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Hyderabadi biryani for national netas

Hyderabadi biryani for national netas
Highlights

Parliamentary delegations usually attract more attention for splashing out on pleasure trips than for making any tangible contribution. However, a delegation of Bhuvan Chand, Prem, Naseem and Mahesh Kumar can rightly claim that the proof of their tour lies in the biryani they dish out to parliamentarians.

Parliamentary delegations usually attract more attention for splashing out on pleasure trips than for making any tangible contribution. However, a delegation of Bhuvan Chand, Prem, Naseem and Mahesh Kumar can rightly claim that the proof of their tour lies in the biryani they dish out to parliamentarians.

The four are not lawmakers but cooks who were sent from the Parliament Canteen to Hyderabad to bone up on the art of biryani-making. After a two-week course at Hyderabad’s famed Nizam Club, the four have returned to the august canteen and since November 24, are giving law-makers from across the country a taste of Telangana cuisine. The choice of Nizam Club was appropriate, considering that it was set up in 1884 as an answer to the mostly British-only Secunderabad Club.

IRCTC cooks with AP Jithender Reddy (right), the MP who took the biryani initiative, at the Nizam Club canteen, Hyderabad

But the biryani — a dish that carries enormous occupational hazards for cooks as it means different things to people from different parts of the country — in Parliament cannot be certified 100 per cent Hyderabadi for two reasons. One, the House biryani has so far confined itself to the chicken category.

It is somewhat akin to taking the highland water out of Scotch whisky — Hyderabadi biryani usually means mutton biryani. Apparently, plans are afoot to table the mutton version soon. Two, the Hyderabadi biryani has to be cooked on firewood. But the Parliament biryani is cooked on the very pedestrian liquefied petroleum gas. An amendment is unlikely as fire-hazard concerns have already forced the closure of the kitchen in the main Parliament building.

Before the biryani delegation returned from down south, the north Indian version was available in the Parliament Canteen.

No prizes for guessing, the man who took the initiative to bring Hyderabadi biryani to the Delhi Durbar is from Telangana, though his initials do more justice to the sibling state. More spice was added to the canteen after AP Jithender Reddy took over as the chairman of the food management committee two months ago.

The TRS MP is no pushover. Jithender reached the house after defeating Jaipal Reddy, the former Union minister, in Mahabubnagar in Telangana. Again, no prizes for guessing Jithender’s popular name now: Biryani Reddy. “When I took over as chairman of the committee on food management in Parliament House complex two months back, there were several requests to change the menu. So we decided to give them a taste of Telangana,” Jithender told.

Jithender had sent four cooks of the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation), which manages the Parliament Canteen, to Nizam Club in Hyderabad. To accompany the biryani, Jithender recommends mirch ka salan (green chillies stewed in coconut and peanut sauce).

For dessert, two Hyderabadi dishes, shahi tukda (made of condensed milk and bread) and khubani ka meetha, made of sweetened apricots, have been introduced. Now a delicate subject. Will Parliament convert itself into vegetarian, especially because of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s preference for such food?

Again, the proof of the biryani is in the eating. “You can see for yourself it is the chicken biryani that sells more,” Jithender said. Nearly 200 plates of chicken biryani — Rs 50 a piece — are polished off each day in Parliament, according to a source. Jithender has decided to serve something for the health conscious members too. “I am sending the IRCTC cooks to Andhra Bhavan to learn pesarattu, a kind of pancake made of moong dal. It is good for diabetics,” Jithender said.

That raises the question whether the popular Andhra Bhavan is going to face competition from dishes from the breakaway State. Jithender’s next mission is to get the kitchen inside fully reopened. The kitchen was shut in 2012 by then Speaker Meira Kumar after the fire department refused to give a no-objection certificate because 40 to 50 gas cylinders used to be stored there at any given time.

The kitchen was shifted out of the main Parliament House to a building in the library 200 metres away. Now cooked food is transported to the main building. There are six canteens on the Parliament premises — two of them exclusively for the MPs. After Jithender took over, the kitchen has partly started operating out of the main building. “Each day the staff bring six gas cylinders to the building to make fresh tandoori rotis.

We are seeking permission of a high-level heritage committee to install a PNG (piped natural gas) pipeline so that the kitchen can once again function from within Parliament,” he said. Before the biryani delegation returned from down south, the north Indian version was available in the Parliament Canteen.

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