Where to eat Biryani in Hyderabad?

How do I begin describing Paradise? Its a name that would pop-up at mere mention of word Biryani, specially when talking about Hyderabad. As known a name as it is, it mostly gets bad rep from almost everyone, at least on internet.
Infact if you have to prove you are a Biryani lover, your first start by slamming paradise. Your love for Biryani is directly proportional to how vociferous you are about your disapproval of what paradise serves for Biryani. If you are a bit mild you will still share how its no longer the same it used to be, but then don’t we hear this about almost every legend in any part of India? Few names that get regularly accused of not being the same or overrated – Bade Mian of Bombay, Tunday of Lucknow, Karim’s of Delhi, MTR of Bangalore  – but then I have personally visited them all in last year or two – and no, did not find them to be overrated at all. Food served by all these places has lot of merit (refraining from using the word ‘still’ here), at least in their home branches and in few cases, their other outlets as well.
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Before I went to the Paradise’s outlet on Paradise Circle (Yes! they do give name to a super busy junction in heart of Secunderabad), I did try their Biryani in Bangalore, which I ordered in using some random food delivery app, and I remember having no complains at that time as well.
Biryani, Salan and Khubani ka Meetha
Now coming to Paradise on Paradise circle. The outlet was just 10 minutes walk away from the hotel I was staying, making it a natural choice for my first meal in Land of Biryani. Stepping into the ground floor entrance, was greeted by a metal detector and a guard ready to frisk me, something akin to a big shopping mall. Was also told that ground floor was for takeaway only, and I need to climb up for dining area. Stepped into the first level, saw a few tables, none was empty, walked a little more and saw the dining area open up into space full of tables – all occupied. Thought would have to wait, however was guided to another level with a inconspicuous entrance and sitting area, however once I was inside I was surprised by the sheer size of the hall, number of tables and their occupancy.
Size of the place reminded me of ‘langars’ or public feasts in my native North India. Table after table full of families and groups feasting on their favorite dishes, with Biryani being the common factor on almost all tables. All of them overlooked and served by an army of attentive waiters, supervisors and support staff – all of them looked like they knew their jobs well, that said its not possible to run operations at this scale if the staff is not well trained and organised.
On conversing with a suited booted staffer, who seemed like a section supervisor – I was told that the place can seat 1400 souls at the same time – takeaways and deliveries excluded. It was lunch hour of a working Friday and the place was surprisingly full. But then I was the only one surprised, as the staffer told me that due to Navratras it was ‘only’ houseful, otherwise there usually is a huge waiting for tables. Just to remind you here, that 1400 is not the number of people they serve in a day or in a particular meal time – that is there seating capacity and tables keep moving with new diners occupying them as the previous occupants are done with their fill. More enterprising readers can do their maths now.
The way platter gets served
So far so good, but as someone intelligent said – the proof of pudding is in eating it. Since I was alone, I decided to skip all monkey business in the menu and jumped straight to Biryani – Mutton Dum Biryani to be precise. Did not take long for waiter to bring that to my table, mirchi ka salan and raita came as its partners in crime. Service was courteous enough to serve the same and it did not take more than a few seconds for me to dig my  eager fingers in the source of awesome fragrance on my table.
The moment fingers went in, a smile came out on my face – this was indeed a good biryani, something you can tell just by touching the same. A genuinely good biryani would not leave any traces of oil or fat on your fingers, spices or gravy of any kind should not stick to your fingers. After pleasing my sense of smell, another of my senses was made happy by the Biryani sitting on my table and I was yet to bite into the first morsel. Finally it was turn of my sense of taste, and was it pleased? Hell yeah! As it was experiencing one of the finest dishes it had experienced. Soft succulent pieces of mutton, which were coming apart by bare fingers adding to the aroma and flavor of high quality rice – all brilliantly accentuated by slightly higher than mild spices.
Soft and Succulent Mutton pieces inside fragrant rice.
Served along with it was Mirchi ka Salan and mix vegetable raita. Barely felt the need for salan but occasional bite mixed with raita worked as an excellent cleanser and soother for the palette. Initially the portion size seemed to be too big for one person, however did not feel heavy while eating it or after finishing it off. Infact found it to be so good that had no option but to finish it off.
Mirchi ka Salan
Though was full by end of it, however as they say – there always is a separate stomach for dessert and there was no way I was not ordering Khubani ka Meetha, a dessert made from Apricots, another specialty of Hyderabad.
After that tried Biryani from much legendary Shadab Hotel near Char Minaar and then Veg Biryani from Alpha in Secunderabad. Even though both were amazing in their own right specially the Alpha one and gave Paradise a serious run for its money, however there is no way that they could be termed finer or better that what I have had already eaten at paradise.
Khubani ka Meetha with Ice-cream
If you are a Hyderabadi then I am sure you have a much finer palette and also a local favorite for Biryani, however if you are a food lover looking for genuine Dum Biryani then ignore all naysayers and head straight to Paradise – you will not be disappointed. 

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Where to eat Keema Meat Curry & Rice in Delhi? – Gullu Meat Waala

First time heard about Gullu meat when they had opened shop in Neta Ji Subhash Place in Pitam Pura. However the feedback was not so great and was told by my meat eating friends that the name has lost glory and NSP one is mere a bad copy of the original somewhere in North Delhi. Plus there was never feedback exciting enough for me to visit the original one as well.
However all that changed this weekend when a friend told about her father being fan of Gullu’s meat and knowing how much of a meat eater and lover he is, it was difficult for me to curb my excitement.
Landed up at their Malka Ganj outlet which apparently is right next to North Campus of Delhi university. Google maps here would serve you very well, just in case its barely 100-200 meters from Bungalow Road.
The menu looked simple enough – Keema Meat, Keema Kaleji, Chicken Keema, Meat Keema Rice along with Tikka, Tandoori etc. In vegetarian it has Dal Makahni, Mutter Paneer, Raita, Pulao and Mutter Paneer rice. All dishes came in 3 sizes – priced from Rs. 150 to 360.
Keema Meat Rice, Keema Meat Curry from Gullu
Abundance
We ordered a medium sized Keema Meat curry which in their menu would be ‘regular’, along with a portion of Keema Meat Rice which come in a single size. In breads ordered a Masala Parantha and couple of Tandoori rotis.
They do not ‘serve’ you at this outlet, its a takeaway joint with no provision to dine, not even a solitary table to stand and eat. I guess its more to do with a booze shop right next door, the guys at Gullu have to stay clean unless they want to invite trouble from authorities.
But that does not mean you cannot park and eat there, infact that is how lot of patrons get their fill – in their cars or on their bikes, just like we decided to roll.
First thing I noticed in my package was abundance of Chutney and Pyaz. Just taking them out one after the other set the mood right and left a great impression.
Coming to the Keema Meat Curry – It was not oily at all with keema being hand grounded which means a chunky meaty gravy. The mutton pieces were well cut, cooked in a way that they were not falling from bone but were still tender & melt in mouth, which is unlike many places that serve fibrous and chewy meat these days. The spices were perfectly balanced and should suit all the palettes. No overpowering or strong flavors – just a light, flavorful infusion.

Keema Meat Rice

Roti and Parantha
Same Keema Meat curry was used in rice as well. Rice were perfectly cooked and there was good quantity of gravy seeped till the deeper part of the container.
Masala Parantha that we ordered was surprisingly unique and well made. I was expecting a normal laccha parantha which would have some masala on top, but this one turned out to be different, very different. The parantha was stuffed with some masala that seemed to be mix of various things but dominated by methi. Tasted very nice with the meat curry.
Masala Parantha

I guess we would all agree that in such meals chutney and pyaz play a very important role, and the quality of these two things from Gullu made an already tasty experience into a superlative one. The chutney was thick and thankfully was not curd based.  The onions were well cut, fresh and crunchy – just what was needed to complete the meal.

 

Chutney and Pyaz
Details menu of Gullu along with Phone numbers.
It all costed us Rs. 484 which does not seem to be much for the kind of experience that we had.
Surely goes in the list of gems of Delhi. The closest competition would be legendary Ashok meat from Sadar Bazaar while Deena Meat of Gurgaon would be like a poor cousin of this kickass place!

Pindi Meat, Karol Bagh – A Mutton lovers delight

On my recent trip to Amritsar, I got acquainted to charms of dishes made on the Tawa. Though I have been eating them before, however for the first really understood the concept of it. The concept is very simple, you take meat in any form primarily – Mutton Chaamp, Mutton Seekh, Gurde, Bheja etc and you fry in on Tawa with thick gravy and loads of butter/ghee/oil and eat with kulcha or other bread. The kulcha itself is heated on tawa and soaked in the gravy of the item that is prepared or some gravy which is already prepared..
Pindi Meat Wala – Tawa covers the entire face of the Shop.
One such place that I have been hearing about for a long time is Pindi Meat Wala in Karol bagh area. And yesterday night I managed to visit them for the first time. Though we did not go inside the shop, it seemed people were sitting inside where it seemed impossible to sit and savoring their food.
The menu was simple enough – Chaamp, Bheja, Gurde, Tikke, Kaleji and Seekh – All Mutton, done on the tawa, served with Kulchas also heated on the tawa. We ordered Gurde/Kaleji mixed in one dish and Mutton Tikke in another, which I was not very keen on, however one look at the raw stuff and Vikas Shokeen (one of my dining partners along with Apurva Gupta) assured me that these were going to be soft.
Ready to go on the Tawa 
And there goes the butter
Working on the seekhs
Gravy going in
It seems every dish is made in around 50 gm of pure unadulterated Amul butter, in which first a mix which seems dominated by onions goes in, then meats, followed by some gravy and spices. Roasted on tawa for couple minutes, it gets driers and ready to serve. The gravy that goes in the dishes is also poured over the kulchas which are heated on the same tawa.
Preparing the kulchas on the side.
Kulchas as they come out
Coming to the taste, now even thinking about it I have a waterfall in my mouth. It was on tangier side, loaded with spices, the meats were very soft and just blended in with the gravy. Something unique, which you will not find at many other places in Delhi, a must try if you love your meats done Indian style.
Gurda and Kaleji mix – Lungs and Kidneys.. 😛
Mutton Tikka
Two dishes with six kulchas costed us under Rs. 300 which I guess is super value for money.
They do not serve in cars, you can get it packed and manage on your own, however seeing a gentleman eating outside out of disposable plates, we got curious. Pindi guy does not give disposable plates as well, however that gentleman told us that we can get it from a shop which was 2 minutes walk away. So we got our own disposable plates and got him to serve in them.
Location :
I googled for it, and got the following address listed on Just Dial.
1963, Nai Bank Street, Karol Bagh, Delhi – 110005 | Phone : +(91)-11-66363012
I assume its an evening only joint, you can easily go near the Gurudwara on Gurudwara road in Karol Bagh and ask around for the joint. It was open till 10:45 pm ateast.
PS : All pictures shot using Nokia Lumia 800 in poor lighting and after some Old Monk.

The Carnivore Carnival – Ramzan Walk in Old Delhi

If you have been born and brought up in Delhi, chances are that the memories of evenings spent with family at the melas or carnivals of the “pre-mall” days, occupy a very important part of your childhood nostalgia. Remember the old feeling when your feet are screaming for a break from all the walking – but instead your eyes, filled with excitement, refuse to listen, and keep on pulling you towards the next attraction?? That was exactly how I was feeling today at Jama Masjid, and all the joy-rides were for my taste-buds.
Our gang of FED’s got together at the Chawri Bazaar metro station, and we started walking through the small eateries mainly catering to the Chawri Bazaar businessmen and the local residents. Until we reached the Jama Masjid area, the fare was only vegetarian, and rightly so, because had we gone straight to the other part, our vegetarian friends would have run away at the very beginning.
My narration starts forms the part 2 of our FED walk, or as I like to call it “The Carnivore Carnival”.
 
Ramzan or Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting, during which, participating Muslims strictly refrain from eating food and even water during the daylight hours. It is only after sunset that they are allowed to take their first sip of water of the day. The fast breaking meal of the day is known as Iftar, which traditionally starts with the ceremonial eating of three dates, just as Prophet Muhammad used to do.
We were at the area called Matia Mahal which is the lane leading in towards the market opposite gate no: 1 of the Jama Masjid entrance. And since It is the holy month of Ramzan, we were there to join in on the celebrations. When we entered the lane, we couldn’t help being overwhelmed by the festive energy of the place. The joyful spirit instantly overpowers as you are drawn into the labyrinth of lights, colors, and best of all the succulent aroma of wonderful food.
Our first halt was at a biryani vendor, he had two different types of biryanis, the Chicken and beef (or as they called it “Bade ki Biryani”). Both of them tasted nice as they were cooked very well. But I must admit that this guy’s biryani was not the best one of the evening.
Twenty steps further into the lane was a grilled chicken outlet, I think its name was Aslam Chicken Corner. This guy is basically sitting on the street with a huge tawa, at-least 3 ft in diameter, full of marinated chicken breast pieces, and a small grill besides it. The Chicken was juicy and simply amazing, even though it was drenched in yellow butter, the taste was perfectly balanced with all the spices used in marinating it. At Rs. 65 for a skewer with 7 pieces it was just awesome.

 

Here, I met a few local youth, (who for some reason were convinced that I was from London and not Delhi ??) I asked one of them about his favorite food in the lane and he recommended a Chicken Biryani place and pointed out to the outlet. I’m glad I followed the dude’s advice.
The biryani here was out-standing, much better than the earlier place, it was cooked to perfection with each individual strand perfectly separated, and the aroma was a flawless melody of spices. The quality of rice they used was nothing like what I have ever seen before, each grain was at least half an inch long. The guy sitting at the Deg (the biryani vessel) told me that only a very special type of rice will make the biryani taste this good. This guy even had us try some of his Korma which was again great. I love mixing a little korma with my biryani.
 Also, adjoining this place was an outlet making Rotis and Sheermals. We were tempted to try the sheermal and they were superb. It is a flat bread which is mildly sweet and only slightly glazed and cooked in a tandoor. They too would have been a perfect accompaniment with the Korma.
All the food had me craving for a nice cool drink, and at that moment had I wished for something else, it would definitely have been granted. Just a couple of shops down the lane I saw something spectacular. This shop had a giant soda vending machine which had every flavor imaginable on offer. They had at least 15 different varieties of soda ranging from Leeche to Mango, Blueberry to Strawberry, you name it, and the taste was surprisingly commendable. We guys went crazy with delight. Seriously, I wasn’t kidding about the Mela part.
Up next I met the happiest food vendor I’ve seen in my whole life. This guy (who by the way had a striking resemblance with the actor Randeep Hooda.. see pic) was just so jubilant. He served us with an energy that was both entertaining and inspiring with a smile as big as the old city, and this was besides the fact that he was super-busy. He was selling this unique sharbat made with water, milk, Roohafza plus little chunks of watermelon added in the mix. It was only mildly sweet, delicious and totally refreshing.
Right next to this jolly fellow was a guy selling different curries out of a cart, now, how often do you get to see stuff like that? We asked him to give us a plate each of all his non-veg preparations. He set up a small table for us and sent us Hari Mirch Keema, Magaz (Brain) Curry, Mutton Korma, Dal Meat and Bade Ka Salan. We all had our favorites, mine was the Korma but the Magaz was the first one to be wiped off.

You have to pardon me for not giving you any names as these places are known more by their food and location. Most of them have been sitting at the same place selling the same food for decades without choosing any name for their outlet. In order to find them all you need to do is start walking into the lane and go on exploring.

To finish off, we decided to culminate the evening at the outlet which has made the Jama Masjid area food famous all over the world, we ended up at Karim’s. This place is an institution in itself. To reach there we had to walk back to the entrance of the lane where the very first Karim’s is located. It opened originally in the year 1918 (I think) and they have been putting smiles of people’s faces ever since.

We are all too familiar with Karim’s food, as any foodie worth his salt would be, so we just ordered a few of our favorites. In fact, I doubt if the majority of their visitors even look at their Menu card before ordering.

We had their Burra Kebabs, Nihari, Keema and Seekh Kababs. I even wanted to have the Raan which is the roasted whole leg of the goat but it was sold out, sadly.

The Burra is their most famous and popular preparation. It is made of pieces of goat meat marinated in their secret mix of spices and then slow cooked in the tandoor. The meat is soft and it melts in the mouth within a few bites, perfect. I could eat it all day.

The Nihari is again a goat meat preparation and is more popular during Ramzan. The gravy is very rich and creamy, again with a lot of spices added to create Magic. We finished off with the famous Phirni which is their version of kheer.

The food is no doubt very heavy with all the spices and Ghee, but, I feel, that is the essence of Mughlai food. After eating so much I’m glad I walked all the way back till New Delhi railway station, where I had parked.

When it comes to working with red meat, the Muslim chefs have definitely written the book on the subject. It will always be their art. I just hope their younger generation takes on the reins so we can continue savoring the delights as their art of cooking is passed on from generation to generation.
One last word on the prices. Karim’s by all standards is priced like any other mid-priced restaurant, Meal for two between Rs. 600 to Rs. 800 range. But the outlets outside on the street are all in the very affordable category, dishes range from Rs. 50 – Rs. 75 on average, and I reckon one can have a royal feast for well under Rs. 200.

Going to Jama Masjid for food is always joyful, but being there during Ramzan, is unlike any regular experience. The positivity, jubilation and the merriment that is so prevalent, just multiplies the flavor of the food fiesta.