Although there’s no dearth of options for Bengali food in Hyderabad, the cuisine of our neighbour Odisha is surprisingly difficult to find. A few years ago, a humble eatery called Rosogolla had made an attempt to offer traditional Odia food. However, the eatery never quite managed to find its footing and received overwhelmingly negative reviews before it shut shop. The next attempt that I am aware of was by Happyness at Madhapur. This dhaba has been doing reasonably well, but if you want anything beyond Thalis, you’d be left disappointed. Being a Bengali, I’ve always been very curious about Odia cuisine. At first glance, there are many striking similarities between the two cuisines – from the simple and flavourful Tarkaris to the mustard dominated gravies. So when I spotted a new Odia eatery in Zomato, I picked up my camera, booked an Uber, and headed there without a second thought.
Born2Eat is a hole in the wall sort of a place. There’s hardly anything Odia about the name or the decor. The restaurant seems to have repurposed a dingy house. The ambiance is genuinely unappealing. But hey! I was there for the food not the ambiance. And the menu definitely caught my interest. The first for columns have run of the mill stuff like Hyderabadi Biryani and Veg Manchurian. However, the last couple of items definitely got my attention – different Odia thalis and a selection of vegetarian and non-vegetarian Odia dishes.
Without batting an eyelid I placed my first order – Dahi Bara Alu Dum. This is a dish that fascinated me since I first heard about it – primarily because of the seemingly strange combination of Dahi Vada and Alu Dum (and sometimes also Ghoogni) and the lavish praises I’ve heard from all of my friends from the region. My previous two experiences with this dish (at Rosogolla and at the Odia Food Festival) were rather underwhelming. But, the Dahi Bara Alu Dum at B2E finally enabled me to comprehend why this dish is so popular. The Dahi Vara soaked up the gravy of the Alu Dum and the combination of the dahi and the green chilly infused spicy gravy was lip smacking. If you’re planning to head there for the Dahi Bara Alu Dum, make sure you visit on a weekend.
My next order was Dahi Pakhala. From the descriptions I’ve heard and read of this dish, it seemed similar to the Bengali Panta Bhaat – cooked rice that’s fermented overnight in water. However, the Odia version is quite a different beast due to the addition of curd garnished with roasted cumin. The Pakhala was served to me in a giant bowl with a plate of sides. The portion size was quite shocking – good enough to be both my lunch and dinner! The sides included fried fish, saga, sliced potato fries, potato mash, and a mishmash of vegetables. This was my first exposure to another dish that I had heard about from friends and colleagues, and I loved every bit of it. The Pakhala is known for its soporific effect, and is also an effective way to keep your body cool during the summer months.
My friend ordered a Mutton Thali, and was quite happy with the thali that included a spicy Mutton preparation with sliced potato fries, daal, and papad. The portion size was, once again, quite generous. The mutton gravy was delicious, but the mutton pieces itself were a tad chewy. This is something I experienced with their Mutton Kassaa too during one of my later visits.
Much like other coastal cuisines, seafood and fish play an important role in Odia cuisine. During my subsequent visits, I tried their Crab Masala, Crab Butter Masala, Macchha Besar Tarkari, and Dahi Maccha. The Maccha Besar Tarkari, which is fish cooked in a spicy mustard gravy (similar to Sorshe Maachh) is fabulous. The flavour of the mustard isn’t amped up like in the Bengali preparation, but the thick gravy pairs wonderfully well with steamed rice. The Dahi Macchha was tangier than what I’m used to, with the sourness of the curd being more apparent due to the absence of a sweet after-taste. Among the crab dishes I preferred the wonderfully spicy, dhaba style Crab Masala. The Crab Butter Masala is a much more mellow dish with a hint of creaminess. However, there was a bit of uncooked ginger-garlic flavour that played spoilsport.
Being a meat and fish lover, they were the prime focus during my visits, but I did try a couple of veg preparations. Dalma – a lentil (Arhar Dal) preparation with potato, eggplant, and various vegetables, is one of the hallmarks of Odia cuisine and is a must try. A mixed-veg preparation of the greens (Saga) with drumsticks also impressed me with its simplicity. It’s the kind of healthy and hearty food that one rarely gets at restaurants.
I’ve limited prior experience with Odia cuisine. So, I’m not even going to attempt to judge if the food served at B2E is authentic or not. However, I can definitely say that it’s the most impressed I’ve been so far with Odia food available in Hyderabad. Not everything is perfect, and the place itself could do with a bit of a renovation (or at least a bit of room freshener). But, the food is quite good and really cheap; a meal for two would cost around four hundred rupees. The service was also surprisingly good during my all three visits. If you’ve been craving for Odia food give it a spin and let me know how was your experience.
Update [19/03/2017]: Born2Eat has expanded its menu and is now serving Chhena Poda.