The Hyderabadi Naan from Purani Haveli

Hyderabadi cuisine boasts of some exciting broths and gravies like Marag, Paya Shorba and Nihari. What goes well with all these dishes is the “Char Koni Naan” or the square-shaped bread the city is known for.

Whenever naans are mentioned in Hyderabad, the place which comes to our mind is Purani Haveli in the old city.  The area is dotted with more than half a dozen shops that exclusively make this Hyderabadi bread. The naans come in different shapes like square, oval, star and even heart-shaped.

Whereas the Char Koni or square naan is preferred for general use, as it can be easily broken into four parts and dunked in gravy, the heart-shaped ones are mainly used for wedding functions for obvious reasons. The star-shaped are chosen usually for special functions of children. Also known as naan ki roti, the bread is smooth and firm on the outside, but very soft inside.

It is interesting to see how these naans are prepared in a tandoor. The dough, prepared from flour, with oil, curd, and salt as well as khameer or homemade yeast, is kept for some time for it to settle. Spices like nutmeg powder are then added before the dough is rolled into a huge, thick roti. The workers then use molds to carve out specific shapes. Marks are made on the square-shaped naans using attachments that resemble a nail and a comb, mainly to facilitate dividing it into four parts.  The naans are stuck on to the inner surface of a tandoor for the baking process which hardly takes a few minutes.  After taking out of the tandoor, a little bit of water is applied on top to get the smooth texture, and then naan is ready for consumption.

The most popular of the naan shops in the locality is a place called Khadeem Munshi Naan, which has a history going beyond 150 years. Mohammed Hussain was working as a clerk or munshi in the office of Asaf Jah IV. He had learnt the art of making naans and started supplying to functions and even for the Nizam. Soon, he had so many orders that he left his job in 1851 and started this bakery making naans exclusively. Aptly he named the place Munshi Naan.

Today the shop at Purani Haveli rolls out few thousand naans a day. Mohammed Fazaluddin, a relative of the current owner, is working here for the last ten years. As per him, the popularity of the naan lies in their home recipe of khameer, which keeps the bread soft for a long time. The standard-sized square naan sells the most here and it is prepared in batches three times a day, to provide it absolutely fresh to the customers. Another place whose naan has its own set of followers is Abbasi Naan not too far from here.

Note: This is an updated version of the article originally published in New Indian Express Hyderabad on 16th December 2017.

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