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Tahiri, hoorana holige and malpuri featured against the backdrop of Asuf Gunj, Gulbarga, 1880 (© The British Library Board)

LIKE SOLAPUR, Gulbarga sits on the northern reaches of newly formed Bijapur Sultanate. Glory is not new to Gulbarga; decades earlier it had served as capital of the Bahmani Sultanate. Back then, the city played host to year-long celebrations marking the betrothal of the son of the founder of the Bahmani Sultanate. These festivities saw the installation of giant streetside confectionary dispensing machines. We speculated that the banquet would have featured a version of today’s mande gosht, a pungent salan usually paired with a roomali-like roti.

Now in Gulbarga’s second innings as capital, we return to dwell on items prepared on the hearths of homes or street outlets. Some of these have survived into the 21st century. As in Solapur, jowar (jolada) rottis are the true blue staple, but tahari is easily the principal specialty dish that both locals and visitors will champion. Some call it a version of biryani, but it is also prepared as a one pot meal. The principal meat employed is either mutton or beef. But while biryani requires using spices with restraint, washing the rice several times to reduce the starch content (traditionally, frying the grains of rice), parcooking the rice and semi-cooking the marinated meat before layering both and cooking them together to completion, tahari does away with the marination and the layering, and amps up the pungency, in trademark Gulbarga style.

Tehri/tehari/tahari is also claimed by other regions who give it their own spin. In Awadh, tehri stands out for the distinct yellow appearance of the rice, spices are added directly to the cooked rice. In other parts of North India and Pakistan, tehri is interpreted as an entirely vegetarian dish that showcases expertly prepared potatoes instead of meat. Tehari is also available as a street food in parts of Kashmir.

While other parts of India can lay claim to tehri by other names and forms, the same can’t be said of at least two of Gulbarga’s signature sweets. One is the khoya-based ‘mamu ki malpuri’ and the other is hoorana holige, a delicately prepared pancake with a  stuffing of chickpea-toor dal paste and jaggery.

  • A History of the Deccan, by James Dunning Baker Gribble
  • Wikipedia