Biriyani is probably a dish that evokes myriad memories and unites various communities thriving in the city. A plate of piping hot and meaty biriyani served with tangy brinjal curry and onion raitha is comfort food. The melange of spices and the flavour of meat soaked rice can make a dreary day cheerful. But in Chennai, one can find predominantly three varieties of biriyani – Dindigul, Ambur, and Muslim Rawther. Here is how each of them can be identified:
It is one of the most common and favourite biriyani variety in Chennai with many outlets dedicatedly serving just Dindigul biryani. The rice used in it is very different – jeera samba rice instead of the usual basmati in North Indian varieties, giving it an entirely new flavour. The biryani also uses cube-sized mutton or chicken pieces instead of big chunks. Apart from the usual masala, a lot of pepper is used. It uses a little curd and lemon juice to get a tangy taste; it doesn’t use tomato found in other varieties of Tamil Nadu biriyani.
Ambur or Vaniyambadi Biryani
Ambur is a small town in the Vellore District of Tamil Nadu. If you take a trip to this sleepy little place, the first thing that’ll strike you is the in numerable biryani stalls dotting the Chennai-Bengaluru highway. There’s chicken, mutton, beef and prawn as options. Strong flavours of mint and coriander stand out. The differentiating factor this biryani is the fact that chefs soak the meat in curd before adding it to the rice, which imparts a beautiful taste to the dish. It also makes use of tomato. This type of biryani is cooked in neighboring towns of Ambur and Vaniyambadi in the Vellore district in the north-eastern part of Tamil Nadu. The Ambur/Vaniyambadi biryani is accompanied with dhalcha, a sour brinjal curry and pachadi or raita.
Although served at various restaurants in Chennai, this biryani is the one made by the Muslim Rawther community in and around Palakkad in Kerala and parts of Coimbatore. The biryani is high on spices and meat portions. Almost no lemon or tomato is used. But it uses lots of onion. The biriyani is cooked via dum method or slow cooking method and the variants include lamb, mutton chicken, beef and egg. Served even during celebrations and weddings, Rawther Biriyani is served alongside non-veg sambhar popularly known as ‘kaichar‘ and melon halwa.