Anokhi Kheer, The Unique Hyderabadi Dessert

The cuisine of the Nizami Sultanate had many variations with curious ingredients as well as culinary techniques.  In some dishes, it was extremely difficult to guess the ingredients even after tasting it. Anokhi Kheer, an old Hyderabadi dessert is one such recipe.

Traditionally kheer has rice or some other carbohydrate in it. The word “anokhi” means unique, and the uniqueness of this particular kheer lies in the fact that it uses onions instead of the usual rice as the main ingredient with milk. However, the dessert does not even have even a little bit of sharpness of taste which we normally associate with onions.

The story of Anokhi Kheer dates back a few centuries. Unlike some other Nizami dishes, this used to be a dessert of the masses. Onion was an economical ingredient, and it is said that middle class and poor citizens who could not afford good quality rice substituted it with onions in their dessert. Anokhi Kheer was a typical summer food, it was served chilled to keep the body cool.

Anokhi Kheer is prepared the same way as you prepare any other kheer, but the main trick is to prevent the pungency of onion from overwhelming the taste. Large white onions are used here, and sliced onion is boiled in water multiple times till it gets blanched, bringing out the sweetness in it. Like other kheer recipes, it is then added to reduced milk, sugar and khoya. Powdered cardamom seeds almonds, cashews, and pista are used to add further taste to the dish.

Unfortunately, this unique dish is not commonly available now. Jewel of Nizam is perhaps the only restaurant which serves Anokhi Kheer as one of their signature dishes. However, a few wedding caterers and home chefs like home chef Ahaana Khan have kept this dish alive. According to Ahaana, the choice of the right quality onions and patience in removing the pungency are key to the taste of this delicate dish. She laments that now very few people know about this dish, and one of the reasons of this dish going off popularity charts might be that the prices of onions have gone up many times compared to rice in the last few decades.  She also mentions another similar dish in Hyderabadi cuisine known as Lehsooni Kheer, where large garlic pods replace onions in the preparation. She fervently hopes that these delectable dishes regain their popularity in the times to come.

Note: This is an updated version of the article by me originally published in New Indian Express Hyderabad on 12th August 2017 

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