I am a great fan of this classic food, not for its taste alone but for its FLAVOUR. It is the flavour that lingers in one’s memory, long after the taste had left one’s tongue and beckons one to revisit the place from where one had had the flavour beckoning biryani.

Of all the five senses that a person is endowed with, the only sense- the loss or absence of which , is not known to other human beings, is the OLFACTORY sense. Loss or absence of Touch, Hearing and Sight are easily identifiable from the response of the disabled/ differently abled, but the sense of Taste and Smell are the more personalized of the five senses and here we have our own Indian delicacy BIRYANI which could be understood only through refinement of these two senses. Especially thru the sense of SMELL.

Of all the BIRYANI i have had, the BIRYANI which is consistently the BEST is the one available at KARIM’S near Jumma Masjid, Delhi. Even their other joints at Nizammuddin West, East of Kailash(now closed), Sector 18 NOIDA are not a patch on the BIRYANI served at KARIM’S , Jumma Masjid.

What is so special about KARIM’S?

Firstly, u just can’t stop by to have this biryani. U have to make it a mission to go there. One doesn’t want to get scratches on one’s car by risking in that crowded street, besides not finding a place to park one’s car in the vicinity of the restaurant. So despite such besetting prospects, one has to embark upon it. One goes to KARIM’S to have BIRYANI. One just cannot not stop by and have it like one wud in Chandni Chowk, at CHAINA RAM’s or GHANTEWALA’s. The best way to reach this place and have BIRYANI wud be to either have a driver drop u in your neighbour’s car or park your car in the parking lot a kilometre away -near the back gate of JUMMA MASJID- and take a cycle rickshaw.

Secondly, the BIRYANI is CONSISTENT. Consistency may be the virtue of fools, but when it is a food joint, it is of cardinal importance as when u take a guest after exciting his/her interest u wouldn’t want to apologize for that day’s fare, on behalf of the F&B manager!!

Thirdly, KARIM’S itself claims to have the heritage of the chefs of the great Mughals. The claims notwithstanding, the foodstuff has to excite one’s taste buds. The memory not merely lingers but BECKONS. And believe u me, KARIM’s does it. IT BECKONS.

Fourthly, the ingredients which are noticeable to a devotee of BIRYANI. They are served in white porcelain half plates. As the waiter fetches the plate one’s attention is drawn to the somewhat whitish basmati rice. Initially having got used to inferior BIRYANI, i expected them to serve colourful biryani and was rather disappointed by its looks. But after having had the BIRYANI, i just couldn’t stop, there was this craving which overtook me and i ended up having 3 halves- which surprised me as well. One wouldn’t be able to identify the condiments except for whole black pepper and cardamom. I suppose. the rest of the condiments are ground and added according to measure. But i’m sure that there must be traces of mace, saffron, nutmeg, clove, poppy seeds etc all  layered to produce the inexplicable aroma.

I suppose, it is the layering of these condiments which brings about the redolence in the flavour. One may order for Mutton Burra as a starter and link up the biryani with JAHANGIRI chicken (but it is advisable to have the biryani by itself- therein lies the TRUTH!).

If at Delhi, it is better to have BIRYANI at KARIM’s Jumma Masjid.

If one finds oneself at Bangalore, there are places where apology for BIRYANI is being served. Rahmm’s (erstwhile RICHIE’S) at Frazer Town opp. the Masjid or at NANDHINI’s at St. Mark’s Road, Bangalore-1. But the BIRYANI which is better but different(vegetable) than the above mentioned two places is at BHEEMA’S on Church Street off M G Road. BHEEMA’S vegetable birayni has the flavour and is much ordered. At times they run out of it sooner than the MEALS!!

In Bangalore, there is this HYDERABADI BIRYANI, which is popular- for what reason is still a mystery to me. Maybe, the persons who buy it love to discover those small nuggets of flesh hidden at the bottom of the heap of rice – they call BIRYANI. Moreover this Hyderabadi Biryani has no refinement in its flavour, however, i should say it is tastier than other soggy biryanis at Bangalore.

In Madras ( now CHENNAI), there are joints which serve BIRYANI which is heavy with masala and they invariably serve it with  gravy (side dish) which makes it even worse. I was raised in this tradition, but now that God had made me see and distinguish the difference, i can’t afford to be so condescending. The biryani which used to sate my palate earlier was the GREAT MUGHAL BIRYANI sold behind EGA theatre off Poonamalee High Road. Their mutton samosas are good.

Velu Military Hotel at Village Road, Nungambakkam serves decent biryani- but not comparable with the best, even in Chennai.

I’d like to tell what my father always tells about BIRYANI, “Never ever ask for the recipe of BIRYANI, it is like calling oneself a Chartered Accountant without ever having been an Apprentice- he can neither advise nor cook!” TRUE WORDS OF WISDOM.

 If u r serious about making BIRYANI, meet the chef,  WATCH him choose the raw materials, condiments; keep a record of the TIME taken after each act of the chef and make an attempt- and u fail. Because making biryani is a FEEL and not mere knowledge! But don’t give up, as, if u succeed in learning the art of making BIRYANI, u have got a boon and even gods who granted it can’t take it away!!