Few things have fuelled as much heated debate amidst food lovers as biryani has. What is the most authentic biryani of them all? Is it even biryani if it’s vegetarian? Where is the tastiest biryani to be found? We decided to dig in to see if some conclusive answers can be found.
The theory that it was the Mughals who introduced biryani to India has been roundly rubbished by Vir Sanghvi. He proposes that biryani is in fact essentially a South Indian dish. Purists and academicians may balk at the thought, but it’s hard to deny it when even a cursory look at some of the South Indian varieties throws up more than a dozen different biryanis.
Luckily for you, Bangalore has a good variety for you to sample. And no, we’re not asking you to pick a favourite.
Easily one of Bangalore’s favourites. It gets its name from the little parcel of leaves (donne) it’s served in. Ravi Bhat, a Donne Biryani aficionado says, “After experiencing biryanis from mainstream places, a green heap of rice in a donne with just a piece of lemon on top is quite [unexpected]. It doesn’t match the colour palette or the many spices [we’re] accustomed to in a biryani. But as you dig in, you realise that the greenish rice hides a world of flavour that doesn’t need any of the fancy embellishments.”
A short-grain sticky rice laced with a trademark green masala, expect the freshness of mint and coriander leaves, with the heat of chillies and a medley of woody spices. This biryani is traditionally Slow cooked over a coal fire, the biryani comes together deliciously with the masalas and naati chicken (local, free-range), making it heavy on the heat, rather than outright spicy.
Shivaji Military Hotel is hands down the place for donne biryani in its most authentic form. Naati Manae Donne Biryani also comes highly recommended.
While seemingly generic, this one truly packs a punch. This full-bodied biryani is high on spice – the fiery kind. The base is a masala made from ground whole spices, onions, garlic and ginger, along with a touch of sour, thanks to tomatoes. The addition of fresh coconut adds body and texture.
Andhra Biryani is incomplete without the salan that comes with it – a watery, but fiery gravy of ground poppy seeds and a medley of spices. It’s best to mix it in with small bites, it packs sweat inducing heat.
Wildly popularised by chains such as Nandhini, Nagarjuna and the beloved Bheema’s, Andhra is a ’luru favourite.
Recommendation: Nagarjuna, Residency Road
The other variety from the Andhra region. It’s hard to know for sure if this is as authentic as it gets, when compared to the Nizami biryani, popularised under the rule of Asaf Jah I, the Governor of Deccan, during Aurangzeb’s reign. Its rich, regal lineage is reflected in its lightly aromatic, but hearty, full-bodied preparation. The addition of saffron, and the slow cooking “dum” method lends a particularly flowery fragrance, giving this biryani distinct character.
While we’re contesting authenticity, Akshay Joshi, who lived in Hyderabad for many years before moving to Bangalore over a decade ago says, “I’ve lived in Hyderabad, and this comes close,” somewhat putting my doubts to rest, about the biryani at Hyderabad Biryani House which has, over the years, consistently remained his go-to, when he’s hankering for nostalgic hit.
Known for their larger-than-usual portions, Hyderabad Biryani House, with branches across the city, serves this biryani that is recognisably different from its cousin from the region – the Andhra Biryani.
Recommendation: Hyderabad Biryani House, Victoria Road
comes to us from Vellore in Tamil Nadu, where it was originally prepared using a short and sticky variety of rice and small, country chicken.
Light yellow, with large pieces of mutton, this biryani is moist (thanks to the curd-based masala), with a high meat to rice ratio.
Legend has it that the biryani was first prepared by Hasin Baig, who cooked in the kitchens of the Nawab of Arcot. Transferring his royal recipes to a regular home style setting, Baig opened a biryani restaurant in Ambur, where he was from. From these grand beginnings, a family business was born. Star Biryani, as it is known today, boasts a biryani made from this home-grown recipe passed down through generations.
Recommendation: Star Briyani, HSR Layout or BTM Layout
This is another Tamil Nadu variant that traces its origin to the Natukottai Chettiars. They started out as vegetarians, but travelling overseas for trade necessitated dietary changes that made its way back to their kitchens at home. Influenced by the meat-eating Malabari folk, they introduced meat to their intensely spice-rich cuisine. With it also came the use of coconut and tamarind.
You’ll find that Chettinad Biryani is high on spice, with a distinct hit of sourness – from tamarind or curd – as well as large pieces of succulent meat. Unlike top or bottom loaded layered biryanis that tend to keep the colours distinct, a Chettinad biryani is a medley of uniformly melded spices, and the biryani is a warm brown, rather than a fiery red or mellow saffron.
Anjappar, with branches across South India, is popularly known as the last word on Chettinad cuisine, and they make a mean mutton biryani, that is traditionally accompanied by a tangy, spicy gravy to boot.
Recommendation: Anjappar Chettinad Restaurant, Koramangala, Indiranagar, and JP Nagar
This usually gets the rap for being too mildly spiced to be called a biryani. Saffron coloured rice is delicately flavoured and loaded with not just meat, but pan roasted potatoes and even boiled eggs on occasion. Sometimes those who call themselves true-blue biryani lovers claim these to be unnecessary interruptions when the focus is usually meat and rice. However, its pleasing mellow flavours combined with the goodness of long grained rice has a special kind of comfort for those seeking a simple biryani that doesn’t need to be knock-your-socks off rich and spicy. It’s the perfect biryani for anyone who has a penchant for subtle, lighter flavours, best eaten with a simple onion raita.
Lazeez on Commercial Street with a branch in Koramangala has long been the popular choice for Kolkata Biryani, along with their classic rolls. But in recent times, several other new players like Kolkata Biryani in Marathahalli and in the city provide not just more choice, but stiff competition too.
Recommendation: Lazeez, Koramangala.