This chef is all set to introduce Mumbai foodies to the flavours of Telangana
The onions sizzle as they are tossed in a big pot. Chef MV Naidu then throws in a handful of tomatoes, jeera, curry leaves, dried red chillies, garlic and ginger. In another pot, lamb chops (Rs 775), covered in a deep red masala, have been cooking on a slow flame for the last hour. Naidu, executive sous chef at Hyderabad Marriott Hotel & Convention, says, "It's one of my favourites." He's here to helm a Telangana food festival in a suburban five-star. "In 2014, when Telangana separated from Andhra Pradesh, the state government encouraged hotels to promote its cuisine, which is native to Telugus from both the states," he says, adding that the cuisine is still evolving. Semi-arid Telangana uses millet-based breads (roti), unlike Andhra, which irrigates rice.
The chef, hailing from Vijayanagar district, moved to Visakhapatnam to study at the Food and Coffee Institute. "I would watch my mother make pappu (dal) with vegetables and sometimes, with bones. I began as a vegetarian specialist, moved to north Indian food, dabbled in food from Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Kerala and finally, Telangana. I've travelled to villages in Karimnagar, Medak, Nizamabad and Siddipeth to learn from the ammas."
The dishes that have originated in Telangana include Sarvapindi (rice flour cake), Uppidipindi (upma) and tamarind-based curries, known as kura (gravy) and pulusu (stew). "The cuisine is spicier, and uses millets and red chillies. Jonna roti is made with fresh red chilli, garlic paste and eaten with pickle," says Naidu. He counts the spices on his fingertips: fenugreek, sticky red chillies, cloves, ajwain, mustard seeds, coriander, garlic, cinnamon, black pepper and shahi jeera.
In another pot sits the Chicken Kacche Gosht ki Biryani (Rs 1,175). Naidu lifts the silver foil veil to let out fragrant steam. Telangana biryanis are made from haleem mutton or chicken. The meat is marinated twice — first with ginger-garlic paste, crushed green chillies, salt and red chilli powder. Then, with a rub of brown onions, yoghurt, mint and coriander. It is layered with rice, and sprinkled with ghee and saffron water.
Chef MV Naidu. Pics/Falguni Agarwal
Rice gets a water bath
To make the rice flavourful, Naidu uses a muslin cloth potli, featuring pathar ka phool (black stone flower), betel nut roots, rose petals, jaivitri, cardamom, khas ka jhad (vetiver, a perennial bunch grass), bayleaf, cinnamon, cloves and coriander seeds. Each rice grain is a taste bomb since it's placed in a water bath with the potli. Then, we try Orugallu Cheepa Pulusu (Rs 975), king fish cooked in tamarind-tomato kuru flecked with cumin, mustard and fenugreek. The balance of spices is perfect.
The dessert is Khubani ka Meetha (Rs 475) but we skip it as we'd rather have the spices linger on our palate a tad longer.
TILL: November 10, 7.30 pm onwards
AT: Kangan, The Westin Mumbai Garden City, Goregaon East.