When it comes to true-blue Hyderabadis, it won’t be far-fetched to say that they tend to stick to the same biryani and paan guy/girl for most of their life. The same rule also applies to cuisines doled out by home chefs, adept at making authentic dishes whose delicate flavours get lost in the play of commercialisation.
The story of Shahnoor Jehan who started ‘Khassa’ which means ‘cooked food’ in Urdu is something along these lines. Those who know of her food, which goes beyond the usual Hyderabadi expanse of dishes, have stayed loyal to her culinary trappings over the years. A chance suggestion by her family who loved to throw parties frequently made her think about starting a homegrown business specialising in dishes heavily inspired by Yemen.
“The recipes have been in our family for generations. My grandmother was the daughter of the former Sultan of Yemen and brought her own influences in the food when she came to the city. I don’t think anybody has even tried to make these dishes here,” says Shahnoor Jehan who counts among her clientele the old families of the city who yearn for authentic Nizami dishes which often don’t taste the same when had in a restaurant. Among them is Rani Indira Devi Dhanrajgir who Shahnoor sees as a ‘maternal figure’ and often sends over cooked food for her from time to time.
The lady has been quietly running a catering business from the comfort of her home for the past six years and is a dab hand at Khuzi, Haleem, Badam ka khund, Shammi shikampuri and other Yemeni delicacies. As someone who does much of the cooking on her own, Shahnoor says dishes like Khuzi and Badam ka khund take close to six to eight hours to prepare.
“Many guests who have tasted the food have told others about it, so slowly word spread about my food and the business grew organically. Now, people get food packed for the US, Norway, and the Middle East, apart from the orders I get here,” adds Shahnoor.
Her specialities are the Khuzi which is slow-cooked with lamb, dry fruits and almonds, and the Badam ka khund, an entirely almond-based dessert. She generally takes large orders, so call at least two days prior to place an order. If you’re a connoisseur of food and don’t mind experimenting with the cuisines, try Shahnoor’s Yemeni delicacies by calling her on +91 87906 93097 to place an order.