Years have rolled by, but the taste lingers on

Years have rolled by, but the taste lingers on

You have a curry but in no mood to make rotis, all you have to do is to pick up tasty “naans” from the nearest shop, of course in the old city of Hyderabad. The naan, a dish synonymous with the common Hyderabadis palate for the last two centuries, is soft baked maida with an earthen smell of the tandoor. 

Naan tastes best with beef nihari, mutton paya (soup) or lamb curry with rich gravy. Despite the onslaught of frozen Pita bread, rumali roti, whole wheat grain bread and the take home curry shops that churn out tandoori rotis, the Mughal naan makers continue to do brisk business in the narrow bylanes of  the old city.

Naan is a common food  in the walled city, and Nampally and Toli Chowki areas of the new city. Naan finds its place on the dining tables of people from all walks of life. While it’s more of a tradition for many  to eat  tandoor-made naans, businessmen, corporates and tourists of the Charminar love to taste the naan when they are in Old City and also take home packed naans. Though the naan makers are scattered all around the Old City, they can be easily found in a row along Purani Haveli Road, near the old Police Commissioner’s office. The shops built along the walls of the Nizam's have undergone very little interior changes. Big arches, wide entrances and, of course, the aroma of naans.

But, Munshi Naan stands apart. The heritage shop remains a missing link between the real Nizami culture and the present day Hyderabad. “My ancestors had set up shop first near the Charminar Chowk two centuries ago. We shifted to Purani haveli 160 years ago. We are the sixth generation of naan makers in our family,” says proud Khadeem Munshi . “Down the years the competition increased but there are a few people who still purchase their bread from us, because we represent the real Nizami tehzeeb,” he tells proudly. 

Naan making begins very early in the morning to cater to the customers particularly the schoolchildren and workers. Naan making in Purani Haveli starts at 6 am and sometimes even earlier depending on the orders on hand .The shops generally close around 9 pm. But during the month of Ramzan, they are open till mid-night.  

“Now most of our sales are through bulk orders for corporates in Hi-tech city or marriage functions. Workers take a break whenever a batch is made but continue working all through the day. Many of these workers and their families are with us through the 150-year journey,” Munshi said.

Naans are made here in two shapes, the square and the round ones. Each of the half-a-dozen shops here sell close to 3,000 naans every day, of which the square variety costs Rs 8 per piece and is the favourite. 

The row shops in Purani Haveli alone sell around 24,000 naans on a single day. In all, four workers handle the tandoor, two men do the packaging and two family members help oversee the delivery and tandoor.

“We also make custom-made naans. Customers can chose from five other different shaped naans such as star, heart, flower, etc. The rate depends on which shape the customer prefers,” Hussain from a shop adjacent to Munshi’s said. The extra capacity of tandoor which plays an important role in the naan business can bake 42 rotis at any given time and the heat inside the earthen tandoor is uniform, according to Munshi. About four minutes are needed to bake a batch of naans once the tandoor heat reaches optimum level.

The ingredients are simple and have not changed a bit since the Nizams period. Mughal roti is made with maida, oil and a pinch of salt. “Eventhough there are many variants of naans such as butter naan, stuffed naan, naan with sesame seeds, we have stuck to the traditional naan.We have a responsibility to hand over the Hyderabad heritage to the next generation and hope they will carry on,” Munshi said.