I Live in Biryani Heaven

When you crave for biryani, nothing but biryani will do.

I had my first taste of biryani in 2008 and I discovered it by myself (woo hoo!). I had just moved to Delhi and was staying in Okhla area. One noon as I was walking around trying to familiarize myself with my neighborhood, my nose caught a new and delicious smell. There was no intention to follow the smell but by fate, I reached its source. It was a very small restaurant next to a road there was chaos in that place. A small truck was parked outside the restaurant and some people were unloading huge pots (100 liters plus capacity). I had to peek inside and I did. There were no chairs inside the restaurant, just 2 or 3 long tables and a couple of guys standing and eating something. The manager, a smart elderly man with a big but gentle tone, took interest in me and asked what I wanted. I asked him what was in the pots. He came out from behind his desk and opened one pot and the smell was to die for. I, honestly, went through a kind of shock but I recovered quickly. I didn’t feel comfortable eating there so I asked him to pack it for me. I rushed back to my hostel and devoured every single grain of rice. A hostel mate told me later that the dish was called ‘biryani’. I went there very frequently and I found out that everyday around noon, a truck brings around four/five gigantic pots of biryani from their kitchen which is located somewhere else and these pots get empty within two hours at the most. It has been almost 9 years now since I last had that biryani but that taste still lingers in my soul.

Dubai is heaven for biryani lovers where ‘we’ can find all kinds of specialized biryanis from all the regions where it is cooked. For those who don’t know what it is, biryani is a Persian-introduced one pot dish with rice and meat or vegetables that is seasoned with different spices depending on the region. There are many varieties of biryani because it is prepared in varied countries like Iran, Middle-East countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and even Myanmar and Indonesia. Every area has its own style of preparations and I believe they all take a lot of pride in their biryanis.

I vowed to myself that unless it is impossible to find, I will never try to prepare biryani. Such a dish should be left to the experts to be cooked in huge quantities in their specialized ovens or wherever they cook it. Somethings should remain ‘untried’ and for me, biryani is one of those. Long grained rice like the Basmati rice is usually used in biryani. I remember a taxi driver from Peshawar, Pakistan, boasting about the biryani made in his hometown. He said their rice grains are longer and bigger than any rice we can find here and on his recommendation, we went to a restaurant to have dinner. Taxi drivers know the best places to eat. The meat may be beef, mutton, lamb, buffalo, fish. There are even vegetable and egg biryanis.

If I am asked what my favorite biryani is, I cannot answer. By the way, a biryani can be Iranian biryani, Delhi biryani, Sindhi biryani, Peshawari biryani, Afghani biryani, Hyderabad biryani, Chettinad biryani, Kashmiri biryani, Calcutta biryani, Lucknowi biryani, etc. There is a day for every kind of these biryanis and when that day calls for a particular one, I just cannot say ‘no’.


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