Very few cities in India have a full-on late night street food scene. Till recently, Hyderabad was not one of them. The midnight street food scene was tightly controlled and one would need to go hunting to satiate the late-night hunger pangs. Apart from uppity coffee shops, which would serve an average midnight biryani at best, there wasn’t much choice.
Of late, though, Hyderabad boasts of a fantastic after-hours food scene, with dosa bandis, food trucks, etc. And then I stumbled across the nightwatchman ka chicken bun.
The nightwatchman ka chicken bun goes back to the time when places had to shut early and street food places had to be very ingenious to survive past midnight. I got a lead for this amazing chicken bun that was available after midnight from a friend of mine. This was at road number 10, Banjara Hills. We parked inside the lane opposite the Bank of Baroda and walked towards an innocuous looking bungalow. There was no sign of food. Just three men sitting on stools in front of a gate.
We asked for two chicken buns. And one of the guys went inside the watchman’s cabin, squatted on the floor, sliced a bun and started filling it with hot, steaming chicken pieces straight out of a simmering curry. The buns were quite tasty, soft and fresh and, most importantly, the chicken was hot... burning hot, actually. The curry, I realized, keeps the chicken hot and moist throughout the night. What a clever technique.
The guy behind these lovely chicken buns is Gafoor bhai, a watchman by profession. He has been making these tasty chicken buns on the sly while on duty for the past eight years. And while he is well known in Hyderabad’s late-night party circuit, his fame deserves to spread further.
Mohit Balachandran is a chef-turned-restaurant professional whose heart beats for street food.