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Hyderabadi Kichdi, Khatta and Keema in Hor Al Anz.

We were sure this was not a place for a date, not first, not second, not two hundred and thirtieth, I’m about to pop the question honey. We think that few have ever ask for a menu. Either they know what they wanted, or they're comfortable peering into the menus pinned under the glass on each table, reading the specials of the day…upside down. We reckon that no one had scrutinized the interiors earlier, the strange placement of a garbage can in front of a hand wash sink, or the bright grassy green of the synthetic tablecloth and the ceiling panels. We’d even go so far as to say that the interiors of Deccan Darbar had never really witnessed a female face before.

These are exactly the times when the frying pan in me is on…FIRE. [pronounced emphatically as FA-YAAR, if for some unfathomable reason, you’re reading my posts aloud.] I live for such places. They don’t try to be anything but what they are, and I always feel like I’m on the brink of a juicy discovery. It can sometimes work against me. I have walked out with very mediocre or even downright disastrous experiences, but it’s like going to the gym, I’ll emerge tired, scarred, broken to the bone. And then forget all about it and want to do it all over again. Except that unlike the gym, the only packs I’ll be taking home are leftover tubs of food.


Deccan Darbar (aka Saif Restaurant) in Hor Al Anz, Deira

Deccan Darbar is a restaurant in Hor Al Anz that serves my native cuisine—Indian Hyderabadi food. This is a man’s lair: you go out into the Dubai jungle to earn your meat, and then come home for dinner at Deccan. I caught a glimpse of the restaurant during my visit to the Big Turkish Burger, and left with a burger-bored tummy, a menu from Deccan Darbar, and a desire to run back to the area so I could try Deccan's kichdi, khatta, keema.

Kichdi, khatta, keema is a trio of Hyderabadi dishes typically served for breakfast or even lunch: rice cooked in turmeric and yellow lentils [kichdi], a clear sour [khatta] soupy dish with onions, tamarind, and the unmistakable nuttiness of sesame, and minced meat [keema]. The three are inseparable, you could never say kichdi keema, or khatta keema without being considered a KKK noob. You have to say the entire triple deal, kichdi, khatta, keema, and then proceed to mix the rice, the soup and the meat with your fingers, and slurp up the sour, salty, meaty flavours that Hyderabad is known for. Two of the three of us sitting on the table that day were children mollycoddled by Hyderabadi mothers, so it’s safe to say that our standards for the meal were…snobbishly high.


Kichdi

Had it not been for those lofty standards, we might have lowered our sceptical eyebrows back down and silently enjoyed a decently tasty meal that was only 60% authentic. The kichdi was not the best I’ve had, somewhat drier than the rice concoction we make at the home. The keema was pronounced to be a tad bit too wet by Hyderabadi standards. And the khatta – the khatta was not really khatta at all, they had basically served a sesame chutney that was more whitish pulpy than the orangish watery soup we were expecting.


The unKhatta that was really sesame (til) chutney under cover.

Despite being the one major flaw in the kichdi khatta keema combo, the khatta itself was incredibly addictive. We couldn’t hate it for its inauthenticity no matter how hard we tried. This nutty toasty sesame paste actually became one of the highlights of the meal and we succumbed to a second bowl of the imposter, relieved to be an entire ocean and landmass away from a city that would be up in arms were it to see what liquid sham we were pouring over our kichdi and keema.

The other dishes were a mixed bag. The fiery pasty gravy and crisp curry leaves of in the chicken 65 were like starter fuel on my spice-scared taste buds, but once I had my first chunk, I found myself inexplicably drawn to the gravy fire again. The colocasia tubers and mutton in the arvi gosht weren’t half as exciting as I’d have expected them to be, with a gravy whose flavourful potential was choked under a sea of oil that I didn't dare penetrate even when armed with my fresh baked tandoori roti. The khatti (sour) daal was nothing close to the sour smooth lentils that I adore at home—it wasn’t just lacking all the authentic flavours, it lacked flavour, period. And the mutton biryani was nothing special, because of course mamma’s version could race it to Mars and back with a twenty light year handicap, and still win the race.


Clockwise from top-left: Chicken 65, tandoori roti, mutton biryani, arvi gosht

I’ll admit I’m being terribly harsh with most of the dishes and outrageously hung up on authenticity. Sometimes food needs to be appreciated simply as food, yummy or not yummy, and not dissected by the scalpel of preconceived notions. If I could obliterate my framework of exactly how Hyderabadi food should taste, I wonder if this review would have been more forgiving of the dishes that didn’t measure up to home…

The two dishes that I will wholeheartedly give credit to were the desserts. Hyderabadis are known for their desserts, and don’t even contemplate leaving Deccan Darbar without trying their Qubani ka Meetha and Double Ka Meetha. Qubani is a stew of slow simmered sweet apricots, one that is so sweet that it is never divorced from a pot of custard or ice cream or some other mellowing dairy influence.


Qubani Ka Meetha

We were sceptical at first of the cheap plastic container that the Qubani ka Meetha was served in—this is a dish associated with the Hyderabadi royals, one worthy of a glass bowl or at least a transparent saucer. Scepticism turned to shock when we realized that Deccan Darbar was serving the dessert unaccompanied, all alone by its promiscuously sugary self. And then shock melted into sighs of hedonistic indulgence—the Qubani was spot on. Here was a faultless container of soft plump stewed baby apricots glistening with their own rich juices. It was slightly less sweet than our homemade version, and with apricots left whole rather than blended down into a pulpy puree, but the taste was exactly that richy fruity essence that any Qubani worth it’s apricots would have.

The Double Ka Meetha is simply a bread pudding, with bread slices drenched in sweet spices, milk, thick cream, and the teasing kiss of ghee-smeared comfort. Deccan Darbar displays a mammoth steel bowl containing the the mushy, crisp-edged milky bread studded with nuts and chewy green and red candies right at the entrance. It's an open celebration of their commitment to sweet buttery Hyderabadi decadence, and the servers should make it their personal mission to not let any diner leave without ordering a well-heated up plate of the dessert.


Double Ka Meetha

I’ll be back to Deccan Darbar, if just to try their special haleem (slow cooked wheat and meat) on Thursday or for a takeout tub containing dessert. But when it comes to kichdi, khatta, keema, or biryani, I think I might just stick to mom’s version (…after I sample the second Hyderabadi restaurant I spotted in the same area on my drive out of Hor Al Anz.)

Deccan Darbar Restaurant [also called Saif Restaurant]
Hor Al Anz, coming from Maktoum bridge, take a right at clock tower, drive straight down until you see the United Hypermarket. Take a right after the Hypermarket, and drive down the road until you see Saif Restaurant/ Deccan Darbar.

 





19 Comments

  1. Uzma

    Can’t disagree with you :) Mom’s version is the best!
    Here in Hyd I have heard men saying Allhamdullilah at Nampally serves tasty Khichdi Khatta Kheema, not sure about it but someday would want to try it.

    • @59a62ac7aa14ef3b39b96495b16e0c6e:disqus   – hello from Dubai! I have heard about Alhamdullilah, have to try it on my next visit to Hyd :) 

    • inafryingpan

      @59a62ac7aa14ef3b39b96495b16e0c6e:disqus – hello from Dubai! I have heard about Alhamdullilah, have to try it on my next visit to Hyd :) 

    • Allhamdullilah Hotel food is Good but!!!!!!!!! If you see there Kitchen and Preparation area, It’s Horrible.

  2. Guest

    There are two types of khattas that go with kichdi…this is one, the thicker one that can be had even on its own..the one you were likely expecting wa the other watery one which reduce the need for gravy or overloading on the kheema to mix with the khichdi.

    • inafryingpan

      @3875cf43ee7e5d8643c17f9ee7478f31:disqus – Oh now I didn’t know there was a thicker version. Need to check up on this, maybe Deccan Darbar didn’t miss the mark after all! Thanks for the info :)

  3. I feel the same way about Chinese cuisine ind Dubai (with the high standards of not just mom’s homecooking but also the quality of Chinese restaurants and chefs in NYC) as I tend to dissect the food and the experience with an overcritical taste-bud.

    But at the end of the day, those (like I) that frequent restaurants such as Deccan Darbar to just get a taste of food that is familiar and comforting – something…even if not 100% authentic…is better than nothing.

    • inafryingpan

      @390da7a88e9f77ef2b6c669c70972be0:disqus – agreed. Gotta keep that in perspective when you’re miles away from home, else it becomes hard to enjoy anything. Moral of the story: Toss the fussy taste bud and eat double ka meetha :D

  4. LaMereCulinaire

    Ok i really have to say that I need you to build my courage to eat from places like Duccan Darbar!

    The desserts look ohsoyummy!

    • inafryingpan

      @8ce4c6d216b389f4ececfdca53fa55ec:disqus – no courage needed lady, just a massive appetite! join me on a foodie excursion someday :)

  5. Sally - My Custard Pie

    I think Ginger’s comment is right. It’s about the expectations you bring to the table sometimes.  Always have a favourite line in your posts…in this one it was…
    ’…because of course mamma’s version could race it to Mars and back with a twenty light year handicap, and still win the race.’ )

    • inafryingpan

      @e765094276c1ae4f8a701898fc8a87f4:disqus – aww I love your comments. I look forward to the favourite line choice now, it makes my day!

  6. Wasif Ahmed

    Hi Arva…..nice to hear you are from Hyderabad too. I was wondering where you were from but reading your KKK post made me realise you are a Hyderabadi like me and my wife.

    Which part of town are you from. Would love to meet you sometime over some cool Hyderabadi Dum Biryani…where is the best to be had in Dubai.

    I believe Shahraan js now open in Dubai, any reviews ?

    By the way my wife makes the best Khichdi Kheema and Khatta. and also Khichdi Khagina and Khatta ….we are in Abu Dhabi and would love to have you drop by for one of the Hyderabadi classics any  time.

    • inafryingpan

      @28e18c0fbbfd6ccaf736f0be8b720cd8:disqus – that is so ridiculously kind of you!! sure, send me a message (blogger[at]iliveinafryingpan[dot]com) when you and your wife are in Dubai and would love to grab biryani. 
      Honestly, I don’t know where the best biryani place is because I rarely eat it outside the house…but we can try Dum Pukht or Student Biryani or Khan Dastarkhan or Amol..or we could try Shahraan too, haven’t tried it yet.And thanks for the invite, that’s the most generous comment I have ever received…I may just take you up on the offer if I ever plan to drive down to Abu Dhabi!

  7. Saleem

    I am not surprised that the KKK that you had was not what it should really taste or served in Hyderbadi style. Have tried many joints that claim to serve Hyderabadi food – have yet to find one that actually serve authentic Hyderabadi meal.

    Photo of double ka meetha looks like a dry bread pudding and not the rich cream one as is served in Hyderabad.

    • inafryingpan

      @9a1d510f1be63443c618f7d241d72ab2:disqus – Dad, that is so harsh! That double ka meetha was really good. Agreed it wasn’t topped up with the typical Hyderabadi thick pools of butter and cream, but I think I enjoyed this more minimal version [which for the rest of you, is STILL insanely unhealthy and oh so good.]

  8. Never really thought about it … Maybe I should be reading your blog aloud :-)

    • inafryingpan

      hahaha…haha…ha…wait, don’t we all read blogposts aloud?
      *retreats sheepishly*

  9. The foods looks so tasty. I have never been to Hor Al Anzt, but after reading this write up I would make time to visit their restaurant and try their Kichdi, khatta and keema,it sounds so good to eat.

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