HYDERABAD: A couple of decades ago, before the multinational brands like McDonald's, Burger King and Subway had set foot in this city, Hyderabad had its own version of burgers which were very popular among its citizens. And most of the credit for popularizing the dish here goes to Universal Bakery, a 50-year-old outlet in the busy Mahatma Gandhi Road area of Secunderabad.
As per Sohrab Jamshed Mojgani, who converted the place from a typical Irani café to a bakery in the late seventies, the idea of introducing the product came to him during a visit to Iran in the eighties. There he came across simple buns stuffed with shredded chicken which were in demand especially in the poorer sections of the society. Universal Bakery at that time had their clientele mainly among the airline personnel from the Begumpet airport and the army families from Secunderabad who used to visit this area for shopping. To cater to their requirements for a quick snack, Sohrab decided to start selling indigenous chicken burgers at his bakery, with shredded chicken and malai filling. In the initial years, he used to sell only about five burgers a day, but soon sale picked up as word-of-mouth fame resulted in more and more customers asking specifically for the item. Over a period of time, these burgers became a rage even among the college students who used to throng this bakery.
The finger-licking chicken burgers at Universal did not have a patty. Instead, it had shredded meat along with onions, and tomatoes and lots of mayo, inside a very soft bun. Looking at the popularity, many other bakeries like King & Cardinal and Pick N Move also started their own versions of this dish. Universal expanded by opening a branch first at Himayatnagar in mid-nineties and then at Masab Tank. The burgers became a must for many birthday parties and other celebrations especially involving children.
The multinational burger chains coming to India, as well as their variety of products and marketing muscle, has taken a little sheen out of the burgers at Universal. Still, they have a steady set of loyal customers who feast on their Hyderabadi burgers. The bakery at Secunderabad has been rechristened Universal Restaurant and Confectioners and can now accommodate 70. However, their outlet at Himayatnagar has been closed down a couple of years back, while the one at Masab Tank is being relaunched in December. So, if you want to taste the original Hyderabadi burger at this point you need to go to this bakery like old-timers.
Sabyasachi is a food enthusiast and blogs at www.foodaholix.in