The Alhamdulillah, one of the most famous places to get a bite of red meat in India’s fifth-largest city, is tucked away near one of Hyderabad’s busiest intersections and can be a tricky place to find. The best method it is to head down the alleyway, find your way through the maze of motorcycles and mopeds parked outside, and let the heady scent of beef sizzling in huge cast-iron tavas just outside the entrance guide you right where you want to go.
In a city renowned for its beef, Alhamdulillah stands out. For the last three decades, this restaurant has served up spicy, red meat dishes and a variety of popular Hyderabadi culinary delights to people from all walks of life. The restaurant has developed a reputation as the best place to stop in for Hyderabadi biryani: a mouthwatering rice-and-meat dish delicately spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, and, of course, several types of chilis. Another local favorite is talava gosht, a dish in which tender morsels of beef are marinated with turmeric, ginger, and garlic and cooked in peanut oil. The gritty, Spartan interior of the restaurant, adorned with bright-white fluorescent lights and hot-pink trim, may not immediately draw in the casual passerby, but the smell of the cooking definitely will.
But Alhamdulillah is also part of a dying breed in India, a restaurant that proudly advertises its beef menu and even fries its dishes right out on the sidewalk in a country increasingly beset by a resurgent wave of Hindu nationalist activism that has made the consumption of beef a charged point of contention.
Indeed, outside of the older and historically Muslim parts of Hyderabad, it is increasingly rare to find beef on the menu. Those places that do serve it up, meanwhile, use euphemisms like kalyani biryani (“special biryani”) to adapt to the new political climate. Despite this, threats of violence against public consumers of beef have recently begun occurring in Hyderabad, raising the possibility that a trend sweeping the country in recent years that has led to dozens of killings could finally reach India’s de facto beef capital.