Assal Hyderabadi

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When it comes to taking a recipe and turning it on its head to create something different and delicious, Executive Chef Nitin Mathur of the Taj Krishna hotel and his team are experts. And Firdaus, the Indian fine dining restaurant that serves Hyderabadi and North West Frontier cuisine is a prime example of their creative endeavours.

Let me elaborate. Most meat lovers are familiar with Kacche Gosht ki Biryani – a biryani that is slow cooked with raw meat and spices where the meat gets cooked with the rice absorbing the flavours thoroughly. At Firdaus, you can have the Kathal ki biryani – made with raw jackfruit! The same premise – a slow cooked biryani – with a vegetarian option and just as tasty.

Sampling the new menu at Firdaus was a gastronomic high. To get our palate going, we were served a Murgh Jahangiri Shorba – a tangy tomato based soup with chicken. The vegetarian option was with roasted peppers and corn and equally tasty.

Then came the starters. Now, Firdaus is well known for its wide range of kebabs and while old favourites like the melt in the mouth Kakori Kebabs still stay on the menu, newer additions like Pathar ka Gosht, Makai Motiya seekh, Sangri Lal Mirch ke Kebab, Jaituni Malai Paneer and Kebab-e-Firdaus make it more interesting. The Sangri Lal Mirch was a blend of the Rajasthani Sangri with other spices and red chillies and an interesting way to sample Sangri which is usually served as part of a vegetable dish. The Jaituni Malai paneer was soft cubes of paneer, layered with red and green chutney and topped with an olive paste. This might be a bit bland for spice loving Hyderabadis but was unusual. The Pathar ka Gosht was spicy and very different from the ones served elsewhere. The Makai Motiya Seekh won my vote from all the starters as it was crisp and the vegetables perfectly blended with the corn to make for an excellent veg starter. The Kebab-e-Firdaus was soft and succulent chicken that was not spicy thanks to the cashewnut paste used in the marinade.

When it came to the main course, Chef and his team showed their reinventive streak.  They served us Aloo Wadi Bharta – a dry preparation made from potatoes and Punjabi wadis. Now these wadis are traditionally made by first frying them, then cooking them in onion tomato gravy with potatoes. Here, Chef had cooked the potatoes and wadis by just stir frying them till they were a soft mash with all the taste intact  And because wadis are not easy to source locally, Chef got the original recipe from his wife whose grandfather used to make them. He then had them made in-house — making wadis for those who don’t know — is an extremely long drawn and tedious process. But that is the Taj group for you  — they always go the extra mile.

The Kaddu ka Dalcha was yet another example of creative mix and match. Dalcha is usually a tangy tamarind based dal cooked with mutton. Here long chunks of bottle gourd were used and the result was an absolute delight. I didn’t even bother with the range of rotis and naans to taste it with, it was excellent on its own. The Chowgra – a mixed vegetable and the Murgh Tarmezi Korma – a decadent chicken curry with cashewnuts and cream in the gravy were equally good. My vote for the must have main dish goes to this Korma – delicately flavoured and seeped in taste. The Kacche Gosht ki Biryani stays on the menu as it is an old favourite.

At this point I must mention the Dahi Wada. It was served along with the starters but it was so tasty that I kept taking tiny bites of it throughout the meal. It is a simple yoghurt based side dish made in most Indian homes but rarely does everything come together this well.

The dessert options have the usual suspects like the Khubani ka Meetha and the Double ka Meetha. New additions include the Baked Anjeer Halwa and Badam ka Kund – the latter being a traditional Hdyerabadi sweet made with almonds and cardamoms. It made a fitting end to a rich meal.

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