A Newbie's Guide To Eating Hyderabad's Iconic Dishes

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The first thought which pops in your head when anyone mentions Hyderabad is biryani of course. Hyderbadis take their biryani seriously and can judge places just by this one dish alone. I moved to Hyderabad a little over six years ago and it was then that I realised that there is so much more to this city than just the biryani. There were so many exquisite dishes to discover and indulge in this city that I was spoilt for choice. here’s a comprehensive list of must-eats you must absolutely have while in Hyderabad.

Dosas at Govind's Bandi

Almost every nook and corner of Hyderabad has one dosa and idli bandi. They make for great snacks and a healthy breakfast too. But let’s do away with the healthy bit when visiting Govind’s Dosa. This place is what defines sinful extravagance. The dosas are made in dollops of butter, the filling is ghee-soaked upma and the magic all lies in the magical ‘podi’ that he sprinkles generously. While you’re there at Govind’s, do not forget to try the tawa Idli too.

Irani Chai At Nimrah Cafe

A visit to Old City is incomplete without having a Irani chai at Nimrah Café. The Café over the years has seen the quintessential shots of people posing with their cup with the towering Charminar in the background. So actually this is a very iconic thing to do.A favourite pastime of the city is sipping on cups of Irani chai and also dunking an Osmania biscuit in them. Nimrah Café also makes a brilliant khara tea biscuit.

Osmania Biscuits From Subhan Bakery

With the discussion on the Irani chai, how can we miss out on it’s worthy companion, the Osmania Biscuit. Hyderabad has a rich history of baked good. There are nearly more than 13+ varieties of biscuits available in the city with the Osmania being the most famous of the lot. I personally love and highly recommend the Osmania Biscuits from Subhan Bakery and Café Nilofer. The Osmani biscuits are soft, buttery and melt in the mouth when had alongside the Irani chai.

Mutton Biryani at Hotel Shadab

Another Old City favourite is the biryani at Hotel Shadab. The biryani has remained consistent over the years and their mutton one is the best to sit down with friends and pig out on. They also have a vast spread of Hyderabadi dishes during their breakfast consisting of paya, nihari, bheja fry, palak gurdha and Munshi Naan.

Biryani at Bawarchi, RTC X Roads

The name Bawarchi is ubiquitous in the city. Multiple restaurants have mushroomed all over the city using this name with either a prefix or postfix but the taste can’t match up to the original restaurant. The original Bawarchi proudly displays ‘We have no branches.’ The biryani here is outstanding and the waft of the fragrance of this heavenly dish will sweep past your nostrils before a bowl of it arrives — really builds up the appetite.

Malai Paya at Hotel Nayaab

Nayaab in Ghansi Bazaar is one of the oldest and consistent Irani cafes when it comes to food. They were the first ones to serve Haleem commercially in the city eons ago. However it’s their Malai Paya for which I re-visit them multiple times. Thy start serving breakfast as early as 4am, bustling with people bundled with their bowl of nihari and naan. While at Hotel Nayaab do order a cup of their unique Kesar Ka Chai which incorporates saffron in the classic Irani chai.

Mandi at Mandi @36

What started out as an influence of Arabic cuisine in Hyderabad has now populated all across the city. Once upon a time, Mandi was confined to the area of Barkas where the barracks (Geddit?) consisting of the Iranian and Yemeni soldiers of the Nizam’s army were stationed. But the popularity of the khabsa and mandi has soared in recent times. What I like about Mandi the most is that it promotes community eating with friends and family sharing food from a huge thali. Mataam al Arabi and Mandi@36 are some of the best places in town to tuck into Mandi. 

Marag At Hotel Sohail

Most Hyderabadi food except for the biryani and haleem has yet to achieve commercial status. The dishes are still restricted to the homes or marriages. But Hotel Sohail has a cult status when it comes to their marag. The marag is a mutton stew where the morsels of tender mutton are cooked to perfection so that it nearly fall off the bone. It’s packed with flavour and is served as starter in most Hyderabadi weddings.

Andhra Meals At Kakatiya Mess

Hyderabad as a city has had an amalgamation of cuisines while also maintaining it’s own distinct culture. One of the must dos in the city is to dine in the many Andhra messes dotting the city. Messes are where you can get delectable food at a nominal price. Ameerpet and Punjagutta are lined with innumerable messes catering to the student crowd. The most famous among these Harsha Mess, Kakatiya Mess and Sri Kanya.

Jauzi Halwa At Hameedi Confectioners

Labelled the Nizam’s favourite sweet, the Jauzi Halwa at Hameedi Confectionery is the stuff of legends with the shop dating back more than 100 years. The roots of the sweet lies in Turkey from whence the owners had migrated. Their hand churned ice creams are exquisite with flavours such as Saffron, Dry Fruits, Kesar Honey being some of the favourites.

These are just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to eating in Hyderabad. The city has been synonymous with food and it reverberates with that thought. So get exploring folks!

Didn’t include your favourite eatery or dish? Tell us in comments!


Ashis documents his local food explorations and travel on Food Drifter, a blog he co-founded. For the last four years, he’s been conducting local food tours to help people explore Hyderabad’s culture and cuisine beyond biryani. He also contributes to a number of magazines and has featured in various shows on historical and local food. You can find him on Twitter @fooddrifter and on Instagram @fooddrifter.