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The Square Nan of Hyderabad

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Purani Haveli’s known to be the place or origin of the Char Koni or Square Nan in Hyderabad. The place gets its name from the Haveli which was built for the Nizam of Hyderabad Sikander Jah III. It’s located in the Old City of Hyderabad, which is a little further away from Charminar.

The area was known as Haveli Khadeem in earlier days. Over the years, the area around the Haveli also got the name Purani Haveli. It has some fantastic food options and showcases some of the best Muslim food in Hyderabad. But this area is also a little less well-to-do in comparison to the traditional affluent business areas of Charminar, Laad Bazaar and surrounding areas. Hence, the emphasis is more on cheaper food options like beef over mutton (goat). The food in Purani Haveli is also priced much lower than that which is available in the more affluent and well-known-touristy-areas of Charminar, Gulzar House, etc.

The 169-Year-Old Munshi Naan

Munshi Naan was established in 1851 in Purani Haveli. Even the current incumbents don’t know where the original shop was located. The shop moved into its current location in Purani Haveli some 60-70 years ago. Hussain who started this shop in 1851 was said to have worked as a Munshi with the Nizam of Hyderabad. He left for some unknown reason, retired or was kicked out. Who knows? And then he started this naan shop, which was probably better for him and we can now safely say, much better for the whole of Hyderabad who got some wonderfully shaped bread.

He was probably still called Munshi even after retirement and that’s how the shop got its name. There could have been other shops as old as Munshi Naan in Hyderabad, if not older, but none from the era have survived. The other naan shops in Purani Haveli and some in Nampally are more recent introductions to the Hyderabad scene.

Munshi Naan makes five basic shapes of the bread. The Char Koni or Square Nan being the most popular. I’m not entirely sure about why this shape is more popular than the others. I’m told by the local populace of Old City that as it’s easy to tear this naan shape into four pieces and share at a table.

The Other Shapes of the Hyderabadi Square Nan

The other shapes of the Hyderabadi Nan are a completely Round shape. Oblong or the Classic Nan shape that we see everywhere else. Star shape. Pan or Heart shape. The pan shape’s used made for weddings. Mainly as an accompaniment to Marag, the Hyderabadi stew of mutton on the bone flavoured with yoghurt, coconut and almond.

The Hyderabadi Square Nan is made from Maida, Oil and Water. The original recipe did not have yeast. The bread is supposed to be ‘proved’ overnight. Proving refers to a specific rest period that allows the rising of the dough. It happens just prior to baking. Nowadays, I think almost everyone uses yeast to quicken the process. The ‘proven’ bread is then cooked in an underground tandoor or clay oven. The Star shaped Nan is probably the least popular and is bought only for special functions at home like birthdays and for special guests.

The qualities of Hyderabadi Naan are very specific. Naram or soft on the inside and crisp on the outside. It’s also thick, yet not too dense. It’s not too light or fluffy either. But more importantly, it needs to be warm. Cold Nan has no place in Hyderabadi culture. Unlike the regular breads coming out of a tandoor, the Hyderabadi naan stays warm for a longer period.

Abbasi Naan is another old Square Nan shop close by that’s more than a hundred years old. The other naan shops in Purani Haveli are relatively newer compared to Munshi ‘n Abbasi. Nevertheless, most of them would be at least 30-40 years old.

Here’s a video on the Hyderabadi Nan being made https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7bt5qETTWc

Keep hunting and Chowder-on!

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