Osmania Biscuit: The Nizam’s Favourite cookie

Apart from the signature dishes like biryani and haleem, Hyderabadi cuisine is also famous for its bakery items. These include the various types of cookies that are made in the innumerable bakeries the city is dotted with. While varieties like fruit biscuit, Chand biscuit, and Dum ka Roat are popular, the most well-known of these is Osmania biscuit. The biscuit gets its name from the seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, who had been one of the biggest patrons of this round-shaped cookie.

What is special in this biscuit is the symphony of different tastes it has. As you bite into the crunchy top, the sweet taste is predominant, but the underlying saltiness slowly balances it. The inherent buttery notes add to the overall flavours. The Osmania “biskoot” is a perfect accompaniment for the Hyderabadi Irani Chai.

Nearly a century ago, this biscuit, which was available at a Parsi outlet named Vicaji Hotel in Abids, became a favourite of the Seventh Nizam, who loved this sweet-cum-salty cookie with his tea. Soon, this became his standard offerings during casual chats with his guests. It is said that he used to send his car to Abids in the evening to pick up a load of these biscuits. Consequently, the hotel named this biscuit variety as Osmania after the Nizam’s name.

Another story goes that this biscuit developed based on a dietician’s recipe was popular for its nutritional value among the patients of Osmania Hospital in Hyderabad, and the cafes around the place started thriving on the business they got from selling these. We do not know what exactly the truth is, but surely the biscuits have caught the fancy of Hyderabad food lovers for over many decades now.

There is no fixed recipe for these biscuits as every bakery has its variations. Butter, milk powder, sugar, salt, and flour are the main ingredients used. The dough is rolled into a huge and thick roti, and then moulds are used to cut the biscuits to shape. Finally, the round biscuits are baked in the oven.

Ask any Hyderabadi, and he may name a different place as his favourite to enjoy these biscuits in the city. Cafes in every nook and corner have this as the fastest moving dish after chai. Karachi Bakery, with its branches and distribution channels as well as an online presence, has taken this biscuit national as well as international too. In recent times, Osmania biscuits at Subhan Bakery Nampally seem to be a huge local favourite. However, one place which is a must-visit for the experience is Nimrah Café and Bakery overlooking the iconic Charminar. Tourists and locals alike enjoy biscuits hot from their oven with Irani chai, while often taking photographs of the chai-biscuit combination with Charminar in the background.

Note: This is an updated version of the article originally published in New Indian Express Hyderabad on 6th January 2018.

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