Whether you live to eat or eat to live, there are certain food items which are so special that it is absolutely essential for you to not miss them, especially when you happen visit their land of origin. The cuisine of Hyderabad is full of many such dishes, thanks to the commingling of the cuisines of various regions.
The Nizams of Hyderabad were serious connoisseurs of food and appreciated slow-cooked, flavoursome food that was full of meat, fat, nuts and spices. These Nizami special foods are still popular in Hyderabad and rarely fail to amaze anyone new to their taste.
Hyderabad Famous Food Items (Non-Vegetarian)
1. Hyderabadi Biryani
If you were to rank the cuisine of Hyderabad by popularity, the biryani of Hyderabad will be at the top of the charts without the least confusion in the matter. Most people would be ready to consume it at any hour of the day and its rich aromatic flavour and taste never fail to bring anyone back for a second helping! It is usually made with mutton, but chicken biryani is also a hot favourite.
Hyderabad’s most popular Biryani outlet, Paradise, has special packaging available for people who carry huge quantities of it home, on a domestic flight.
- Where to Eat: Paradise, Madhapur
Mostly made from mutton, nuts and spices and wheat, this slow-cooked dish is a hot favourite of people, without reference to religion. This dish provides special sustenance to people of Islamic faith who fast most stringently, refusing to even swallow their own saliva, for the 40 days leading up to the festival of Ramzan. Come Ramzan, everybody queues up for their fair share of this delicacy.
- Where to Eat: All Pista House Outlets
3. Hyderabadi Marag
If you always thought regular mutton soup is the only dish that soothes your palate and your soul, then you have not tried Hyderabadi Marag, Hyderabad’s special soup yet. Hyderabadi Marag is a soup that is a favourite with people who like their soup spicy and with meat in it. Made of tender mutton, it is a dish fit for nawabs, as most of Hyderabad’s cuisine usually is. Some restaurants serve Hyderabadi Marag with chicken meat too.
- Where to Eat: Zaiqa-E-Hyderabad, Banjara Hills
2. Keema Samosa
Samosas are universally popular. Know to some as Sambusas, this deep-fried item is a pastry filled with meat or vegetables, usually peas, potatoes and carrots. If on a visit to Hyderabad, be sure not to miss the Keema (Minced Mutton) Samosas available as a snack in the region. They afford a gastric sensation and satisfaction in a superior category.
- Where to Eat: Farzi Cafe, Jubilee Hills
Kebabs are a very popular barbecued meat dish, originating from Middle Eastern cuisine. Extremely popular in Hyderabad, with huge queues forming outside Hyderabadi joints for a plate of succulent, smoky kebabs and mint chutney, the meat-dish is considered a non-vegetarian’s idea of paradise.
- Where to Eat: Tolichowki
4. Mutton Dalcha
This uniquely Hyderabadi dish makes use of the ubiquitous mutton along with pulses and spices to tickle your palate and get you completely hooked to its taste. It’s made using chickpea lentils and mutton, but can be made with vegetables too if you wish.
- Where to Eat: Bombay Restaurant, Nampally
5. Dum Pukht
Anglicised to “slow-oven cooking”, Dum Pukht is a technique that involves cooking meat or vegetables over a very low, slow flame. Relying heavily on roasting the vegetables or meat in their own juices, and not on flavouring them using various spices, Dum Pukht cooking has its origins in Persia. Used extensively in Mughlai cooking, where a heavy-bottomed pot is sealed with dough to prevent the escape of the slightest whiff, come to Hyderabad for some Dum Pukht-style Dum Biryani, Dum Aloo or Dum Gosht.
- Where to Eat: Aish – The Park, Somajiguda
Hyderabad Famous Food Items (Dessert)
6. Kubani ka Meetha
Made of dried apricots, this is another hot favourite from Hyderabadi cuisine. This dish comes subtly flavoured and sweetened just sufficiently, and garnished with slivers of pistachios, almonds and cashew nuts. Seasoned diners order it topped with vanilla ice cream and this dessert is almost a staple at most weddings and other festivities in Hyderabad.
- Where to Eat: Palace Heights, Abids
7. Double ka Meetha
This is another hot favourite item on any dessert menu in Hyderabad, including at weddings and parties. The name may seem like a misnomer, until you are told that the local slang word for bread is ‘double roti’ and that this sweet is basically made of fried bread, sugar syrup and garnished with slivers of nuts. You will find it served at almost every feast held on any occasion.
- Where to Eat: Flechazo, Madhapur
8. Irani Chai
If you are fond of tea, Irani Chai gives you a different take on that evening cup. Accompanied by a thick, sweet biscuit, Irani Chai is very milky, boiled for hours over a low flame, leaving it with a bitter, unique taste. Irani Chai is very popular in Hyderabad, with entire stalls dedicated to it. You cannot pass by an eat-street without coming across a crowd of people, tired at the end of their day, enjoying a cupful of the Irani chai and biscuits.
- Where to Eat: Nimrah Cafe And Bakery, Charminar
If one were to combine rose syrup, vermicelli, sweet basil seeds, jelly, milk and ice-cream in the right quantities, the resultant concoction would be called Falooda. Delicious and aesthetically pleasing the way it is served, Falooda is sold in several restaurants across Hyderabad. Perhaps you could order this, after making a sumptuous meal of biryani or the like.
- Where to Eat: Matwale Doodh Ghar, Charminar
10. Sheer Korma
Sheer Korma is basically vermicelli pudding, with sweetened milk and dates. Akin to porridge, the sweet is boiled for a period, leaving it creamy and white. Usually made for festivals and functions, or just quiet afternoons, Sheer Korma is high up on the list of Indian comfort-foods. If you happen to be that sort of person, ask for dry fruits as an accompaniment, to add a crunchy note along with the nutty flavour.
- Where to Eat: Amma Vanta, Manikonda
Hyderabad Famous Food Items (Vegetarian)
11. Mirchi ka Salan
Even though it is a curry made entirely of chillies, the spices and flavours used make it an extremely balanced dish which does not shock your palate too much. Expect to find it quite pungent though and sour to boot. This is considered an extremely suitable side dish which goes with the ever-popular Hyderabadi biryani, along with what is called raita, or onions in curd.
Where to Eat: Bawarchi, Nallakunta
12. Mirchi Bajji
The idea of stuffing a chilly with a mixture of chickpea powder, lemon, onion and ajwain and then deep-frying them dipped in more chickpea powder may not sound very impressive. Take your first bite of this amazing spicy delicacy and get hooked for life. Or, run screaming. Considered a tea-time snack, this is not available till evening and most office-goers don’t head home, without ordering a quick plateful from the nearest vendor, as this is strictly a street food, though a few sweet shops open a quick side business, selling them around the evening.
- Where to Eat: Ulavacharu, Jubilee Hills
Pesarattu is basically a dosa – or savoury pancake – made of sprouts and lentils. It is very popular as a breakfast item in Andhra Pradesh and is usually served with ghee, chutney and upma, Pesarettu makes for a delicious breakfast, and an even better choice as a variety option at dinner. Pesarattu is high on protein and thus healthy, filling and goes very well with ginger and tamarind chutney. You will find this in several South Indian homes, especially during exam season.
- Where to Eat: Mathura Vilas, Gachibowli
Called puran poli outside South India, and Bobbatlu in Andhra Pradesh and Purnalu in Telangana, this is a form of flatbread, stuffed with a sweet filling. The filling is made of chickpeas, spices and sugar, with the bread itself made from flour and served hot with a dollop of ghee. In South India, Bobbatlu appear and taste almost like sweet chapathis, and the dessert cannot be missed in any exploration of South Indian cuisine.
- Where to Eat: Rayalaseema Ruchulu, Jubilee Hills
A popular traditional South-Indian dish, used often as a dessert in festivals, parties, and events, Ariselu can brighten up the mood of even the most-exhausted wedding-goer. You will find boxes of them sitting around corner-tables especially during Sankranti, Dusshera and Deepavali. These are made of deep-fried dough, made most often of specially prepared rice flour, mixed with some form of sugar – usually jaggery, a type of cane sugar.
- Where to Eat: Yuktha, Jubilee Hills
A thin pastry sheet made of rice – almost similar to phyllo-pastry from Greece – Pootharekulu are famous in Andhra Pradesh. They come sprinkled with sugar, pieces of cashew nuts and jaggery. Many children in South India receive boxes of this as gifts in summer – in fact, boxes of Pootharekulu exchange hands whenever relatives come visiting, or there is some form of celebration in the family. Pootharekulu is a favourite of most Telugu people, and every bite in later life is bound to come with a bout of nostalgia.
- Where to Eat: G. Pulla Reddy, Nampally
Known across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in South India as chakli or sakinalu, these are deep-fried sweetened snacks made of rice flour and black gram or chickpea flour and flavoured with sesame seeds. Made during festival time and made more enjoyable by a rainy late-afternoon or a good movie on television, these snacks beat popcorn any day. They will be found tucked in shelves in any South-Indian sweet-shop. If you happen to have a sweet tooth, ask for a packet of Gavvalu too, when you walk into that sweet shop. Thank us, later.
- Where to Eat: Sreedevi Swagruha Foods, Nacharam
18. Garijalu (Kajjikayalu)
Garijalu, known as Kajjikaya, is a sweet with a deep-fried, crispy outside and filling made with grated coconut and sugar, and comes flavoured with cardamoms. Made of flour and parcelled up into a crescent shape, this dish is famous in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
- Where to Eat: Akshaya Swagruha Foods, Yella Reddy Guda
There might be many more examples of great food we might be missing here, and we invite you to write in and tell us about the best food you have eaten in Hyderabad and help us to round off this list of great food items from Hyderabad.