Royal taste of Hyderabadi cuisine comes to life after 100 years
HYDERABAD: Hyderabad’s dum biryani has always been the first thing to come to our mind when we think of the city. But biryani is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Hyderabadi food. Exploring the lengths and breadths of Hyderabadi cuisine, Shahnoor Jehan brings back recipes that date back to over 100 years, with signature gourmet compositions, through her restaurant Khassa, which mean cooked food in old Hyderabadi.
While Shahnoor’s passion for gourmet cooking is quite evident from Khassa’s menu, she also proudly owns the key to her grandmother late Muzaffar Unissa Begum’s secret recipes. A true-blue Hyderabadi, Shahnoor is the daughter of IAS officer late Shaukat Ali Khan, while her mother, late Faiq Jehan, was of royal descent. She has successfully kept alive a number of the aristocratic recipes that have travelled through time all the way from her grandmother’s old home to Hyderabad.
Khassa began as a small venture in 2015 but was officially christened in 2019. Since then, the brand has managed to carve a unique niche for itself as one that creates actual ancestral recipes from across Hyderabad. Through Khassa, Shahnoor wants to uphold traditional Hyderabadi cuisine, much of which has been lost over the years.
Shahnoor Jehan, who aims to carry forward the age-old traditional preparations and style of cooking that are fundamental to an authentic Hyderabadi kitchen, shares that the authenticity of the Hyderabadi kitchen is often forgotten or misrepresented in most commercial kitchens. “We mostly serve non-vegetarian dishes and try to highlight the difference between home-cooked and commercial food. I started Khassa after people praised my food and encouraged me to open the restaurant. I never took up biryani as it’s available everywhere. I wanted to bring forth something different,” she says.
Khassa’s menu is by no means ordinary. With exclusive dishes such as Kuzi, Shikampur and Rann Gosht, it also includes Haleem that is made with her mother-in-law’s secret recipe. “People who love my food describe it as a hidden treasure of authentic Hyderabadi cuisine. Recipes like dum ki ran and chicken warmi are not much discussed. Hyderabadi cuisine has become synonymous with dum ki biryani,” shares Shahnoor.
The chef’s penchant for quality and unfailing attention to details such as accurate measurements, time of preparation and the procedure and vessels used, bring out the perfect aroma and taste. The dishes that she makes are all in demand, however it also depends on the season, For example, Kairi do Pyaza is especially made in summer and haleem in ramadan. Her specialties are the Khuzi, which is slow-cooked lamb meat, and the Badam ka kund, an entirely almond-based dessert. They have recently added Gosht ka achchar (uutton pickle) in their menu.
“It is not difficult to maintain the authenticity of these Deccani foods. Every food has a unique process to follow and we make sure it is done in the right way. I have seen my ancestors doing the process and maintaining the authenticity for several decades now. We do not use any substitute of any ingredient and that’s how the authenticity is maintained,” adds Shahnoor.