Promising Home Chefs and Cloud Kitchen Options in Hyderabad

2020 may be called the year of food delivery. Due to the pandemic, and restaurants being closed as well as the reluctance of the consumers to visit them even after they have reopened has led to a boom in takeaway and home-delivered food in every Indian city. The home chefs and food entrepreneurs have risen to the challenge by bringing in many differentiators to stand out in this business. Here is a look at some of the promising cloud kitchens as well as food served from home chefs in our city, Hyderabad. I had earlier talked about some options (READ: Home delivered Food Rules the Roost in Hyderabad) and here are some fresh new ideas to order your food from.

Dakhni Dastarkhan: (Hyderabadi)  Call 9989600054

When the Hyderabadi dishes come from a very well-known Hyderabadi family, your expectation is naturally very high. And the food from Home Chef Aqsa, from Dakhni Dastarkhan does complete justice to it.

The Zaffrani Gosht Biryani is served with some exceptional salan with boiled eggs in it. The biryani itself tastes very different from the run-of-the-mill variety we get usually. The Shikampur has the mandatory belly fill of a nice mint-based preparation. The flavours of Dum ka Murgh and Talawa Gosht strike the right note. After all, though these are common dishes, the recipes are heirloom. This place is right on top of my list for future orders of Hyderabadi food. 

 

The Pork Affair: (Pork meat delicacies) Call 8106451341

Hyderabad does not have too many places serving good pork dishes, but there is definitely one home chef I can recommend in this segment. I had tasted the Pork Biryani from them a few months ago and loved the same. This time, after rave reviews from my trusted friend I went for some more dishes from there.

Pork Curry with Paratha, Boneless Pork Fry, and Pork Pulav were the three dishes I feasted on. I commend them first on the quality of pork they procure because in Hyderabad it isn't easy to get good stuff. All three dishes are just very good, especially the pulav with the fat melting into the rice. The curry was cooked with a lot of expertise and with no additional oil. 

Definitely worth it for the pork lovers in the city. 

Rassasie: (Continental) Telephone 9154422459

This is a new setup in Jubilee Hills, which has a refreshingly different menu, stressing on continental food. Their Grilled chicken is a feast to the eye. While I personally loved the Tandoori Grilled Chicken (with abundant veggies like baby potatoes, broccoli, corn cobs, and so on), you also have other choices like barbecue or oregano.

Another highlight is Lamb Stew sent with garlic bread (one toasted more than the other). With abundant veggies and meat, the broth is really a melting pot of flavours.

This is a project of a home chef who had always been passionate about cooking and has taken her first baby steps into the F&B business. 

Stories In A Box: (Indian Regional) Telephone 7995004999

A Cloud kitchen with a difference with a very innovative menu, mostly comfort food from home kitchens, and some interesting preparations. 

Take for example Mutton Soup Annam, flavourful rice cooked in mutton stock with shredded mutton in it. The whole bowl gets over in a jiffy. The Rasam Annam, with a zing of pepper in it, is also for the soul. Carrot & Beans Poriyal Rice can be enjoyed with some tossed Alu Fry.

I am not a big fan of curd rice, but still, the Iyengar Curd Rice impressed. Chicken Fry was spicy and delicious.

They have a great Tiffin Box concept, where you can pick a total of 4 dishes, 1 from each set. And the tiffin box is priced very aggressively at 219.

Shahi Maksoos: (Hyderabadi) Telephone 9908695320

Shahi Makhsoos, the home kitchen of Asma Farooqui, has an economical Hyderabadi food platter which is good enough for two persons. To start with the Chicken 65 is prepared the traditional way and is definitely on par with the best in the city. The Dum ka Murgh is another gem with the big Roomali Rotis delivered alongside. And then, there is the Hyderabadi Biryani with a thick and tasty Mirchi ka Salan. 

Oriental Tales: (Pan-Asian) Telephone 7702989898

A new Cloud Kitchen promoted by the Rayalaseema Ruchulu group has some very interesting combos that can be delivered to your home. The Fried Rice and Chilli Chicken reminded me of the Kolkata joints that I used to frequent during my childhood, while the noodles paired well with Fish in Hot Garlic Sauce.

They also have sumptuous family packs that can be ordered for large families. And of course, a whole range of starters including Hyderabad ka apna Chicken Drumsticks and Pepper Chicken... The promoters being experienced and acclaimed in the F&B business, you are assured of quality and safety procedures.

RR Chinese Corner (Indo Chinese) Telephone 9885264232

This place suggested to me by Chef Pradeep Khosla during our Instagram Live session is a small economical place for Indo-Chinese. The owner cum chef Shankar Pande has more than a decade of experience as a Chef in Taj Krishna, Westin, and Hyatt Gachibowli. 

RR Chinese Corner (named after the initials of his son) has a short menu catering to the busy Banjara Hills customers, but the chef is willing to do additional dishes (out of menu) at prior notice. Thus after a discussion with him, my choice was Golden Fried Prawns (a favourite from Golden Dragon), Chicken with broccoli, bell pepper, bok choy and other veggies, as well as Chicken Dimsums (with a special scallion pepper dip apart from a fiery one). The Kolkata style Chilli Chicken was requisitioned with Burnt Garlic Fried Rice. I had high expectations and the food did exceed the same. 

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Pulasa Pulusu: Monsoon Season’s Favourite Fish Curry from the Godavari

During the monsoon season, the fishermen folk from the basins of Godavari and some of its tributaries expectantly await their prize catch. Pulasa, which is perhaps the costliest fish available in that belt, enters these rivers from the sea to lay their eggs in sweet water. In these areas, the fish sells at a princely price of few thousand rupees per kg during this time, being lapped up by rich and wealthy to enjoy Pulasa Pulusu, a rich gravy dish normally eaten with rice. In fact in the coastal areas, there is a Telugu saying “Pustelu ammi ayina Pulasa tinocchu” which means that it is worth even selling your mangal sutras to have Pulasa fish.

The fish species are not just popular in Andhra Pradesh. In fact, Tenualosa Ilisa or Hilsa is known as Ilish in Bengal and is the national fish of Bangladesh. During the monsoons, the Bengali speaking population in that part of the country literally goes crazy over the dish, preparing umpteen number of variations using different recipes. Festivals of Hilsa preparation is organized in Bengali restaurants all over the world. Also, the entire coastal belt from Burma to Sindh in Pakistan fancy this fish and have their own recipes for the same. However, it is widely acknowledged that the Pulasa caught from specific areas of Godavari during the season is one of the tastiest variants of the fish. 

                                                           Pulasa Pulusu                           Pic Courtesy: Kiran Bonthu

The most popular recipe for Pulasa fish in Andhra Pradesh is Pulasa Pulusu, spicy gravy with okra, tamarind, and green chillies. Proper procurement of the fish is very important, as a good quality fish can hugely enhance the taste. The sautéed masala is prepared from onions, garlic pods, ginger and curry leaves, with ample chilli powder added to spice up the taste, while tamarind paste provides the tanginess. Okra and green chillies are then added to the masala followed by pieces of the fish.  A lot of added water makes it into a gravy, which is slow-cooked over some time. Often, most of the fish literally melts into the gravy. Garnishing is done with coriander leaves, and select masalas. It is said that the pulusu tastes even better if eaten a day later. Jaggery and mango pickle oil are sometimes added as variations to the recipe, and even drumsticks used instead of okra.

In Hyderabad, Pulasa Pulusu is hardly available in restaurants. A popular place for the dish is Sri Balaji Caterers at Madhapur, who are selling the preparation in Hyderabad for the last five years during the season. Ramaraju, who runs this catering service is an expert in the authentic preparation of this dish, which is available on prior orders only. 

Pulasa tastes good even when fried in its own fat

Ulavacharu, the well-known Telugu restaurant sometimes serves it only during the season based on availability. As per Vinay Narahari, the owner of the restaurant, the dish has a lot of demand among their loyal customers. They source the original Pulasa fish directly from West Godavari district. 

Note: This is an updated version of the article originally published in New Indian Express Hyderabad on 11th August 2018. 


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Donne Biryani: The Popular Rice and Meat dish from Bangalore served in Dried Leaf Cups

Usually, the names of biryani varieties are prefixed by the places of their origin, like Hyderabadi, Awadhi, Kolkata, and Ambur. An exception is Donne Biryani the most popular biryani of Bangalore, which gets its name from the dried leaf cup or bowl known locally as Donne in which it is served.

Donne Biryani at Maa Ooru Biryani, Hyderabad

Donne Biryani is in high demand all over Bengaluru and neighbouring districts of Karnataka, and it is the local military hotels that have made it famous. The first few such hotels were essentially small eateries set up for Maratha soldiers in the seventeenth century to enjoy some economical non-vegetarian food. Over time, these places catered to the soldiers of Tipu Sultan as well as the British army. Even now, Shivaji Military Hotel and Ranganna Military Hotel are some of the popular places in Bengaluru where food lovers scamper to for their fill of this biryani.

This biryani is actually more of a pulav where rice and marinated meat are cooked with green masala and basic spices on firewood or coal.  The rice used is short-grained and aromatic jeera samba, which is common in many biryani variants of South India, and known as Chitti Mutyalu in the Telugu states. The dish is available in variants of mutton and chicken, though I have not come across a version with beef so far. 

Shivaji Military Hotel, Bengaluru

Donne biryani is not a complicated dish. The basic spices used are coriander, cumin, whole garam masalas as well as ginger and garlic paste. The green masala has quite a bit of mint leaves, green chillies and sometimes a little coriander leaves too. The flavourful rice adds to the taste of the dish which is often served with a spicy gravy and onions spiked with curd.  Even the aroma from the donne in which it is served has a role in its flavours. The biryani is a simple and economical rice and meat dish for the masses, which is easy on the pocket as well as the tummy. 

In Hyderabad, Maa Ooru Biryani at Kukatpally is perhaps the only place serving Donne Biryani.  Rachin and Priya Katti set up this restaurant in 2015, and this biryani is their fastest moving item on the menu. As per Rachin, who is originally from Bangalore, the meat stock in which the biryani is prepared and the mint tempered masala provide a distinctive taste to the dish.  The restaurant offers the chicken and mutton variants of the biryani and even a vegetarian version with carrots and beans. Their customers range from IT professionals to local traders, and many regulars drop in quite a few times in a week. 

At Rayalaseema Ruchulu, Hyderabad

Rayalaseema Ruchulu, the well-known Telugu restaurant has also added this dish to its menu in the recent times. Chickpet Donne Biryani with branches in Kondapur and Ameerpet is another chain of restaurants where you can enjoy this dish. 

Note: This is an updated version of the article originally published in New Indian Express Hyderabad on 30th December 2018. 


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Qmin Food Delivery Platform Delivers Delicacies from Taj Falaknuma

 COVID is almost at its peak, and not many people are opting to dine out during these times, but still missing the food from their favourite restaurants, such as those from IHCL or the Taj Hotels group. Wasabi, Varq, Karavalli, and Thai Pavilion are some of the names that immediately come to mind. In Hyderabad, Taj Falaknuma Palace is clearly the most coveted hospitality destination in the city. Adaa, the fine dining restaurant here is known for the recipes from Royal kitchens, whereas Celeste celebrates international food including Continental and Oriental. Both restaurants have their staunch loyalists in the city.

To offer the delicacies of their signature restaurants in the comfort of home, Taj Hotels has launched Qmin, an exclusive delivery platform delivering food of their signature restaurants under the [email protected] initiative. After Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata, the platform has been launched in Hyderabad on 7th August Friday. To start with, the platform will deliver food from both Adaa and Celeste, the two restaurants of Taj Falaknuma. At a later stage, this may be expanded to include other Taj properties in Hyderabad also.

Food Delivered by Qmint


So what makes Qmin different? Qmin stands for Qurated dishes made with the highest Quality of ingredients, offering a variety of your favourite Quisines, delivered at your doorstep in the comfort and convenience of your home. As of now, there is a toll-free number 1800 266 7646 which the guests can call to place their order. You have the option of discussing the menu (available through an online link) with the chef so that you can fine-tune your requirement. The protocols of hygiene are all followed such as contactless delivery, biodegradable containers, and sanitized vehicles. Delivery is available all over Hyderabad. Soon, an app will be released to make the ordering process even more seamless.

Biodegradable Packing

I got the opportunity to try out the platform on the day of its launch. A detailed telephonic discussion with the F&B Head helped me in fine-tuning my order. As requested, the food was delivered to my apartment complex right at 1 pm. The delivery executive delivered at the designated location in our building and informed me on the phone regarding the same. The biodegradable boxes had most of the items neatly packed, while the biryani was served in a separate paper bag.

Adaa
Adaa

While ordering the food, I stressed on the dishes I had not tried in these restaurants. From Adaa, I ordered the Amer Khwani Biryani (a special preparation topped with soft lamb and seekh kabab) as well as the well-known Raan-E-Adaa. Both the dishes were absolutely brilliant. The Haleem with shredded lamb and a perfect balance of spices was impressive. The Lamb Shikampuri is a special Hyderabadi dish for me, and I loved it with the mint chutney accompanying it. Even after almost an hour of travelling the food was extremely fresh. 

Amer Khwani Biryani 

Raan-E-Adaa

Among the other items on the delivery menu at Adaa, Dum ki Nalli, Keema Kaleji, and Sofiyani Murgh Pulav are some of my recommendations. The last one is only available in a handful of restaurants in the city, and Adaa serves one of the best versions of the same. Vegetarians can safely order Jimmykand Shikampuri,  Bharwan Paneer, and Subz Gulzar Biryani. A few dishes from the Telugu cuisine such as Nellore Kodi Kura are also available. 

Lamb Shikampuri

Kachhe Gosht Ki Biryani

Choosing continental and Oriental items from Celeste was a tough ask, as there are so many things that you like on the menu. I chose to try out Cajun Crusted Fish with Wilted Greens from the Continental stable and Five Spice Pan Seared Duck from Oriental. I was tempted to order a Pepperoni Pizza, but finally desisted. For my wife, who has a sweet tooth, 

Celeste

Fudge Brownies and Mango Coconut Pudding were the choices made. Reluctantly, we did not order Jauzi Halwa, the Hyderabadi dessert with Turkish influence, as there were too many items already.

Cajun Crusted Fish with Wilted Greens

Five Spice Pan Seared Duck

Seafood Laksa, Whole Wheat Aglio Olio, Garlic & Scallion Chicken, and Butter Chilli Garlic Prawns were among other dishes that looked interesting to me. You also have a choice of pizza, sandwiches, and burgers. 

Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli

The launch of Qmint brings great news for the loyal clientele of Taj Falaknuma as well as food lovers who wish to deliver in food from Adaa and Celeste. Impeccable packing, safe contactless delivery on time are added advantages apart from the food itself, the quality of which has never been in doubt. The food can be ordered between 12 Noon and 10 PM. 

Note: Some pics are courtesy of the hotel.




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COVID Scare: Home Delivered Food Rules the Roost in Hyderabad

The COVID pandemic is now raging on for more than four months in India, and the spike in cases is showing no signs of abetting. A couple of months back, the scenario was not seeming so bad, it did not look that we possibly have to continue living a severely compromised lifestyle till early next year (this seems to be the thought process now, we do not know if this will prove to be an underestimate).

The Home Delivery Range from Once Upon a Time

The food lovers like me who eat out a lot have a huge problem in our hands. It may be prudent not to go out for dining in the restaurants as is being advised by the experts.  Stories about how at a restaurant in China, people sitting more than ten feet apart got infected by COVID due to circulation of air conditioners is making rounds. People sitting at home are receiving a huge dosage of information including misinformation forwarded by all and sundry. The net result has been that most people are not yet ready for dine-ins and some are ordering in food. Some friends have told me that they prefer restaurants with outside seating as chances of infections are less there. There is confusion all around, and people prefer to err on the safer side. Thus, restaurants may have a lot of trouble bringing back their dine-in customers in the coming months.

The Home SOP from Olive Bistro

Almost every other day, the people who see the pics on my feed ask me about the safety of ordering food home. My frank answer is I do not know. And like WHO, I do not want to make a different statement every week. But, whatever little I have read here and there, I believe that the risk of transmission from fomites or contaminated surfaces is significantly lower than direct infection. A contactless delivery further decreases the risk.

The Thali from Mercure KCP Hyderabad
The Delivered Thali from Mercure KCP Hyderabad

From people in the know, and from restaurants that deliver food, I have culled out a SOP (or standard operating procedure) to be followed at home for food which is delivered in. Thus, we transfer the ordered in food into our own containers and discard the containers in which the food has been sent. And we wash our hands twice during the process. Does it work? Again, I do not know. But what I know is that I cannot do without some variety in my food, and thus periodic food from outside of the home is a given for me. It may not be important for you, but it is important for me. If you feel it is not worth the risk, I respect your decision.

Packaging from The Grand Trunk Road with temperature recordings on it

The COVID scenario has brought the F&B business literally to its wit’s end. The established restaurants can hardly be even close to recovering its costs by just doing deliveries. The government also is extremely indifferent to the woes of the sector. Many of the restaurants still think that the brand needs to be kept alive even at a cost, and deliveries contribute to that. So delivery and takeaway seem to be the only significant source of revenue for them, though it is a pittance compared to the revenue earned earlier. However, for the consumer, the only silver lining is that we have quite a few innovative ideas going around, some with regional cuisines, and some which stress on their safety precautions, while some have excelled due to their brilliant packaging.

I have been receiving regular requests to suggest some good and hygienic places where food can be ordered home.  In the next few paragraphs, I am going to talk about some places in my city which show a promise in delivering a variety of different options from their kitchens.

Pork Ribs from Kodagu

A few home chefs and cloud kitchens in Hyderabad has really impressed me during this dark period. The first is a cloud kitchen called Kodagu. Coorgi food was not available in Hyderabad so far. Kodagu plugs this gap with a short menu. Apart from Pandi Curry, the signature dish from there, they also make some mean Pork Ribs and Green Chilli Pork. Thatte Idli, a favourite from Karnataka is available too.

I have already talked about Jashn-E-Dawat from Naaz Anjum’s Kitchen in a different post, which is getting good traction every weekend. You can read all about it here.

Boneless Chicken Biryani from Patiala Caterers

Patiala Caterers is a cloud kitchen brand run by Hemant Bahirwani, one of the acclaimed caterers in town. The Punjabi dishes here such as Kheema Masala are definitely worth a try. They make a good job of preparing Chindian (Indian Chinese) dishes too, such as Sliced Chilli Chicken and Szechuan Prawns.

A cloud kitchen in Kukatpally called Naaz Biryani (this is different from Anjum’s Kitchen) prepares a limited amount of biryani every day. The biryani cooked on firewood is quite different from the usual ones in terms of being quite flavourful.  For Andhra style Fry Piece Biryani, you can try the multiple ordering points of Biryanis & More.

Mango Cheesecake from The Hungry Patissier

For cakes and savouries, you can try the cloud kitchen of The Hungry Patissier. Started by a young alumni from Cordon Bleu Paris, the Quiches here are to die for. I had some great Mango Cheesecakes and artisan bread from here too.

The Waffle Co Special Waffle

From The Waffle Co, you can order their delicious waffles and shakes – The TWC Special or Blueberry Waffle are some which can be recommended.

The Gourmet Couch Package from ITC Kakatiya

Some initiatives in the restaurant space have also grabbed my attention. ITC group has “Gourmet Couch”, a complete dining experience at home where a complete dining experience is designed for your home. ITC Kakatiya has a signature menu with dishes from Kebabs and Kurries packed nicely in a box.  The Taj group is delivering food from a central kitchen including delicacies from their well-known restaurants Golden Dragon, Firdaus, and Thai Pavilion.

Seasonal Tastes at The Westin Hyderabad is known in the city for their themed brunches. Now, they serve a brunch with a different theme every week as a delivery option too. The Punjabi brunch which I had served the signature Dal Kangaan, Rahra Gosht and Murgh Makhanwala. Also thrown in were some delish pizzas from Prego.

The Le Meridian Brunch

Another good option for home-delivered brunch is Le Meridian, they served the famous Bamboo Chicken from Araku Valley. The chicken was delivered stuffed in the bamboo at home, along with other Telugu delicacies such as Golichina Mamsam, and Chapala Pulusu.

Mercure KCP at Banjara Hills has a set of combos for takeaways and home deliveries. The Healthy Combo of Quinoa Khichdi and Multigrain Tikki is one of the popular ones among these. You can also opt for their vegetarian or non-vegetarian thalis delivered at your home.

The Park Hyderabad also has worked out quite a few combo meals. Ghee Rice with Lal Mirch Machhi or Kolkata style Fried Rice with Chilli Chicken are some of the options that you can choose from. They also have an Immunity Pack with Fresh Tulsi Dark Chocolates, Kadha, Fog & Date Loadoo and Broccoli & Almond Cookies which augment your health in these trying times.

Khau Suey From Shanghai Chef

The standalone restaurants are not lagging behind either. Shanghai Chef2 has an interesting oriental menu, including a Khau Suey which has each of the condiments packed separately.  The Grand Trunk Road and Exotica are established restaurants known for the North Indian food and deliver these home. I was especially impressed by the packaging of Grand Trunk, with data such as temperature checks logged in on the delivery box. You can also order the pizza, sandwich, pasta as well as Chef’s Special dishes from Olive Bistro. Their Tenderloin Burger is one of my favourites.

Punjabi Curries from Exotica

Once Upon a Time, one of my favourite restaurants at Green Park Hotel has started a delivery only setup at Madhapur. The menu here has many items that are offbeat, contemporary, or with a twist. Tingmo with Changezi Chicken, Chettinad Fish Mousse with round Garlic Toasts, and Ghee Roast Mutton Samosa are some dishes that come to mind.  Farzi Café is another restaurant in a similar space, and they also a special menu for delivery. Farzi Vada Pav (where the pav is stuffed inside the vada) and Butter Chicken Biryani are some of the star dishes here.

Farzi Vada Pav from Farzi Cafe

The original kitchen of Green Park Hotel at Begumpet is dishing out some good combos. After a successful Haleem campaign during Ramzan, they are offering an Awadhi combo for the weekends. Galoti Kabab, Awadhi Biryani, Gosht Taar Korma, and Phirni are some of the items which are part of the economically priced platter.

Rampuri Taar Qorma from Green Park Hotel

There are some more good places on my radar. Over the next couple of months, I hope to have some diverse places on my list that I can recommend.

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