Our writer catches up with the fourth-generation owner of Munshi Naan, a 170-year-old shop in Hyderabad that serves scrumptious flatbreads at INR 15. By Sunaina Patnaik
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The entire neighbourhood of Purani Haveli is dotted with naan (flatbread) shops. Khadeem Munshi Naan, however, has a legacy. Founded in 1851 by Mohammed Hussain Saheb, it’s the oldest naan shop in the area. He named the shop after his profession; he was a munshi (clerk) under the fourth Nizam, Nasir-ud-Dowla. The shop marked 170 years of its existence, and I catch up with the fourth-generation owner, Khaja Abdul Hameed, and his son as they nimbly pack the naans in papers.
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Around 2,000 pieces of naan are baked every day. “My great grandfather learned the recipe in Delhi and started this shop. Back then, he worked by day and managed the store by evening,” said Hameed. When asked if they still use the same recipe, he says, “We made insignificant changes to the recipe, which has remained the same for generations. We use maida (flour), cardamom and curd. We top the naan with jaggery before putting them into the tandoor (a clay oven dug into the earth); jaggery lends a burnt orange colour to the naan.” Based on the season, the recipe is slightly tweaked.
At the storefront, a tandoor is being fired. “We heat it for an hour before we put the naans into it. We begin at 6 am and stay up until 10 pm,” informs one of their staff members while igniting the tandoor with charcoal. Most people who visit Munshi Naan work or live nearby, but the shop also attracts food enthusiasts from across the city. “We’ve been around for so long that people are familiar with our naan. Also, what makes our naan special is its tender texture. Even the ones with weak teeth or elderly can chew on them,” remarks Hameed.
While the Chaar Koni Naan (a square-shaped variety) is their most popular one, they make naans in shapes like stars, circles, and hearts on request, too. “We don’t use yeast, so we hang our batter in a cloth overnight. In the morning, we retrieve the batter, make the naan, pierce holes into them for air circulation, and then put them into the tandoor,” says one of their staff members, who shows me the insides of the shop where the dough is prepared and stored. The staff is tossing naans at lightning speed while bracing for the rush hour that begins at 5 pm.
Fluffier than the regular naan, people pair a Munshi naan with paya, nihari, or kebabs from food joints nearby. But, it can be eaten solo, too. Hameed and his children are around; and for the ones interested in their history, they’ll entertain with a story or two. For them, breaking bread with strangers only gets better when conversations are the entrée.
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