Express news service
HYDERABAD: The Arabian rice and meat dish that has been all the rage throughout Hyderabad in recent years is Mandi. The dish was brought to Hyderabad by Yemeni soldiers working in Nizam’s army and was initially only available in the Barkas district of the Old City where they originally settled. With the success of a few restaurants serving this dish here, Mandi outlets have proliferated in other areas.
Apart from the Arabs serving in the local army here, marriages between noble families from Hyderabad and the Arab world had resulted in a strong influence of Arab culture and food on the Deccan Plateau. While Arab traders coming to India also played a role in this regard, many Hyderabadis going to work in the Gulf countries in the post-independence era reinforced this influence.
Arabic rice dishes are not limited to Mandi alone. Another dish of Kabsa rice and meat is the national dish of Saudi Arabia. The preparation, where the rice is cooked in a meat broth, often has a reddish tint due to the use of saffron and tomato and has a slightly sweeter taste. Haneeth, a Yemeni dish, is made from a small lamb.
The meat is mostly slowly roasted sealed in an airtight container fed with firewood. The cooking method ensures that the meat retains all of its flavor and juiciness while becoming tender over time. It is then served on a bed of rice with raisins and nuts. Then there is the zarb, a dish of the nomads of Jordan where lamb is grilled in a makeshift underground pit with vegetables.
A few restaurants in Hyderabad offer these other rice dishes. Spice 6 in Banjara Hills introduced
Kabsa and Haneeth on their menu. Levant, a Turkish and Arabian restaurant, offers Zarb covered with a layer of purdah or dough, which causes the rice inside to become greasy due to the lamb fat.
Taher Syed, a food consultant from Hyderabad specializing in Arabic cuisine, believes that many of Hyderabad’s curious food lovers visit the small Arab food shops that have set up throughout the city. Some of these niche places serve other types of Arabic rice dishes such as Madbi, Madfoon, and Bukhari. Sabyasachi is passionate about cooking and blogs at www.foodaholix.in