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Over and over again as I traveled in India I felt the shortness of my visits. There were *always* uneaten meals, markets unvisited, foods untried. So similarly went Hyderabad, where I only got to eat haleem once. And if you’ll allow me to complain a little, not even a very good example. This

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was from here

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Rainbow Restaurant. Rainbow is one of a couple of places that serves haleem year round. (It’s normally a specialty of Ramazan.) While better versions must be a great delicacy, of slow-cooked mutton and wheat, this was mostly gluey and bland. I could have eaten it like porridge with a spoon, but I ordered a fresh baked bread to scoop it up instead.

I actually tried very hard to get the well-regarded version of haleem at Pista House. But while Pista House is a multi-national chain, on the day I visited to taste theirs, they were closed. Dubai, yes; Hyderabad, no. Hum. I settled for a box of sweets.

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I had hired a private car (to circumvent the rickshaw strike) and driven across town at great expense for nothing!

Or at least, almost nothing. Or…..rather…..a great and wonderful pleasure.

My driver made an unexpected stop at the incomparable Chowmahalla Palace. If you’re visiting Hyderabad, go there. It’s really fantastic. And I’m not into this sort of thing.

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Descriptions of the lives of the Nizams pale when you marvel before the extravagant dioramas in this museum. The fantastic details, the jeweled embroidering, riches, governance, more riches. Have you been in a room with a hundred chandeliers before? Like here? A hundred chandeliers made of a thousand facets each?

Perhaps that’s an apt comparison for one of the pinnacles of India’s cuisines, biriyani. I hope my euro-american friends who are reading this will take a leap beyond the greasy and gross versions availiable in restaurants here (I mean Portland) and imagine the sophistication and elegance you can taste in India. Especially in Hyderabad. Biriyani is a dish like a roomful of chandeliers. I tried two versions in Hyderabad.

Paradise Restuarant in Secunderabad (up north) is well known. It’s a sprawling restaurant with many sub-venues. I especially enjoyed sitting on the terrace and watching the street below buzz with activity as I ate.

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Hyderabadi biriyani is served with two side dishes, normally. Mirchi ka salan (a sauce of green chillis and nuts) and raita. You can see those behind the rice. And notice the chicken format: a whole leg.

Paradise’s biriyani is excellent, but even excellent-er is the biriyani at Shadab. I mean, IMHO! I’m a biriyani neophyte! I thought the rice was subtly spiced, but rich in flavor, and not too ghee-laden.

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Shadab is just north of the Charminar in the old city. I like the nifty interior, too.

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Perhaps in anticipation of the sweets I would soon be enjoying in Kolkata, I had my share of sugary things in Hyderabad.

Thrice I ate khubani ka meetha, Hyderabad’s famous apricot compote. As I already noted, I’m afraid my favorite version was eaten at Legend of Sikandar in Bangalore, courtesy a Hyderabadi ‘expat.’ At Southern Spice I ate this deep, sweet monotonous bowl:

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Shadab’s version was good:

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Our Place offered the most nuanced flavors, a hint of spice and a drizzle of cream.

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I really considered trying the khubani ka meetha at Paradise, just for comparison, but how much could I really eat? That’s a lot of apricots. Instead, I had their kulfi, and I’m glad I did. It was delicious.

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The magic of dairy in a clay pot is wonderful. I don’t know why it’s so aesthetically pleasing, but the texture of kulfi in a rough, cold terracotta bowl is something every food lover should enjoy at least once.

Osmania biscuits are a specialty of Hyderabad. The older Irani chai shops, whose popularity is waning, each offer a version of the light, not-quite-sweet and flaky cookie.

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These were from the Banjara Darbar. I hope there’s a future for this little pastry in the face of the new coffee gigachains.

The last sweet thing I enjoyed in Hyderabad was my friend Falooda at Shadab:

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Scented syrup, rich milk, pistachio ice cream and crunchy-jelly takmaria (soaked basil seeds). Nummy. I totally ate this whole glass with a huge plate of biriyani!

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