The Top 4 Biryanis of South India And Where to Find Them
In December 2017, ScoutMyTrip undertook the first edition of the Great Indian Food Trip – The South Indian Biryani Trail. A 4000-km discovery trail of the best biryani in south India was a true eye-opener. We mostly hear only about the North Indian varieties and, here in the South recognition is only granted to the Hyderabadi Dum Biriyani. However, there exist over 20 delicious varieties!
The ten-day biriyani trail started in Hyderabad and continued on to Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, and finally ended in Calicut. The veteran team of travelers included Deepak Ananth (CEO, ScoutMyTrip), Srikanth Bhamidi (TravelDiaries), an avid traveler from Hyderabad, blogger Saumya Rai (RoadtoTaste) and Himanshu Sehgal (MyYellowPlate, who you’ve definitely seen on your Insta feeds). Here is exactly what they discovered, in their own words!
Disclaimer: You will experience severe Biryani cravings while reading this.
The Hyderabadi Dum biryani
The moment you land in Hyderabad and ask the local what he considers the best biryani, the argument begins. Shadab, Shah Ghouse, Kalyani, Paradise, Uluvacharu the list goes on and on. We tried them all. Our vote – The Biryanis of Shadab.
A stone’s throw from the Charminar, this small and ancient eatery has no ambiance to speak of, but that is just about the only drawback I can latch onto! The aroma will drag you to the tables and you will salivate at the options listed on the humungous menu. The biryani itself is a treat to behold. Rich aromatic long-grained rice simmered lovingly on a slow fire with choice spices and the meat of your choice, accompanied by the salan (which can be an article of culinary delight by itself) and an onion raita, the biryani titillates the senses before the first morsel. Mixing these with your hands (please do not make the cardinal sin of eating a biryani with a spoon) gives you the texture of a lovingly prepared velvety treat. The spices do a jig in your mouth and your stomach will thank you profusely for the treat you served it. Truly worth a visit.
The Bhatkali Biryani of Karnataka
Bangalore and Karnataka by itself aren’t famous for their native biryani. There are plenty of eateries that claim to be the best, and indeed they are very good. Meghna, Nagarjuna give you the Andhra variety with their twist. The local biryani is the Donne biryani and is served best at the Shivaji Military Hotel, but what really stole our hearts was the Bhatkali biryani of Ali Baba café in Frazer town.
Bhatkal is a small town in coastal Karnataka, and the biryani from this area really should be highlighted more. Long grained basmati is used here, and the Pukka biryani has an overpowering onion taste. The gravy that is layered with the rice is almost like a Korma that adds that kick to the biryani. The tender meat falls off the bone and the sheer beauty of the dish are the characteristics of this dish.
When it comes to your table, it is pure white with a streak of yellow from food colouring. When you explore, as you must, you discover the gravy hidden in the folds of the rice. Mixing the two reminds you of partnerships that are truly great! Accompaniments are generally a side of pickles and the onion raita. Ali Baba café also has its share of other Arabic dishes which merit a try and this is one café that you must try when in Bangalore. If for nothing else, the biryani will cheer you up!
The Kalyana Bhavan biryani of Chennai
Tamil Nadu, unlike its border state, has a plethora of varieties. The Ambur or Arcot biryani, the Dindigul biryani, the Chettinad biryani, the Muslim marriage biryani and so on. Our vote here goes to the Kalyana Bhavan special chicken 65 biryani. Why? Because it dared to be different.
The biryanis native to Tamil Nadu use the pearly, almost round shaped rice called Jeeraga Samba. The aroma rivals the basmati and in many cases beats it! Served on a plantain leaf, the biryani is visually very bland, but the first morsel will make up for it! Crunchy pieces of fried chicken and the tasty rice add a new dimension to this dish. It’s served with a side of a raita which has more onions and very little curd in it, almost a dry raita. The other addition is that most biryanis of this area will have an egg in it, whether you ask for it or not. Digging into the biryani, you hands strike this perfectly boiled egg delicately hidden under a layer of rice. A nice touch.
The Malabari Biryani of Calicut
Kerala, gods own country has 2 major centers for biryani: Calicut and Thalassery. 70 kilometres apart, the cooking and the taste are almost similar. The only discernable difference is that the Thalassery biryani has the rice fried in ghee before it is cooked and this adds a certain oily texture to the meal. Our choice for this region – the Malabari Calicut biryani.
Calicut is one place that truly worships the biryani. A movie was even made here about a hotel that makes biryani! Two famous restaurants that serve this dish in Calicut are the Rahmath hotel and the Paragon hotel. While Paragon hotel scores in terms of ambiance and variety of the dishes served, our heart chose the biryani of Rahmath hotel that we would go back to!
A small eatery, close to the beach area, the Rahmath hotel has a separate section for family and individuals. The first thing that strikes you is the customer service. Courteous to a fault, the staff is ever helpful and will guide you through the various dishes available here. The biryani itself is made using the Khaima rice or the Jeeraka Sala rice, which is similar to the Jeeraga samba rice of Tamil Nadu. The spices are overpowering! You are in the spice county of the nation after all!
As far as the taste goes, the Calicut biryani is a pakka biryani which uses a dum method to finish the biryani off before being served. This varies from place to place, but the end result is just the same. A mouthwatering dish of layers that projects dimensions of taste in your mouth. Very very tasty! I would also recommend the side dish of the date pickle that is generally served, and a cup of the hot suleimani chai that was recommended by the good folks of the restaurant.
Well, there you have it! The 4 states and our choice of their unique biryanis. Do comment and tell us what tingles your taste buds. I am sure you already have your favourites, but do give these a try! In the next edition of the Great Indian Food Trip, the ScoutMyTrip team would be out exploring the different varieties of tea in the Chai Trails of India so stay tuned!