The association of kulcha and naan with the cuisine and culture of Hyderabad can be traced back to many years ago.

File photo of naans in the old city of HyderabadFile photo/TNM
Features Food Saturday, June 26, 2021 - 13:47

The year was 1851 and Mohammed Hussain was working with the then Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Farqunda Ali Khan. He used to work in the capacity of a ‘Munshi’ or clerk in the office of the Nizam. Parallely, he started a naan business at Purani Haveli in Hyderabad’s old city. Nearly 170 years later, the shop, named Munshi Naan, still stands and is one of the most popular outlets in the area, with a large number of customers visiting it everyday.

The association of kulcha and naan with the cuisine and culture of Hyderabad can be traced back to centuries ago, and it has a special place in the hearts of people in the old city. As the Nizams, rulers of the erstwhile state of Hyderabad, were scrupulous about their food and used to enjoy lavish meals, they ensured that naan and kulcha were part of their food habits. Gradually, the two flat breads were even adopted by the common man in Hyderabad.

Khaja Abdul Hameed, who presently runs Munshi Naan, tells TNM, “Naan and the kulcha once used to be in the food menu of the rulers of the Hyderabad state, but remain prominent even today. These are the iconic bread items, available in several shapes, sizes and varieties and served not only at homes but also a staple in various functions and events in the city.”

“The size and shape of the two items vary. However, the ingredients used for making them are the same. The weight of a kulcha is about 60 gms to 70 grams while the naan weighs about 150 grams. In Hyderabad, both are eaten with shikampur kababs, nahari and mutton dishes, among other things,” he adds.

Tracing the history

There are many myths and stories surrounding how kulcha came to Hyderabad. One such story revolves around Mir Qamruddin, who was a courtier in a Mughal court, who met a Sufi mystic, and was offered kulchas to eat. Following this, The mystic is said to have prophesied that he would become a king, which did come true as he became the first Nizam of Hyderabad. Due to this, the Kulcha was said to have been given a special place on the official flag of the Nizam of Hyderabad. However, many historians say that there is no conclusive evidence to back this story.

Speaking to TNM about how kulcha and naan became a part of Indian cuisine, historian Mohammed Safiullah says, “Iran had a great influence on Indian culture because when people from Iran migrated to India, apart from workmanship, culture and language, the cuisine also travelled to the country. A large number of people came to our country as India had shared a common border with Iran at that time.”

Safiullah, who has undertaken research work on Hyderabadi cuisine, added, “The history of naan and kulcha in Hyderabad can be traced back to centuries ago. Several rulers of Hyderabad were from Iran and Iranian food culture had a great influence on the locals. These two items were distributed near mosques, dargahs and other places among the poor people.”

Noted Shia cleric Maulana Taqi Raza Abedi, president of Tanzeem-e-Jafferi, a socio-religious organisation, recalls, “Earlier, a large number of Kulchas were distributed in Majalis (religious assemblies) from the 1960s to the 1990s with kebabs and bananas and special orders also used to be placed for the same. However, the tradition of distributing the crispy kulcha has declined in religious congregations over time.”

Wajeed Ullah Khan is a Hyderabad-based freelance journalist who writes predominantly on issues surrounding old city. He can be contacted at wuk040@gmail.com

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