Brought to the city by the Kalyani Nawabs, the dish is now found only in small and hidden outlets in the city.

Hyderabads Kalyani biryani Why the 300-yr-old buffalo meat dish is a local secret
news Food Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 17:25

If you think the biryani figures prominently in the Hyderabadi’s culinary outings, you wouldn't be mistaken. It is the cheapest source of protein you can find in the city - succulent pieces of meat and a lot of flavoured rice, all available for the price of Rs 150  (or sometimes even lesser) at any average restaurant. If you still think that this is too much to pay for a one-time meal, then there is the "other" biryani, popularly known as the Kalyani biryani.

Often served at hole-in-the-wall sort of set-ups, not many from outside Hyderabad are familiar with this biryani variant available in the city. Kalyani is considered to be the poorer cousin of the Hyderabadi dum biryani. It is available at outlets for as cheap as Rs 80 because these are not your typical chicken or mutton varieties, but made of buffalo meat (sometimes called ‘buff biryani’ at the outlets, to underline that the meat used is buffalo).

One needs to do their research before setting out on a hunt for the Kalyani. Hardly do the restaurants serving the dish put up boards advertising the fact on the street, and neither does this item figure in the must-to-eat tourist lists.

If one is to ask a cashier sitting inside a restaurant about the origin of the name of this dish, s/he might talk to you about the politics of food, and tell you in a hushed voice that "kalyani" is the code word used instead of beef (though it refers to buffalo meat and not cow meat).

That could indeed be the case, given the political climate of the country. However, until a few decades ago, the name was associated with the legacy of the Kalyani Nawabs, the 18th century rulers who migrated to Hyderabad from Bidar and were known for their exceptional hospitality.

“Anyone who used to travel to the Hyderabad state from Bidar was welcome to have biryani at the Kalyani Nawab’s haveli. The cooks at the haveli used to serve two rounds of the dish every day to any traveller who came from their land. The haveli today stands in ruins but the biryani became popular as the cooks from the palace spread out and started their own Kalyani outlets,” says Zaheer. He belongs to the family of Dawood, who was once a cook at the haveli.

Dawood’s biryani outlet, until a few years back, was considered to serve the most authentic Kalyani biryani in the city. Named ‘Original Kalyani Biryani’, the food joint was a tiny place that used to dish out biryani from noon to night. Located right beside a dargah at Murgi Chowk, Dawood’s shop was a landmark enroute to Charminar.

However, today, in the place of Dawood’s food joint stands a chicken shop, run by Zaheer. The young man says that he had to close the shop a few years back as there were very few people who now preferred to have buffalo meat biryani.

“After restaurants like Ruman came up in the locality, business dropped considerably. Now mutton gosht is available for somewhat the same price in other hotels, so why would families want to come and eat the poor man’s biryani in a tiny set-up?” Zaheer asks.

However, for the student community in the city and a section of the working populace, Kalyani biryani is still a happy alternative for the regular dum biryani with other meat. The outlets see teeming crowds during the lunch hour, and Mohammad at the Alshafa Kalyani biryani centre at Panjagutta, says that on most days, they run out of the rice dish by 3 pm.

Mohammad’s hotel doesn’t have a board and it’s difficult to locate the rusty outlet in the second floor of a nondescript building if one is following Google maps.

Inside the hotel, people on their lunch break are waiting impatiently in queues to find a seat. The waiters, unmindful of the crowd, are busy dishing out bowl after bowl of Kalyani, priced at just Rs 80. Garnished with small onion rings and a slice of lemon, the portion looks perfect for a one-person meal.

“Why do I need a name-board?” Mohammad asks. “There are few Kalyani outlets in this part of the city and people know where exactly to find good food,” he laughs.

The Kalyani biryani, though called a poorer variant of the Hyderabadi biryani, has a distinct and richer flavour. This, Hyderabad-based food blogger Sankalp, says, is because the fat to meat ratio in buffalo meat is much more than that of mutton or other varieties of meat.

“The preparation and the items that go into the making are all the same. Along with all the ground spices, it’s the small cubes of buffalo meat that make all the difference,” Sankalp adds.

However, he notes that the biryani variant is still found only in small, hidden outlets in the city because no matter how good the taste, eating beef has often been met with stiff opposition and sometimes condescension in several parts of the country, given the religious and caste connotations that it carries.

“None of the popular restaurants in the city sell the item. There is always a potential risk of losing customers in a place that serves buffalo meat along with other veg and non-veg dishes. And that's the sole reason that this heavenly variant of biryani hasn’t yet received its due recognition,” the food blogger adds.




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