HYDERABAD : Many Mediterranean and Arabic dishes are quite popular in our city, and it is not just due to the fact that the Nizams had close connections to these regions. One of the sweets which the Hyderabadis love is a fluffy phyllo pastry called Baklava, a legacy of the Ottoman Empire. While conflicting stories talk about the origin of the sweet in Greece or Turkey, some even trace it to the Roman Empire from as early as the thirteenth century. However, there is no debate on the fact that it is the most popular dessert in more than a dozen countries in that region. In parts of Eastern Europe, the sweet is known as Paklava.
Baklava is actually more of a family of sweets, there are many variations in its ingredients and preparation. The pastry has layers of phyllo sheets laced with melted butter and stuffed with chopped nuts. The shape also varies from predominantly rectangular to triangular, diamond-shaped and rolls. Pistachios and walnuts are the preferred nuts which are used in the filling, and the flavours added to the sweet can be due to cardamom, cinnamon, rose water and cloves. After stuffing and layering, the pastry is cut into desired shapes and baked. Sugar syrup or honey is poured over the dessert to add sweetness, and a garnish of chopped nuts, cinnamon and clove powder complete the process. Usually, the dessert is allowed to settle for a few hours before serving.
In Hyderabad, quite a few places recently have started making and selling baklava. A small delivery setup called Baklava Factory in Banjara Hills prepares and supplies the sweet for parties and functions, as well as to restaurants. The business was started about six months ago by Osman, a person originally from Turkey, who has a Turkish chef to prepare the baklavas. Apart from the usual baklavas, they also have varieties such as carrot-shaped, pure pista green as well as a version which uses tahini. Economically priced at Rs 25 a piece (around Rs 1000 a kg), they supply orders even for small home gatherings. No eggs are used in the preparation of these desserts.
In a restaurant setup, there are couple of good options. Spice 6, the Arabic restaurant with two branches sells two varieties finger-shaped and the usual rectangular ones. Gourmet Baklava, another place in Banjara Hills makes more than a dozen versions of the sweet. Pistachio baklava, chocolate baklava, lady finger baklava, star-shaped baklava and nest baklavas are some of their popular offerings. For their products, they import certain dry fruits from Afghanistan. Both these places sell the sweet at a price upwards of Rs 2000 per kg.Sabyasachi is a food enthusiast and blogs at www.foodaholix.in