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.
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).
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.
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!