By : | 0 Comments | On : July 18, 2015 | Category : Events/Reviews

CHARMINARIf you have been living in Hyderabad since a decade, like I have, there is little chance of your not falling under the annual spell of Ramzan and its single-most renowned delicacy, Hyderabadi haleem which now even has a GI (geographical indication) tag. For an entire month, the city goes into a haleem frenzy, with small, middling and star eateries dishing out what for most is “soul food” with its melt-in-the-mouth broken wheat-minced mutton-ghee dish, topped with crisp browned onion, mint leaves and lemon wedges.

Ramzan festivities in and around Charminar area of Old City, Hyderabad are the highlight of the festival. The last couple of years, I had been venturing out there with a friend around late evening,  but those trips would not qualify as remotely adventurous, just a drive around the area and maybe a stop or two, one trip I remember was even washed away by the rains and Charminar in the rains can be quite a mess!

So, I considered myself to have got quite lucky this year to be invited by Park Hyderabad to join an assorted bunch of citizens across age groups and professions on #TheParkRamadanWalk  in the virtually endless lanes & bylanes of the Charminar, Hyderabad.

A multi-city initiative by the Park Hotels, (Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai) the Ramadan walks aim not just at enhancing one’s socio-cultural quotient with regard to your city but also at building a sense of community bonding over some increasingly rare-to-find food and shopping.

A couple of middle-aged doctors, four young techies, two chefs, including executive chef (and columnist) Mandaar Sukhtankar of Park Hyderabad, who curated the food walk, and sous chef Thimma, a couple of enthusiastic photographers documenting the walk and a happy-go-lucky Punjabi couple, a curious journalist (yours truly), that kind of describes our whole bunch.

After assembling at Aqua, the charming poolside third-floor restaurant of Park Hyderabad, where we got acquainted with the route map and itinerary of the walk (which would be about only 3 km or so), we were off in a car convoy by sunset. Thankfully for us, there was not as much traffic as one would have imagined on a Friday evening, and we were in Charminar area in about half an hour.


Irani chai

osmania biscuits

Our first stop was Nimrah, the bustling Irani café which offers not just one of the best Irani chai and Osmania (the sweet-salty biscuits for which Hyderabad is famed for) but a ringside view of Charminar, being located bang opposite the historic monument. Despite the insane number of people, both inside & outside the café, we managed to get our cups of steaming, sweet and milky Irani chai with crisp, warm off the oven Osmania biscuits, and some of us even got some cookie boxes packed.

Braving the now humungous traffic and a light, blink-and-miss drizzle, it was on foot to Shah Ghouse, famed for both its biryani and haleem, located about two kilometers away in Shalibanda. Even on the wide main road, the heavy traffic, especially that of buses made our walk a bit daunting, but not as much as being unable to soak the sights, sounds and smells on the way. Streetside vendors selling kebabs on skewers (beef, mutton & chicken), dahi wadas and Halwas (kaddu, badam and dates), Qahwa, dosas etc. Carts selling fruits, semiyan bundles (vermicelli used to make Sheer Korma, the Ramzan special), crockery, glass lamps, beautiful ‘ittar’ (incense) bottles, clothes, household ultilities, and what have you.

At Shah Ghouse, it was frenetic packing and dispatching of haleem out of a huge handi and it was truly spectacular sight. A bite of the piping hot haleem garnished with crisply fried onion rings and mint leaves leaves you with no doubts about why this dish has a cult status not just in the City of Nizams but among foodies, worldwide. A picture of the haleem packing & dispatching as below:


Shunning the more popular Shadaab for a relatively low-profile Nayaab, tucked away in Madina, we settled down for a chowki dinner of biryani and other gastronomic delights for those inclined, such as bheja fry, gurda kaleji etc. No fancy arrangements, just low tables, around which we sat cross-legged and shared a meal of Hyderabadi Kacchi Gosht biryani, with a vegetarian version too, served with Dahi ka Chutney (a thicker and sourer version of Raita) Tala Hua Gosht, Patthar ka Gosth and Fried Chicken.

“The flavour of the biryani and Tala Hua Gosth is quite unsual as its slow cooking done on firewood, “ says Chef Mandaar, who has done a couple of recces prior to the walk, and is extremely happy with the learning experience.

After prying into their takeaway restaurant-café at the front and clicking many pictures, it was time for desserts at Hameedi Confectioners, located just as you come out of the Charminar area in the Mozzam Jahi Market, famous for its ittar, bakery and hand-churned ice cream shops.

The over-100 year-old sweet shop is quite nondescript, almost to the point of being shabby, but is renowned for its Jouzi Halwa (a nutmeg and saffron spiced halwa which is Turkish of origin) and Ashrafi, (a yellow-colored peda kind of sweet which bears the seal of Nizam of Hyderabad and is made to resemble the gold coins issued on special occasions). In fact the shop proudly bears the seal and insignia of the Nizam of Hyderabad during the early years of the 20th century, and the name Hameedi is also apparently the name granted by him, after his grandson’s nickname!

This nutmeg and saffron infused halwa is believed to be of Turkish in origin and earned Hamedi Confectioners the Nizam of Hyderabad’s seal of approval, something which the more than 100 year old shop proudly adorns…

Since Ashrafi is made to order only, we had content ourselves, with sampling Jouzi halwa, which was quite a culinary experience, with its strong and yet not owerpowering taste of nutmeg, the saffron adding to its bright orange hue. We also tried a spoonful of Puran Poli Halwa and Badam Halwa but neither came close to Jouzi. (a pic of which is attached below)

This nutmeg and saffron infused halwa is believed to be of Turkish in origin and earned Hamedi Confectioners the Nizam of Hyderabad's seal of approval, something which the more than 100 year old shop proudly adorns...

This nutmeg and saffron infused halwa is believed to be of Turkish in origin and earned Hamedi Confectioners the Nizam of Hyderabad’s seal of approval, something which the more than 100 year old shop proudly adorns…

As we step out of Hameedi, we stop near the window shelves of a neighbouring perfumery with its  exotic glass perfume jars, one of which looks like this:



This is what a trip to Charminar during Ramzan is all about: A voyage of discovery, accentuated by a sense of adventure, fun & learning. And it is with a feeling of sadness to bid goodbye to the Ramzan festivities in Hyderabad for this year, but there is always the next time.







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