“EEEK….BYAAAKK. CHEE CHEE!”.
Precisely, that’s how I reacted when I sipped tea from the paper cup in office. The tea under consideration is the tea I made using Lipt** tea bags with considerable assistance from the office vending machine. That’s when my personal recollections of the hallowed 'Irani Chai' came running down the memory lane, swept me off my feet and took me into a world while disrupting the normal chronologial flow of present events.
(**truncated to keep the brand confidential)
One of the most gratifying things offered to me by Hyderabad, beside others, is the Irani chai. It’s been over two decades now since I’d been sipping away the luscious bewerage. Irani chai with my mischievous buddies is always the most delightful of times I could ever have. In their presence lies the actual fun - intimate gossips and raunchy humour, coupled with the zingy ambience irani hotels would offer (this is complimentary though) and the legendary portfolio of snacks that goes down brilliantly with irani chai. This glorious assemblage – friends with wicked-sense of humour, irani chai and hyderabadi snacks - makes an unbeatable and incontestable combination on any given day.
Irani Restaurants - Personal Favorites
My cousin introduced me to Blue Sea (Secunderabad) when I was about 10 years (?) old. Blue Sea is a seasoned irani hotel which every secunderabadi is aware of. Not knowing Blue Sea is not knowing Secunderabad. The humble 500 sqft (appx) restaurant still continues to operate in full vim. Though the place is principally popular for the scrumptious chai, one would hardly miss their freshly-made tiny onion samosas, brittle osmania biscuits or their less-than-average-market-size crispy curry puffs or egg puffs – a perfect complement to every sip. In my childhood, legend had it that every morning, the owner mixes in a ‘secret’ ingredient into the boiling milk giving it the pleasant taste and that even the restaurant staff are not aware of the secret ingredient either. (However, Google says, the secret is condensed milk. Now how does it matter, no?)
Another such reputable irani hotel is ‘Paradise Bakery and Take Away’ at Paradise Circle, Sec'bad - being run by the same group that runs the Paradise Restaurant (flagship product: Paradise Biryani). This place has more choices, snack-wise, as compared to Blue Sea. – osmania biscuits, tie biscuits, pastries, lukhmi, cream rolls, meat rolls, aloo samosa, egg/chicken/vegetable/mutton puffs, miscellaneous biscuits, etc.
These are two of the very few irani hotels in Hydrabad where you would find chicks as well, slurping away chai with their boyfriends.
The Legendary Snacks – Personal Ranking
Rank one invariably goes to Chota Samosa - A hyderabadi speciality. If you are a newbie, you would be in love at first sight. Mouthwatering, literally. The crispy, tiny, three-dimensional snack is unbeatable in terms of taste and timing. Take a bite off it, half-chew it and sip the chai. I guarantee you a snapshot from heaven. If chota samosas are not available, bada samosas (aloo samosas) can serve as an alternative.
Rank two goes to Osmania biscuits – the sweet n salty, small n crispy, hardly 2-inch circular biskit. Always take a gentle bite off an Osmania biscuit, right after half-soaking it in irani chai for a moment. With its characteristic crispiness, a chai-soaked Osmania is a celestial delicacy. Every chai-soaked bite would only prompt you to take yet another one. I can bet on that!
Rank three – Tie biscuits, Veg/Non-Veg Puffs Or Lukhmi.
Puffs could be Curry puffs, Veg puffs, Chicken or Mutton Puffs, based on your dietary restrictions. Maximum pleasure assured if the puffs are garam-garam. Tie biscuits, yet another crispy snack, are so called because of their ‘bow-tie’ shape. In a way, Tie-biscuits and Puffs are first cousins. Likewise, Lukhmi, a non-veg variant of samosa, is a distant cousin to aloo samosa. Although not triangular.
Additionally, Mirchi bhajji, Dal vada, Cream buns and Cakes, are other snacks that usually go well with irani chai. Don’t forget to ask for onion slices and fried n salted green chillies while ordering Mirchi bhajji or Aloo samosa, okay?
(Picture Courtesy: http://www.shadruchulu.com/)