I have learnt that what makes Hyderabadi food so delicious and unique is the attention paid to every detail and technique, from marinating the meat and grinding masalas to the process of cooking, and then the garnishes, as well as how the dish is served. For example, the secret of a good saalan lies in the grinding of its masala, which must have the texture of silk. The stories of legendary hospitality and rich feasts are far too many to recount, and I have attempted to retain that vibrant spirit of the family through the recipes in this book.

This is a truly iconic Hyderabadi dish and I am requested to make it more often than I can count. If I know that the people I am serving it to can tolerate the heat, I add more green chillies, which brings out the flavours.


  • 1 kg small, round eggplants
  • 250 gm onions, finely sliced
  • 1½ cups oil
  • 10 green chillies
  • 4 sprigs curry leaves
  • 4 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 4 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 3 tbsp peanuts
  • 3 tbsp coriander powder
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • ½ tsp onion seeds
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • Pulp from a fistful of tamarind
  • Salt to taste

For the baghar

  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp onion seeds
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seeds


  1. Roast the coriander powder, peanuts and fenugreek, onion, cumin and sesame seeds together. Grind to a fine paste. Heat oil in a pan, and fry the sliced onions until very brown but not burnt. Or, you can roast the onions, one at a time, directly on the flame. Let each char, and then peel. Grind the fried or charred onions to a fine paste.
  2. Slit each eggplant into four quarters, leaving the stem on. Keep a deep bowl of salted, room-temperature water on hand, and drop each eggplant quarter into it as you slit it. Heat oil in a thick-bottomed, large pan. Add curry leaves, cumin, fenugreek and onion seeds.
  3. When these splutter, add the masala paste you ground earlier. Sauté until it is fragrant and well-browned. Now, add the eggplants and green chillies; cover and let cook on a low flame until almost soft. Pour in tamarind pulp and cook on a medium flame for another 10 minutes or until the gravy is thick. Sprinkle in the coriander leaves and keep on dhum for a few minutes until the oil rises to the surface. You can choose to drain this oil off before you serve the dish.
  4. If you are planning on serving this dish at a dinner, I highly recommend that you make it a day before. Do not refrigerate that night. Leave it out – this allows the flavours to break down and meld together, making the dish much more layered and flavourful. Any leftovers will need to be refrigerated.

Excerpted with permission from Saffron and Pearls: A memoir of family, friendship & heirloom Hyderabadi recipes, Doreen Hassan, HarperCollins.

Doreen Hassan

Doreen Hassan

Doreen Hassan was considered one of Delhi’s finest hostesses, and was celebrated for the elegant parties she hosted. The meals she crafted had been perfected over the years, based on heirloom recipes she had inherited from family members.

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