Last two days of November were spent in the city of Hyderabad. I had been to the city twice earlier but never really went around to explore it. So when the wonderful team at Park Hyatt, Hyderabad invited me to fly down and experience the city with them, I said a big yes. While I will share a detailed experience of my stay at Park Hyatt later this week, I want to first take you to one of the oldest and the most popular bakery of Hyderabad- Nimrah.
At around 10 in the morning, we walked pass Charminar and entered this old, very traditional and simple Nimrah Bakery. We were welcomed by the aroma of freshly baked cookies and the very warm owner- Aslam. We made our way to the other end of the small but extremely busy bakery and within a few minutes of us being there, I was impressed by Aslam’s fluent English and his excitement to show us around.
Nimrah was established in 1993 by his father Abood Bin Aslam al Katheri. The bakery has been city’s favourite for decades. They open for business every day at 4am and start by serving puffs, that are very reasonably priced like the other things at the bakery. Aslam proudly told us about the large crowds that flock to Nimrah as soon as they open doors. They start bringing out their popular cookies at around 6am.
Nimrah is known for it’s iconic Osmania biscuits. A local I later met told me that it is Nimrah that has actually popularised the Osmania biscuits, that most people now relate Hyderabad to. They’re named after the last ruler of Hyderabad – Mir Osman Ali Khan.
The counter of the bakery was lined with trays and trays full of different varieties of cookies- 19 varieties to be specific. I first reached out for the Osmania biscuits, hoping they’d live up to the hype that my Hyderabadi friends had created. The warm, extremely flaky, sweet and salty cookies almost melted in my mouth. Aslam, very enthusiastically, made me try almost all the cookies straight out of the baking trays and eagerly waited for my reaction as I bit into them. I loved the pistachio cookies with the silver leaf and also the oat and coconut ones. What I loved more was Aslam’s passion for the cookies that his team whips up with so much love.
Aslam then very kindly guided us into the kitchen that churns out thousands of cookies every single day. He told me that I was the second person he has ever opened his kitchen for. Before me, it was only for a BBC documentary that Aslam let outsiders into the kitchen. I was more than excited to see what goes into making Nimrah the success story that it is. When I asked Aslam, what he thinks the secret to his success is, his face lit up. He hurriedly gathered his team around and pointing at them, he said- this is the reason for our growth. He introduced everyone in his team and it turned out most of them have been working at Nimrah for over 10 years. Aslam told me that their accommodation, food and health check ups are taken care of. The fact that Aslam treats them as his team members is probably what has kept them loyal to the bakery for decades.
The kitchen was small and old but very neat and meticulously organised. Hundreds of trays carrying thousands of cookies were stacked against the walls. The oven was a traditional stone oven where new batches of un-baked cookies are popped in every 30 minutes. Large quantities of ghee is first whipped up in huge stand mixers. Then goes in the flour, the sugar and condensed milk. Aslam pointed out that all the cookies they make are egg-less. To see over 70 people work day in and day out with basic technology and ingredients to serve thousands of people every day and do it so well was fascinating. Before we said bye, Aslam made us try their Irani chai and got me to sign his guest book that boasts of signatures of some very popular people from all around the world.
Their cookies, no doubt, are delicious but what really makes them special for me is that they’re made with so much love and care. That, I think, is what has made Nimrah and it’s Osmania cookies so popular.