HYDERABAD: The Arabic rice and meat dish which has become a rage all over Hyderabad during the last few years is Mandi. The dish was brought to Hyderabad by the Yemeni soldiers working in Nizam’s army and was initially available only in Barkas area of the Old City where they originally settled. With the success of few restaurants serving this dish here, Mandi outlets have proliferated to other areas.
Apart from Arabs serving in the local military here, intermarriages among noble families of Hyderabad and the Arab world had resulted in a strong influence of Arab culture and food on the Deccan plateau. While the Arab traders coming to India also had a role in this, many Hyderabadis going for work to the Gulf countries in the post-independence era has strengthened this influence.
The Arabic rice dishes are not limited to Mandi alone. Another rice and meat dish Kabsa is the national dish of Saudi Arabia. The preparation, where rice is cooked in meat stock, often has a reddish tinge due to use of saffron and tomato and is slightly sweeter in taste. Haneeth, a Yemeni dish, is made from a small lamb.
The meat is predominantly slow-roasted sealed in an airtight vessel powered by firewood. The cooking method ensures that the meat retains all its flavours and juiciness while becoming tender over time. It is then served on a bed of rice along with raisins and nuts. Then there is zarb, a dish of the nomads of Jordan where the lamb is barbecued in a makeshift underground pit along with vegetables.
A few restaurants in Hyderabad are offering these other rice dishes. Spice 6 at Banjara Hills has introduced
Kabsa and Haneeth in their menu. Levant, a Turkish and Arabic restaurant, offers Zarb covered by a purdah or dough layer, resulting in the rice inside turning greasy from lamb fat.
Taher Syed, a food consultant from Hyderabad with expertise in Arabic cuisine, feels that the many inquisitive Hyderabadi food lovers are taking to the small Arabic food outlets that have come up all over the city. Some of these niche places serve some more types of Arabic rice dishes such as Madbi, Madfoon and Bukhari.Sabyasachi is a food enthusiast and blogs at www.foodaholix.in