It’s 12.00 am, Anshoor and friends were waiting after ordering their favorite ‘Mandi’ at a local restaurant in the Tolichowki area of Hyderabad.
He is a central university student from Kerala studying in the city of biryani. Anshoor, along with his friends often gather to enjoy local cuisine.
When asked about his hangout and cuisine, he said: “We gather almost every week to enjoy Mandi, a favorite of all of us.”
Mandi: The Arabian dish popular in Hyderabad
Though a foreigner, the Arabian Mandi vanquishes its rivals from the royal banquets in Hyderabad. It has become a routine dish in marriages to get-togethers of youngsters in the city.
The culinary techniques make Mandi unique and special. It is made inside a specially designed ditch. The Yemeni cuisine consummated with the deliverance of its desi soul is really a transcultural endeavor to the foodie buddies, craving for an international fusion in the city.
For, once in Barkas and Yerrakunta suburbs, one is greeted by exotic signage in Arabic on restaurants like Mataam Al Arabi, Al Saud Bait Al Mandi and Al Khaleej serving the Arabian delicacy.
And in last few years, the business has flourished.
Mandi is not Biryani and vis-à-vis although their origins are very nearly the same. Speculating on the way it is served in most of the restaurants, there is a distinct feature in Mandi served mostly in Hyderabad.
It is about the meat being steamed or fried. Typically you get the fried meat Mandi in Hyderabad especially with chicken Mandi.
However, this has nothing to do with the Yemeni style Mandi. We tend to beautify our dish and so is this story of fried meat in the Yemeni Mandi in Hyderabadi restaurants.
Making Mandi: A difficult task
Making Mandi innately is a labor of hours while eating is not. It consists of adding spices and meat on a level of water gets cooked and this half cooked meat is taken apart and the rice is allowed to be cooked in the stew that has the essence of the meat and spices.
Afterwards, the pot is kept inside the ditch, specially made for Mandi and the meat is kept above the closed lid of the pot covered with foil. The whole dish is covered under the earth surface using wet mud and allowed to steam and get cooked.
The smoky meat becomes tender as a result and rice with it gives a pleasing to the eye.
The Hyderabadized Mandi, however, plays a vital role in gratifying the demands of the Indian Mandi lovers.
Abdul Raheem Yamani, the proprietor of Real Arabian Dhaba, pegs the number of Mandi restaurants along the six-km stretch that connects Barkas to Shaheen Nagar along the Srisailam highway at approximately 35.
“This is the reason why the highway has a new moniker – Mandi Road,” he says.
You have to sit on the floor and Mandi will be served, retaining the heritage of the Arab way of dining. Almost all the Mandi restaurants serve the same way for its customers.
This makes a difference to people and delicacy of the cooked soup and the smoking tone of smell that smashes your nose will defeat you however powerful you are.
While diners converge at the Old City from all across Hyderabad, the dish is a hit with the IT crowd of Hi-Tech City. The uptown area of Jubilee Hills has one.
“There was a great demand for the dish in this part of the city which is why we started the restaurant around nine months ago. A majority of our customers are those working in Hitec City,” says Syed Waris Ali, proprietor of Mandi @ 36.
Making its conquest in Hyderabad might have been an easy task for Mandi as it accustoms the style of sitting together and eating from the same plate, which brings the blissful experience of sharing one another.
However we cannot say whether it is actually made in the way the Arabians made in the restaurants but in reality, we have fallen in love with it.