Let me start on a bold note: Chennai is the best big Indian metro for biryani. Now that would usually bring out the knives but luckily in Chennai, or anywhere in Tamil Nadu, biryani is best enjoyed without cutlery. I learned this the hard way in Dindigul, one of South India’s premier biryani towns. The owner of a small establishment asked me to leave, when I asked for a spoon. Clearly, biryani can stir up passions. In Chennai, this discussion takes place on two levels: what is the best biryani and where do you get the best version of it in the city.
The best biryani in Chennai: Ambur, Dindigul, Thalassery?
My date with my favorite biryani started at Don Bosco Egmore. Many of my classmates had a strong connection with Ambur, a city with a worldwide reputation for leather goods, and a biryani worth driving from Chennai or Bengaluru (Ambur is almost halfway on the Chennai-Bengaluru highway). For many in Chennai, it was the gold standard for biryani. But that has changed over the past two decades, as the biryani of Dindigul, cooked with small-grain seeraga samba rice, has won a large legion of fans. Then there is the Thalassery version that has gained cult status thanks to a wave of Kerala cuisine restaurants. Add pan-Indian favorites like Hyderabadi, Lucknowi and even Kolkata-style biryani and you have my drift on Chennai biryani credits. Our panel of Chennai trend setters adds to this discussion:
DumBir Thalassery Biryani
Biryani at DumBir (11, Haddows Road, Nungambakkam / Call: 9940499404 / Order here) is cooked with aromatic spices and short grain Kaima rice and is available in mutton, chicken, fish, shrimp, egg and vegetable options. “A Thalassery biryani is a wonderful amalgamation of flavors and influences from outside and inside Kerala. With each bite, I feel like I have traveled to an exotic country. – Kiran Rao, Owner, Amethyst
Serai Gosht Biryani at ITC Grand Chola and wedding style biryani from Arifapas
“Serai Gosht Biryani at ITC Grand Chola (Anna Salai / 044-22200000 / Order here) is a superb biryani with a twist – it has dehydrated lemons which add fabulous flavor and the mutton is cooked to melt. Arifapa’s Biryani is my new favorite. With a nice, thick raita and a fabulous brinjal sauce, Arifapa’s Cloud Cooking (Call: 98840-44555/ instagram) now dispenses biriyani with remarkable consistency. – Dr. Wasim Mohideen aka Doc Waz; food blogger
Hyderabadi Style Biryani by Old Mirchi Biryani and Simmered Biryani for 6and Avenue Resto-Bar
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