Day 13: Hyderabad

woman
woman at golkonda fort

Yesterday on our wandering we picked up a random fruit that we have never seen before. It looks like a cross between a potato and an egg. Very unusual to us. A little web search determined that it was called chikoo (or sapodilla). This morning we broke it open to find an inside with a few large seeds in a light salmon colored flesh. We bit in and found an absolutely delicious, sweet flavor – reminiscent of a mangosteen. If we find these again, we’ll definitely pick up a few.

Most of the day would be spent picking up the last few tourist sites around town with a car/driver so we decided to take our free hotel breakfast as a way to get a quick start. Again there was a choice between continental and South Asian options and we went straight for the latter. We made a collection of one of everything and were able to cross off a number of popular items we’ve seen around the past couple of weeks. Some, like upma which we discussed previously and didn’t take today, and idly (the round white one in the pic), feel like you probably need to have grown up with them to crave them (kind of like B feels about Cream of Wheat, which M finds disgusting). Wada, the doughnut shaped item, is sold all over the place at street stalls with chai. It’s savory and a bit plain, flavored with cumin, and another thing you most likely have to know well to love. Also on the plate was a poori, the puffed fried bread that we eat semi-regularly on Devon Avenue in Chicago. This one was less greasy and perfectly fine. However, our favorite thing from this collection was the round fried item, kachori, that had a great spicy filling made out of one type of dal. That we’ll look for again. All of these items were served alongside 3 chutneys: cabbage, coconut and ginger. That ginger chutney is the next thing to go on our list of foods to replicate. The ginger was so strong and as it’s one of our favorite flavors we lapped it up, literally eating it with a spoon.

breakfast
hotel buffet breakfast

Our meanderings eventually led us to the Chowmahalla Palace, a beautiful compound in the Muslim area we had visited the previous day. Here we picked up a samosa from a kiosk at the palace. It was not particularly memorable, and we were beginning to come to the end of our interest in this all-too-ubiquitous snack (at least for this trip).

samosa
palace samosa

We’ve learned many things about eating habits here and one is that breakfast and lunch times tend to skew pretty late. Lunch is generally at 2:00, at least here in Hyderabad. We really threw our driver for a loop when we asked him to take us to another site at 2:00 and to eat a late lunch. After making our way through both language and cultural barriers, he finally got it. So, after we knew we’d seen everything we wanted to see before closing time, we made our way to Paradise Hotel, the site of the most commonly referenced biryanis in this town of famous biryani. Unlike Bawarchi where we ate our first night, Paradise has many, many branches (9). Some people say that they have gone downhill in recent years. Obviously we have nothing to compare it to. But wait, we do. Our biryani from two nights ago. So here’s the rundown:

Taste: Paradise had a much stronger aromatic spice component. The cardamom came off it immediately and the clove hit later. But that’s pretty much where the flavor ended. There was no richness like there was in the Bawarchi. The onion-y/ghee flavors that made the dish at Bawarchi so savory delicious were missing here.

Meat: B actually liked the mutton at Paradise better because the spices went well with it. M thought it much gamier than Bawarchi and gives them the hands-down award. The chicken at Paradise (which we didn’t have at Bawarchi) fell off the bone but was very dry.

Gravy: Our palates aren’t refined enough to distinguish much between the two but we did think Bawarchi had more flavors running through.

Ambience: Paradise is a huge restaurant with tablecloths and cloth napkins of a sort. We were waited on by about 7 different people.

Price: Paradise was about twice the price of Bawarchi. You are clearly paying for the name. And to clarify, this is still a steal by American standards. The whole meal cost less than $15.

The winner: Bawarchi, by a mile!

In addition to our biryanis, we had some really great breads – garlic naan (thinner than what we’re used to but fantastic) and paneer kulcha, a bread made out of a different flour stuffed with grated paneer and cilantro inside. B LOVED this – it was like a little Indian pizza and she felt like she could eat it all day. A sweet lassi and pistachio milkshake later (we’re still in search of something that really tastes like pistachio!) and we were ready to get to the train station.

biryani
biryani, naan and lassi

As the day came to a close we picked up a number of snacks for our sleeper train to Mumbai! There were also many, many vendors walking up and down the aisle of the train as we were going to sleep. You can’t help but love a country where somebody walks by you every few minutes offering a shot of chai for approximately a penny and a half!

Day 11: Kerala to Hyderabad

smog
smog and chaos

This morning we had a plan – go up to the guesthouse breakfast and just eat fruit and drink a little coffee/tea! Genius. Then nobody will try to force anything else on us. So we skipped the toast and hard boiled egg but did try a steamed rice bun with a little coconut and sugar inside that was pretty tasty. We asked what it was called but couldn’t parse the answer so we’ll have to do a little research…or anyone who reads this and knows, please let us know.

breakfast
breakfast

Off we went for last minute site seeing and then to wait for the bus to the airport. The bus is so, so easy and took the same amount of time as a cab for 1/10 the cost. So, for future visitors to Kochi, we recommend that as your means of transport. While waiting for the bus M scouted around for chai street snacks, never too far away. We had a variety of fried things – a delicious sweet banana fritter (again it was cold and we would have loved it hot but took what we could get), a samosa shaped snack filled with onions in both caramelized and lightly cooked form with a great mix of spices, and a fried cake-like item with a hint of cardamom. Once we tasted it, B sent M back for a little more chai.and seconds later the bus pulled up. Luckily it had to sit for a few minutes but there was still some momentary panic. All was well in the end and we got on the bus with our cake and chai. Yum!

 

fried snack
samosas and banana fritters
fried sweet bread
fried sweet bread

After a quick flight to Hyderabad and a check in at our hotel (HOT water for the first time in days!!) we took a tuk tuk over to Bawarchi on RTC Cross Road, home of some of the highest rated Biryani in Hyderabad. And that’s saying something since it is a specialty of the area and the main reason we traveled here. There was some confusion when we got there over which way to go in, but finally made it through the omnipresent metal detectors (we’ve gone through so many on this trip and they always seem to go off no matter what) and up to the rooftop dinner area. It was nice to get a bit above the street fumes, which are terrible. Once inside we saw signs everywhere saying that this was the ‘real’ Bawarchi and that they had no branches. There seems to be absolutely no control over what you name your restaurant. We passed by at least three other Bawarchi’s on our way in from the airport and there is a Great Bawarchi across the street from our hotel. It can get a little confusing if you don’t know where you’re headed. Now I’ll get to the food – the biryani (we had mutton) was absolutely delicious. It had a wonderful side gravy and yogurt and the rice had a wonderful ghee and spice flavor to it. The meat was melt in your mouth tender. We also ordered Hyderabadi Chicken, which was also great. There were green bell peppers in the sauce that were a really pronounced flavor and we’re not usually fans of green peppers, but these added a really nice note to the curry leaf sauce. Two different rotis on the side (one basically our first naan in India!) and a sweet lassi that unfortunately brought B back to her childhood drinking Milk of Magnesia (M liked it a bit more) and we’re all set. Another fantastic meal.

biryani
mutton biryani

 

curry and naan
hyderbadi chicken and naan