The culture of having bread with tea is not uncommon in India. Despite many breakfast combinations now available, people still prefer having their chai with a paratha or a bun in the morning. While in places like Maharashtra, something called Bun Maska is popular, down South, you will find Malai Bun with Irani Chai on the breakfast table quite often. This tasty treat is, however, limited to the city of Hyderabad.

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The meaty and rich delicacies are the popular markers of Hyderabadi cuisine. Something as simple as a bun and chai would hardly be imagined as a quintessential breakfast dish in the region. However, the truth is that for the longest time, malai bun and Irani chai adorned the morning meals. That said, this quick and easy breakfast using malai, or clotted cream, might not be that easily available in the city anymore. How did this happen, you ask?  

Well, there is no clear demarcation on the course of this humble breakfast losing its prominence but what is fascinating is that it still continues to be sold at selective restaurants in Hyderabad. Malai Bun, it is believed, came after Irani Chai. As the name suggests, Irani Chai arrived in the Indian tea cup and saucer from Persia or present-day Iran. The delicious concoction is made by brewing tea leaves separately and boiling milk in another pot. To make the drink, the milk is added first and then the water infused with tea leaves is poured in. Made in a special container, the taste, texture and aroma of this beverage is what makes it so distinct. 

Irani Chai entered India through Bombay where these Persian settlers set up cafes. Gradually, this café culture shifted to Hyderabad and Secunderabad and the Irani Chai made it on the breakfast menu at these places. Often paired with Osmania biscuits, special bites native to the region, another pairing added to it was malai bun. The soft and spongy buns that were often served as bun maska at one point of time, now came with a side of malai. 

This happened because Irani Chai gained immense popularity and the beverage was brewed in large quantities each day. While boiling the milk, lots of malai was acquired. Malai refers to a type of clotted cream that is obtained in the process of boiling milk. Instead of throwing away the malai, café owners started using it as a condiment to be served with the buns. Little did they know that the dish would become a staple breakfast in the region. The soft buns began to be dipped in malai, which was dusted off with sugar and eaten alongside each sip of the Irani chai.

The sweet, salty and milky concoction that was once served across Hyderabad early morning, now finds place in selective restaurants like Café Niloufer. Since the malai available is limited these days, the malai bun helping is the fortune of only a few patrons and gets over pretty quickly. Although several newer dishes have entered the food space in the region, the creamy texture and sweet smell of malai bun continues to attract the patrons of this dish.