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Hyderabad food festival: Rich, tangy, spicy at Indyaki

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Hyderabad: The food festival of Hyderabad Royal Kitchens can be described as rich, tangy, spicy at the multi-cuisine Indyaki eatery at the Radisson Blue Hotel in Paschim Vihar.

On offer is an amalgamation of Mughlai, Turkish and Arabic food, derived from the princely legacy of the erstwhile nizams of Hyderabad state and is curated by Chef S K Saibjan, a master of the genre who has been specially brought down here from the southern city for the festival.

“Opened five years ago, Indyaki often comes up with various food festivals round the year to stand out in the midst of stiff competition,” Vivek Chandra Joshi, Indyaki’s assistant food and beverage manager said.

“These food festivals from across states ensure good business at the restaurant,” he says, adding: “On our way forward we want to explore such fests with the southern cuisines.”

“Providing new and authentic recipes from various regions brings us a new clientele base as well as sustains the existing one,” said Ranvir, the head chef at Indyaki.

The response to The Royal Kitchens of Hyderabad has so far been very good, Ranvir added.

Elaborating on Hyderabadi dishes, he said the cuisine emphasises the use of ingredients that are carefully chosen and cooked to the right degree of perfection. Among the condiments used in various delicacies are kabab cheen, pathar ke phool, chirounji, rose petals, sandal and pan ki jad.

Nuts, especially almonds, peanuts and cashew nuts, as also copra (dry coconut), have a major presence in the cuisine, Ranvir elaborated.

Sipping an Indyaki Punch cola, infused with rock salt, and garnished with mint and lemon actually makes you feel you are being punched and revived. I took a walk around the eatery to study its interiors.

The walls have various pictures showcasing the many cultural entities of Hyderabad city, making for a delightful and serene environment for foodies to savour the lip-smacking delicacies.

Then, it was time to sample the fare. First came the zaituni malai paneer tikka – paneer marinated in yogurt and spices, with the eternal mint chutney. Mutton seekh kebab, tender nizami murgh tikka and the crispy methi malai machi and gobhi65 followed in quick succession.

Surrounded by these gastronomical delights, I actually forgot all the tiredness of the day and worries of tomorrow. Also, a hope glimmered inside me – if the starters were so delicious, what would the main course be like?

Being a little biased towards non-vegetarian food, I quickly went to the counters serving them for the bouffet element of the fest.

Having heard a lot about the Hyderabadi biryani I delved straight into that.

“Kache ghosht ki biryani (lamb biryani) is raw mutton marinated with garam masala, degi mirch, brown onion, coriander powder, mint leaves and ginger garlic paste and kept for four hours and then cooked on the slow fire, in the famous dum cooking style,” Saibjan explained.

The tanginess of mirch ka salan, the mouthwatering chicken and mutton pickle accompanied the yummy biryani.

I next opted for a dish that was a great favourite of Chef Saibjan.

Haleem – made up of lentils, daliya, and meat – was completely new to me. Yet the very sight of it brought home to me the labour that went into making it.

Chef Saibjan said that haleem is made during Ramadan – the Muslim holy month of fasting – and is cooked on a slow fire for about 4-5 hours.

It is semi-liquid in form and when consumed before daybreak – when the fasting period begins – has the necessary proteins to keep one going for the 10-12 hours one has to remain without food or water.

“You need extra patience to cook haleem,” the chef said, adding: “Ithmenaan (patience) is the key and slow-cooking is the hallmark of Hyderabadi cuisine.”

Finally, catering to my sweet tooth were double ka meetha, which was, as the name suggests, doubly sweet; mauz ka meetha – bananas slow cooked with milk, sugar, cardamom and saffron; and gil-e-firdosh made up of bottle gourd cooked with thickened milk, sugar and garnished with elaichi and chopped dried fruit.

In a nutshell, the festival, which is on till February 22, is a must try if you want to indulge in a royal affair and for a mouthwatering experience at the Indyaki. (IANS)(image-2.bp.blogspot.com)

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Across Asia’s Borders, Survivors Of Human Trafficking, Dial in for Justice

The trial has been ongoing since 2013

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Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India.
Tara Khokon Miya is seen in her village home in Shipur, Bangladesh, Feb. 26, 2018. She is helping to prepare her 27-year-old daughter to testify via videoconferencing technology against the men who trafficked her to India. VOA

When Neha Maldar testified against the traffickers who enslaved her as a sex worker in India, she spoke from the safety of her own country, Bangladesh, via videoconferencing, a technology that could revolutionize the pursuit of justice in such cases.

The men in the western city of Mumbai appeared via video link more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles) west of Maldar as she sat in a government office in Jessore, a major regional hub for sex trafficking, 50 km from Bangladesh’s border with India.

“I saw the people who had trafficked me on the screen and I wasn’t scared to identify them,” Maldar, who now runs a beauty parlor from her home near Jessore, told Reuters. “I was determined to see them behind bars.”

“I told them how I was beaten for refusing to work in the brothel in the beginning and how the money I made was taken away,” she said, adding that she had lied to Indian authorities about her situation after being rescued, out of fear.

Thousands of people from Bangladesh and Nepal — mainly poor, rural women

and children — are lured to India each year by traffickers who promise good jobs but sell them into prostitution or domestic servitude, anti-slavery activists say.

Activists hope the safe, convenient technology could boost convictions. A Bangladeshi sex trafficker was jailed for the first time in 2016 on the strength of a victim’s testimony to a court in Mumbai via video link from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital.

Convictions for cross-border trafficking in the region are rare as most victims choose not to pursue cases that have traditionally required them to testify in Indian courts, which meant staying in a shelter for the duration of the trial.

“They have always wanted to go back home, to their families,” said Shiny Padiyara, a legal counsel at the Indian charity Rescue Foundation that has facilitated videoconferencing cases and runs shelters for trafficking victims. “And most never return to testify.”

But videoconferencing is making it easier to pursue justice. Survivors have given statements, identified their traffickers, and been cross examined in at least 10 other ongoing international cases in Bangladesh, advocates said.

“Enabling victims to testify via video conference will lead to a possible decrease in acquittal rates for want of prime witnesses,” said Adrian Phillips of Justice and Care, a charity that supports the use of video testimony to help secure justice.

Even then, it is tough. During Maldar’s three-hour deposition, she withstood a tough cross-examination, showed identity documents to prove her age and countered allegations by the defense lawyer that she was lying about her identity.

Students Combat Human Trafficking
Students Combat Human Trafficking, flickr

‘Unpardonable’

Tara Khokon Miya is preparing her 27-year-old daughter to testify against the men who trafficked her to India from Dhaka, where she had been working in a garment factory.

“I almost lost my daughter forever,” she said, sitting in her home in Magura, less than 50 km from Jessore, describing how she disappeared after work and was taken to a brothel in India, and raped and beaten for almost a year before being rescued.

“What the traffickers did to my daughter was unpardonable,” Miya said, wiping her tears. “We seek justice. I nurtured her in my womb and can’t describe what it felt like to not know about her whereabouts.”

The trial has been ongoing since 2013 when the young woman, who declined to be named, was repatriated. The charity Rights Jessore is helping the family through the process, by providing counseling and rehearsing cross-examination.

“The best thing is her father will be by her side when she talks in court,” Miya said, finally breaking into a smile.

India signed a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh in 2015 to ensure faster trafficking investigations and prosecutions, and with Nepal in 2017, and laid down basic procedures to encourage the use of videoconferencing in court proceedings.

“The procedure is very transparent,” said judge K M Mamun Uzzaman at Jessore courthouse, which often converts its conference hall into a courtroom for videoconferencing cases to protect survivors’ privacy.

“I’m usually present and victims are able to testify confidently … it is easy and cost effective for us,” he said. “But the biggest beneficiaries are the survivors.”

Silencing Victims
Silencing Victims, pixabay

The future

Videoconferencing in Bangladesh has been plagued by technical glitches such as power cuts and poor connections.

“Sometimes the internet connection is weak or it gets disconnected during the testimony,” said Binoy Krishna Mallick head of Rights Jessore, a pioneer in using this technology to encourage trafficking survivors to pursue justice. “But these are just teething troubles.”

The bigger challenge, activists say, is to ensure survivors remain committed to the trial despite delays caused by a backlog of cases and witnesses’ failure to appear to testify.

Swati Chauhan, one of the first judges to experiment with video testimony in 2010, is convinced that technology can eliminate many of these hurdles.

Also read: Imagining Panun Kashmir: Dissent And Detente in South Asia

“Victims go through a lot of trauma, so it is natural that they don’t want to confront their trafficker in a court — but that doesn’t mean they don’t want the trafficker to be punished,” she said. “A videoconference requires meticulous planning and it is not easy coordinating between departments and countries. But it is the future for many seeking justice.” (VOA)