After the poori–madness I was sure I wanted to do an obviously healthful recipe (read – low fat) to restore some respectability to the blog which had gained some kind of notoriety what with the no-holds-barred-deep-fried partying and all. The occasion had demanded indulgence and many of you seemed to agree wholeheartedly 😀 .
But things don’t always go as planned. Life happens. The pictures of my quick low-fat nutritious snack didn’t turnout that great (although the khandvi was as delicious as ever) and the blog was held up at the poori for some time.
Meanwhile, I visited Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh, ‘the heart of India’. It was a rushed visit with no time free for sightseeing. What little there was, was spent searching for a place to eat. Biryani and kababs were recommended and we spent a good part of one evening looking for them.
After some shunting between Shan-e-Bhopal, where they don’t serve anything between 6 and 7pm, and Jehan Numa Palace Heritage Hotel, where they won’t serve dinner till after 8pm, we returned to order kababs and biryani at Shan-e-Bhopal.
Shan-e-Bhopal is a small restaurant at Hotel Lake View Ashok housed inside a broad-gauge train bogie! The background sounds of clanging of wheels, and the quintessential chaiwala calling out chai-chai, reinforce the feeling of being at a typical Indian railway station!
But, for some reason best known to the restaurant manager, tea is served only between 3 and 6 pm! Despite being ready to dip deep into my purse for what would have been the most expensive (Indian) tea of my life, I was denied the pleasure. And I had to go through my evening longing for the rejuvenating brew that I much needed after having spent four hours in the sweltering heat at the work site.
And true to the saying oonchi dukan-feeka pukvan (a Hindi phrase meaning all that glitters is not gold, but literally, a lofty shop – insipid food), the biryani was nothing to write home about. It was not even biryani in the true sense which is white rice layered with spiced meat fragrant with cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron, amongst other spices. And the waiter wanted to know, for the second time, how the food was. Not bad for a meat pulao. The complimentary raita was good though, 😆 as was the mint-chutney. The exceptional point was the setting: a rail coach, and its platform, by the beautiful lake-side.
Next morning, after spending another four hours at the site, we went searching for the biryani again. In our quick-march through old Bhopal the previous night, we had spotted a Hyderabadi restaurant. Luckily we found it after retracing our route through landmark historic buildings we had spotted.
The small and clean Taste of Hyderabad was a great find. They served a delicious biryani. The raita here was a tad watery, but that didn’t matter. The fluffy rice, coloured here and there with the meat juices, was redolent with the flavour of cardamom and cloves, and topped with fried onion slivers and a halved boiled egg. And such generous portions that you could clean the plate only if you were very hungry. We had also ordered a mutton fry which was good but paled against the biryani. [It was so good I forgot to take pictures!] The plate of biryani cost an unbelievable Rs70! That, my friends, is not possible in Delhi.
Though we had time only for a quick dekko at Bharat Bhavan, a center for performing and visual arts which embodies the widespread appreciation for the arts in Bhopal. It has been designed by Charles Correa, an architect I admire immensely, and in whose work I see a resonance of Luis Barragan’s volumes and spaces that celebrate light (and shadow) that is abundant in our sunny countries.
While I don’t have vignettes of Bhopal city life for you, I did catch some pictures of the landscape from the large windows of the Bhopal Shatabdi (daily express train between Delhi and Bhopal) that I traveled in. There is much you can spot on the train route: the Gwalior Fort, the Great Stupa of Sanchi , the Chambal river and the ravines, and also the Palace at Datia.
And since I have brought Hyderabad into this post, I’ll share with you my recipe for Hyderabadi Qabooli, which is TH’s all-time favourite pulao. My recipe is based on Madhur Jaffery’s (A Taste of India). And low-fat it is!
2 C basmati rice
¾ C chana dal (split chickpea dal), soaked for ½ hour
1/2 t turmeric
1T peanut oil (plus oil for frying onions)
1 large onion, halved, and sliced into thin half-rings
2 t grated ginger
1 t garlic paste (made from fresh cloves)
1/2 C dahi/yoghurt
1/2 t red chilli powder (cayenne pepper)
1 T ghee
2 T lime juice
2 T milk
1 T fine chopped corinder leaves
1 T fine chopped mint leaves
2-4 green chillies, minced
1/2 t garam masala
Wash rice in several changes of water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain.
Pressure cook chana dal with the soaking water and half the turmeric for 10 minutes (or simmer in a pan till tender); the grains should be firm, not mushy. Drain.
Prepare the onions and spread them on a paper towel to dry for a bit, 30 minutes to an hour. This speeds up the frying. Heat oil in a karahi and deep fry the onions till rich brown in colour. Remove and drain on paper towels.
Retain 1 tablespoon of oil in the karahi. To this add the ginger and garlic and fry till fragrant. Add the turmeric and 2 T of dahi. Fry till lightly browned. Add the remaining dahi, 2 T at a time, and fry till oil separates. Ad the drained cooked dal, salt, and chilli powder. Stir to mix and cook for a minute.
Bring to boil 12 cups of water. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and stir. Add the drained rice and boil vigorously for 5-7 minutes till the rice is 3/4 cooked. The grains will be firm and feel just slightly undercooked. Drain the rice. Spoon half the rice into a heavy bottom pan. Spread with the cooked dal mix. Cover this with the remaining rice. Spoon the ghee, milk, lime juice over the rice. Sprinkle with the browned onions, mint, coriander, green chillies, and garam masala. Cover with a tight fitting lid or use dough to seal the lid around the edges. Cook on very low heat for 30 minutes.
- The oil after frying the onions becomes very flavourful. Use it for cooking the eggplant slices if planning to make Baingan ki boorani.
- I have been meaning to try to brown the onions in the microwave using just a tad bit of oil, but haven’t gotten around to it. If you do, let me know!
- The browned onions freeze well. So, make twice the amount and it will be a breeze next time around (I assure you, you will be making this again and again). 😀
A Taste of Hyderabad
(Restaurant and Take-away)