mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

Bhopal and Hyderabadi Qabooli

In Eating Out, Hyderabadi, Low Fat, Rice, Travel on August 28, 2007 at 8:43 pm

After the poorimadness I was sure I wanted to do an obviously healthful recipe (read โ€“ 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 ๐Ÿ˜€ .

But things donโ€™t always go as planned. Life happens. The pictures of my quick low-fat nutritious snack didnโ€™t turnout that great (although the khandvi was as delicious as ever) and the blog was held up at the poori for some time.


railway track

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 donโ€™t serve anything between 6 and 7pm, and Jehan Numa Palace Heritage Hotel, where they wonโ€™t serve dinner till after 8pm, we returned to order kababs and biryani at Shan-e-Bhopal.

shan-e-bhopalShan-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, ๐Ÿ˜† 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.

Taste of HyderThe small and clean Taste of Hyderabad was a great find. They served a delicious biryani. The raita here was a tad watery, but that didnโ€™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.

Bharat BhavanThough 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 Barraganโ€™s volumes and spaces that celebrate light (and shadow) that is abundant in our sunny countries.

While I donโ€™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.

bajra fields

old bridge

chambal ravines
And since I have brought Hyderabad into this post, Iโ€™ll share with you my recipe for Hyderabadi Qabooli, which is THโ€™s all-time favourite pulao. My recipe is based on Madhur Jafferyโ€™s (A Taste of India). And low-fat it is!



Hyderabadi Qabooli

(Hyderabadi Pulao)
Serves 6

2 C basmati rice
ยพ C chana dal (split chickpea dal), soaked for ยฝ 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.

qabooliBring 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.

Best served with a garlic-y raita such as this cucumber salad when pressed for time, or with Baingan ki boorani, which will make aubergine lovers out of sworn haters.


  • 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). ๐Ÿ˜€

A Taste of Hyderabad
(Restaurant and Take-away)
Imami Gate
Tel: 533432

  1. So you had biryani two days in a row, and then u came back and made pulao… ๐Ÿ™‚ Beautiful pics…

    First time didn’t count!

  2. Wow, I am first here today ๐Ÿ™‚ Where’s the prize?

    Want poori?

  3. Hey Anita, i left a comment too ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    he he, i love the Qabooli too. and agree on the Oonchi dukaan pheeka pakwan bit.

    And why not send it for JFI-Rice to Sharmi?

  4. Bhopal…my birth place! its been years since i visited this city. Pictures of Bharat Bhawan brought back a lot of memories…
    Qabooli looks delicious!! will try this sometime ๐Ÿ™‚

    The Upper Lake is HUGE! Like it was a sea!

  5. Hey Anita,
    Looks like you have a good time inspite of the ‘not so great’ Biryani the first time! Pictures of Bhopal look good!
    And inspite of all, i bet there’s nothing to beat homecooked food!

  6. Anita,
    quabuli recipe looks yum

  7. Never been anywhere beyond Mumbai in India, me poor thing!:D
    Good info, great photos.Sorry you couldn’t have that Tea. I can see the infamous Chambal valley!!
    I made Boorani without Baingan. Biryani looks yum!:)
    Microwaved onion; I made it once, burnt a little but doable with trial and error though.

  8. Qabooli recipe reminded me of my Hyderabad Blues while traveling to Vizag from Bombay…we used to fight for hyd biryani…your looks so appealing, I am feeling hungry and its afternoon here ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Great recipe Anita!

  9. may i make you jealous? i grew up in an apartment in mumbai which was charles correa’s first mass housing project. try broiling the onions with just a dash of oil. you need to watch them very cloesly, though.

    Not the Kanchenjunga?!!!

  10. the qabooli looks so good…and i think chana dal and rice do make a good combo.. i feel chana dal tastes quite a bit like chole!! maybe that’s just me ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. Hi,
    Therez nothing better thn H’badi biryani n kebabs. And ur Q-Rice is absolutely adorable. Sorry u cudnt taste their T :(.

  12. Hi, pictures of bhopal are nice! Nice biryani! well prepared.

  13. wow very nie pics. Though I’m from Andhra…I lived in Bhopal for about 3 years during my high school. We came back to andhra by the time I was 9. I loved the north life and yya we stayed in Bhopal !!!
    yya the rail route is wonderful!!! We used to sneak out of the train to see the tunnels and the distant hills;)

    Missing that Indian life, and dreaming about that from here in US. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  14. Bookmarking this one! After the hit lime squash, I can trust your recipes ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. If you do not make this for me when I visit Delhi I’ll be so miserable. This looks gorgeous Anita!

    But, of course! ๐Ÿ˜€

  16. not the kanchenjunga. kanchenjunga is not surrounded by mangroves.

  17. Thanks from all those who are fighting a battle to stay fit! The Qabooli Pulao will be grand I am sure. Will try is ASAP. Any which way I love almost all Hyderabadi specialities. thanks a ton for the low cal recipe.

  18. Hi,

    In anticipation of your next visit to Bhopal, here is a list of the best of Bhopal in my opinion:
    1) Pankhi kabab at Jahannuma Palace.
    2) Biryani at Hakim’s, New Market
    3) Vegetarian food – at Bapu Ki Kutia New Market or Manohar Dairy, Hamidia Road.
    4) Any milk product, specially the paneer items, are famous at Manohar Dairy, Hamidia Road

    Great blog you have here!

    Thanks, Bhopale!

  19. hey Shan e Bhopal looks pretty cool though …:) i liked the look of the restaurant …v neat ….the Qabooli looks awesome

  20. Which garam masala did you use? Any will do? I might make this tonight or tomorrow – I’m only missing ginger and mint. And take it with us to Moab on Friday. It will make for a nice late meal, methinks.

    I use my regular Punjabi garam masala – it’s very good.

  21. Also wanted to tell you that your palak paneer recipe should be showcased here! I made it yesterday. Super simple and easy. I had half a block of Nanak paneer in my freezer and it was super soft and delicious after soaking in all the juices. It tasted just like the paneer I used to buy from the neighborhood dudhwala in Versova. Yum! I took a few shortcuts like did not chop or purรฉe the spinach (it was baby spinach, after all!). Medha liked it but she prefers the spinach chopped or as a rough purรฉe and unfortunately she wants the heavy cream in it. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    I had taken pictures ages ago…and never got around to it. Happens all the time!

  22. Now this is a meal to sit down to and overeat even ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. looks great ๐Ÿ™‚ dont think i have had something so authentic. and i live right here in hyd ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Hi Anita,
    I am so sorry I missed the Puri Bhaji Event. I just read your Bhopal and Hyderabadi Qabuli. I have never been to Bhopal and your post was a good insight for me. It also made me very hungry for a good Biryani. But looks like I’ll have to wait a while as we abstain from eating any non-vegetarian food for 4 months before Diwali.

    Have the Qabooli instead – the vegetarian biryani!

  25. Just trying to figure out what WordPress thinks of me now ๐Ÿ˜‰

  26. Gorgeous photos Anita, and thanks for taking us with you (virtually) on your biryani-quest…we have that saying here as well: all that glitters is not gold. I have no idea of its origin, but it rings so true most anywhere in the world…

  27. Where is my earlier comment??

    Lovely recipe… I am planning a trip to the healthy part of town now ๐Ÿ™‚

    Nothing in the spam folder…when?

  28. Hi Anita,
    I tried out the Qabooli. It turned out delicious and was a great hit with the family. I don’t have pictures to share but it looked just the way yours does on the blog. The fried onions really added to the flavor.

    Isn’t it amazingly aromatic?! The yoghurt-garlic pair is such a pleaser. Did you make some garlic-y raita with it?

  29. Dear Anita, thank you for taking us with you on a lovely little trip—I’ve been especially busy of late, so it was a nice mini-vacation ๐Ÿ™‚
    I would have been reaching into my bag right there with you for that cuppa! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  30. Anita, thanks for the qabooli recipe! Though had planned for dinner last night, something came up, and could not get around to it. Made it today for lunch, and let me tell you- I though this would be a simple dish as with the simple ingredients and them too not too many of them. But one spoonful, and wow it was bursting with flavours. Thanks, we had a lovely lovely lunch today ๐Ÿ™‚

    The food I like the most is this kind – which uses simple ingredients to create an amazing dish! Most of the recipes on this blog are like that – my everyday staples!

  31. Oh yes and made the Boorani to go with it!

    And the best paring it is!

  32. Anita even a quick trip was maximum fun wasn’t it? The qabooli /boorani will have to wait though tempting for me. The pictures are nice. My cuz was posted in Bhopal for 5 years and he always brought back moist Motichoor ladoos that are heavenly don’t remember the name of the shop though.

  33. I would loveeeee to have a qabooli, home made. But, don’t hv the time nor the willingness. Maybe winters shall rejoice me! Will try the baingan ki boorani for sure. I am an eggplant fanatic!

  34. i will be trying this coming sunday. will return with feedback.

    The yum blog

  35. it looks delicious anita, looks like I missed the poori magic in the middle of the move! You’ll have to host another party, anita!

  36. HIi there!
    Lovely qabooli! I am a hyderbadi and just looooooove biryanis and pulaos and qubuli is something i havent made in a long time.sure to try it out…thanks for the ideas ….by the way,love your blog

  37. thats quite delicious….had never heard of hyderabadi to try it out soon

  38. Its a different recipe but looks very tempting.

  39. Greetings!

    I would like to say that the two places you chose to have your Biryani are the worst of the lot. No sane Bhopali would even wander in his wildest nightmares to the Shan e Bhopal to have Biryani or anything else for that matter. Its more of a tourist attraction than an eating spot. I know the owners of Taste of Hyderabad personally and the place has lost its charm and taste to say the least. If you ever visit Bhopal again, kindly drop a line via email and I might just be able to get you to taste authentic Bhopali cuisine.


    Hey, Farhan. Thanks for stopping by to leave this comment! I will be sure to contact you before the next visit so that my visit is less like that of a tourist! The biryani at TH was quite good but not Bhopali, of course!

  40. Amazing the Baigan looks too good.. do visit my blog too and give me ur comments…:D

    …as good as the qabooli, I promise!

  41. I am trying to subscribe for your recipe by mail,but not able to.please help

    Sorry, no email subscription available yet. You can subscribe to the feeds instead.

  42. Hi – I love your blog and have bookmarked a lot of your recipes. This Hyderabadi pullao was the first one to try this weekend – it came out really well – thanks so much for sharing. I think in the next try, I’m going to cook the dal with a little garam masala too, to give it a meaty kick =). I did have a question on the recipe though – it says 12 cups of water for cooking 2 cups of basmati? That seemed excessive….? “…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.”

  43. 70 rs a plate for biryani is too costly even for delhi standards…considering it was old bhopal,
    step into old del and u will find decent enough biryani being sold for 50Rs/kg

    Too costly only by Old Delhi standards – that too for places where you will eat standing in the street! Anything under Rs100 anywhere else in Delhi is a steal especially if it is a half-decent restaurant where you can sit down and eat on clean plates.

  44. Hi Anita,
    I love the works of Charles Correa!!
    BTW, not sure about cooking onion in microwave, but it might help if you sprinkle a pinch or 2 of sugar over the onions before cooking, which helps in getting that caramalised effect sooner.
    aussies use this technique on thier BBQ to get thier onions rings done sooner without burning it.. may be will help in microwave too.. i ll try it myself too.. ๐Ÿ˜€

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