The Curious Case Of Patthar Ka Gosht
Image Credit: Pic- Sidharth Bhan Gupta

Whenever we talk about Hyderabadi cuisine, it’s the famous biryani from the city of Nizams which comes to mind; a dish that has gained popularity the world over and is often debated to be the best biryani in the world. Now, if you think Hyderabadi biryani is a singular unique creation from the rich erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad, you are underestimating the might of the great Hyderabadi cuisine.

Hyderabad’s cuisine is one of the elaborate cuisines of India, influenced by Turkish, Arabic, Mughlai, and south Indian cuisines. The erstwhile state of Hyderabad was one of the largest states of India and covered the region up to Maharashtra and parts of modern-day Karnataka. Starting with the Qutub Shahi dynasty, then under the Mughal rule, the Asaf Jahi dynasty was established, whose seven generations of governance saw Hyderabad grow into the most prosperous state of India with deep and opulent culinary culture.

Royalty always has two sides to it; one rules from the golden throne, away from the hardships spent in the arms of luxury. The other side of royalty is the warrior side of it, or in some cases, the rugged hunter’s lifestyle, which most royalty often enjoyed. 6th Asaf Jahi, also known as ‘Sir Mir Mahboob Ali Khan Siddiqi Bayafandi’, was one such ruler, also famously known as ‘Tees Maar Khan’ (One who has killed 30 Tigers). On one such tiger hunting spree, on his demand to have kebabs, the shahi bawarchi used the slab of stone in the load being carried on the Elephant’s back for the comfort of the ruler to prepare a unique meat dish.

This meat (Gosht) dish cooked on stone on an open fire was liked by the Mahboob Ali Pasha (Another name of the ruler) so much that he decided to have it again on his return to Hyderabad, where even better kebabs were prepared on improved stone, to give birth to what is famously came to be known as the ‘Patthar Ka gosht.’

This priceless information was given to me by Hakeem Akbar Ali Khan, an Unani medicine practitioner in London.  Hakeem Sahab belongs to the Nizam family and when I sought historical reference to the origin of this unique dish using a terrific method of cooking, I was referred to Hakeem Saab. The latter caringly explained the dish’s origin in-depth, I learned that the 6th Asaf Jahi was 18 years old at the time of this occurrence. Thus, it can be estimated that around the year 1884, Hyderabad got one of the unique dishes in its repertoire, Patthar Ka Gosht.

Cooking this unique dish is a matter of showmanship as the juices ooze out of the meat on the hot slab of stone, a pleasant sight for any gastronome, and a dish no meat lover can say no to.

The smokiness of Patthar Ka Gosht is another key differentiator of this Hyderabadi kebab, and thus, true connoisseurs of fine cuisines, stay away from the versions cooked on an LPG stove; needless to say, if the stone is not used for cooking the kebabs, then it also ceases to be called as a Patthar ka Gosht.  

As we stand today, this dish is arguably dying, owing to the cumbersome process of cooking, especially with the logistics and space required to cook on stone, most restaurants serving Hyderabadi cuisine either ignore this culinary gem or opt for shortcuts, which kills the essence of the dish.

In cities like Hyderabad & Bangalore, street vendors prepare Patthar ka gosht on huge stones heated by charcoal. The queues of people lining up to eat this delicacy testify to the prowess of traditional & culinary processes, which makes the cuisines of India unparalleled & the one to preserve & celebrate.

Hyderabad’s cuisine likewise has many unique dishes, like Haleem, Dalcha, Talawa Gosht, Lukmi, Paya, Shorba, Kormas, Salans, unique varieties of kebabs, curries, bread, biscuits, icecreams & sweets, which along with the most famous culinary produce, the Hyderabadi Biryani, makes the Hyderabadi Ghizaayat, or in simpler words The Hyderabadi cuisine, one of the wealthiest and most loved cuisines of India.

Sidharth Bhan Gupta is a Hospitality/F&B Consultant travelling across India exploring regional cuisines.