the regular meat and wheat combination, chicken in the korma – yet another innovation found in her Jani Mamu’s collection.
One more badam dish she mentions is the Badam Ki Jaali that Muslim households get made during weddings to gift on silver plates, while inviting or as a return gift to guests. “It is a baked almond dessert,” she says, “and has an almond biscuit at the base with a silver varq (foil) separating it from a mould cut biscuit that resembles lace or a jaali (screen)”.
In an attempt to give “a complete array of Hyderabadi food”, she has whipped up a menu that changes every day of the fete barring two or three regulars. With oh-so-much to feast upon, I decide to have some fun and urge her to suggest a must-have three-course meal to appease an irate boss.
“Start with the Motiya Sherbet, it would floor anyone,” she begins. “Then if your boss is a hardcore non-vegetarian, urge her/him to try the Pattar Ka Ghosht. We cook the meat in the traditional way with actual stones. Also try the Dum Ka Murg (chicken cooked in the dum style of cooking) as its smoky flavour and tasty gravy is sure to please anyone. Finish it with two desserts. A cold one – Khubani Ka Meetha or stewed apricots, and a hot one – Dabbal Ka Meetha which is made out of Hyderabad’s Dabbal bread soaked in sheera (thick sugar syrup) and flavoured with nuts.”
“If you bring a boy instead of your boss, just serve the Motiya Sherbet,” she continues, “he’s sure to propose to you on bent knees with a rose!” Curious, I ask her what this magic dish contains! “Jasmine flowers, a proven aphrodisiac,” she laughs.
Must Try: Kabuli Biryani, Dabbal Ka Meetha, the “comfort food” combination of Steamed Rice-Kaddu Ka Dalcha (bottle gourd with chick pea lentils)-Tali Hui Bhindi (deep fried okra), Pattar Ka Ghosht, Motiya Sherbet
Meal for two: Rs.1900 + taxes
Food Photographs: Copper Point
Chef Photograph: Sandhya Ramachandran