About Andhra Pradesh > Cuisine
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The rich heritage and culture of Andhra Pradesh are reflected in the culinary skills of its people. The mere mention of Andhra and Hyderabadi cuisine brings before the mind’s eye a wholesome meal accompanied by hot tasty pickles or ‘Biryani’ accompanied by an appetising aroma.
But there is more to the cuisine of the State with each of the three regions — Coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema and Telangana — having its distinctive style of cooking. Chillies and spice are used in abundance but this need not deter food lovers from indulging themselves in a feast. By and large, the cuisine is vegetarian but the Moghal influence in the Deccan made ‘Moghlai’ cooking popular.
While Hyderabad is known for its wholesome Biryani and a wide range of non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian fare, the coastal region of the State offers a wide choice as far as vegetarian cooking and pickles are concerned. The chillies grown in the region are highly potent and this gives the special flavour to the pickles.
Those willing to let themselves go for Moghlai cooking can choose from a large variety. ‘Sheermal’, a local variety of bread, or tandoori roti baked on hot coals are on the starting line. The non-vegetarian dishes include ‘paya’ — hoof of lamb cooked over a slow fire overnight in a spicy soup so that by morning the bones become soft and chewable — and ‘zubaan’ — lamb tongue cooked in the same manner.
Haleem is pieces of boneless mutton cooked over a long period with pounded wheat to form a spicy porridge. Most of the dishes are available in the evening and before sunrise in hundreds of hotels and restaurants during the fasting month of Ramzan and are popular meals to break or begin the fast with.
And it is not only meat and fowl that Moghlai deals with. The brinjal or ‘eggplant’ that has no taste of its own is given a spicy, tangy flavour in the ‘bagara baigan’, using tamarind and spices. Dalcha is a watery dal in which ‘kaddu (pumpkin)’ or boneless mutton is used. ‘Bagara tamatar’ and ‘mirchi ka salan’ are equally rich in spice and chillies and `bagara khana’ makes up for the vegetarians who miss out on the biryani.
‘Avakai’ is the really hot and tangy mango pickle and there is hardly any household in the region that does not prepare it during the summer. The raw mangoes too are extremely sour and the pickle combined with the harsh chilli-powder and pungent mustard in oil gives it a heady taste.
Gongura, known as ‘ambada’ in Hindi and Urdu, is a sour-tasting leaf that goes into either ‘dal’ or is converted into a ‘chutney’ — another speciality in Andhra. Gongura chutney with either red or green chillies gives a taste hard to find elsewhere. You also find a lot of tasty non-vegetarian dishes blended with green leafy vegetables, like ‘palak mutton’, ‘methi chicken’, ‘kheema methi’ and ‘mutton ambada (Gongura)’, which has resulted from combination of Hyderabad and Andhra cuisine.
A typical Andhra meal has lots of chillies and is often accompanied by pickles. While raw mango pickle is the hot favourite, others include lemon,gooseberry, ‘Gongura’ and even ripe chillies pickles. Ripe red chillies and tamarind are used to make ‘chutney’ that is preserved throughout the year.
Curried prawns and fish with rice are specialities in many coastal Andhra towns and cities. Rice is the staple food in Andhra Pradesh and forms the main dish even in Moghlai cooking.
Sweets and ‘kheer’ are not everyday affairs but form part of the meal on special occasions in any part of the State. It is mainly during festivities that full rein is given to the preparation. While `Sheer Khorma’ is the milky vermicelli sweet popular in Hyderabad, other dessert delicacies include "Double-ka-meetha (a bread pudding)" and "Khubani-ka-meetha", a syrupy speciality made with apricots and lots of sugar. In other parts of Andhra, a rice and milk delicacy is "ksheerannam" in which jaggery (gur) and powdered cardamom enhance the taste.
While Moghlai cuisine tops the list, Andhra food comes a close second. It is often that regular non-vegetarians break their routine by going in for a typical Andhra meal.
The cuisine of Andhra Pradesh is a gourmet’s delight, truly. Such delicacies are offered by the hotels, restaurants and dhabas in and around all major cities of the State.