The once royal recipe among the kings - "Biryani" has now become a staple food for many including the working class. There is always a soft corner for Biryani in all of us. Whatever traditional or continental or fusion dish you crave for, a good biryani always has preference above all this. Biryani is available in Chennai in almost every street, in fact every 10th shop will be a Biryani joint. You have biryani's in different flavors and varieties and at different price points. This blog details some of the famous types of biryani available in Chennai and some favorite joints which serve them.
If we go 15 years back, I could only think of one Biryani restaurant called “Hyderabad Biryani” near IDM Bridge (Egmore). There were times when I used to pass through this shop and wonder how someone can run a restaurant serving just Biryani and no other food. I was so curious that I stopped by one day to have the biryani served there. It was more like Chicken 65 pieces in Kuska (plain biryani) and I believed it to be the so called famous Hyderabad Biryani. This was until I went to Hyderabad and tasted Paradise Biryani. I was never a biryani fan till then.
The biryani scene in Chennai changed only in recent years (around a decade or so) with Thalapakatti Biryani (not the original one) entering the scene. What started off as a simple shop near Koyambedu junction, quickly spread out to various parts of the city and became famous instantly! It was the talk of the town and the word Thalapakatti was used everywhere and in every context (including movies). However, this dint go well with a restaurant owner in Dindigul, who claimed to be the custodians of the “Thalapakatti” branded Biryani and its recipe. There was a huge legal battle and finally Dindigul Thalapakatti won the case. To avoid such issues in future and with the latest generation taking ownership, Dindigul Thalapakatti expanded their base throughout the state.
The erstwhile Thalapakatti Biryani was renamed as Chennai Rawther Biryani now. However, till today I don’t see any resemblance in taste or flavour or texture of both these biryani's. Both are completely different. Chennai Rawther is more like a typical Muslim marriage biryani with Basmati rice and several meat pieces. Whereas the preparation of Dindigul Thalapakatti biryani is completely different with powdered spices and Jeeraga Sambha rice (broken). Dindigul Thalapakatti won the battle, but it never stopped people from using the word "Thalapakatti"... you can still see one out of every three biryani joints have the same surname, but be rest assured each serve different types of Biryani.
We also had another Biryani shop which became famous during this time called the Kalyana Biryani. All of us know the best biryanis are served in Muslim marriages. So the name Kalyana Biryani emanates from the same (Marriage biryani). Their restaurant in Parrys is still one of my favourite. The more recent entrants to the scene are Aasife (and Aasife brothers), which created a brand for itself and claims to be the best biryani in the world. While they serve good typical Kalyana Biryani, as they expanded to various locations, the quality was compromised (and got into several debt issues as well). Infact one of their largest joint in OMR was closed down recently.
However, you ask any local from Chennai they will swear that the best biryani is served in the smaller and non-branded joints. Ya Mohideen Biryani and Charminar Biryani Center are the names which no Biryani lovers will miss. Ya Mohideen is in Pallavaram and serves yummy biryani with lot of meat in it. It is priced high but worth for the quantity of meat in it. Further the bread halwa served along with the Biryani is a treat in itself. They have just started expanding recently to other places in the city. Recently opened in Perumbakkam (near my place) and I never wished to enter the place (check the photo), as it’s always crowded. Better to order online.
Charminar biryani in Royapettah is one of the oldest and “worth the price” biryani you can get in Chennai. It’s always crowded and the mutton biryani normally gets sold out by 12noon. You will be surprised to see they sell buckets also along with Biryani (cross sellJ), but no – it’s for the take away. The next one is Sukkubhai Biryani in Alandur. They serve Beef Biryani and tasty beef side dishes too. This is again a very old joint which has just started to expand (recently opened in OMR). But I found their biryani little spicy.
The next set of restaurants which serve decent biryani’s are the old styled Mallu joints like Buhari (several places in Chennai), Zam Zam (Parrys), Crescent (Nungambakkam and few other places), Topsee (Adyar) etc. They serve a type of biryani which is a mix of Kalyana biryani and Malabar biryani. It’s normally served with an Egg and raitha. The problem with such joints is that the biryani rice (Kuska) taste the same for any kind of biryani. They normally just change the meat (either mutton or chicken) based on the customer’s requirement. Sometime you may get pieces picked from gravy dishes and added to the biryani as well. Also, the quantity of tomatoes used is very high, which makes it little sour. That’s not a real biryani in my opinion. Some Chettinadu joints also serve similar Biryani’s like Ponuswamy and Anjappar.
There are some joints which do serve authentic Malabar biryani. Sea shell is the best. Malabar biryani has lot of ghee and spices with an excess of Raisin which adds to the sweetness. “Maplai” restaurant and Kumarakom also serve good Malabar/Thalasseri Biryani. They also serve Hyderabadi Biryani. Oops, how can I forget the Hyderabad Biryani joints in Chennai!! We do have Paradise Biryani in several places and recently Hyderabad House also opened an outlet in OMR. Paradise has lost its taste completely after expansion to other places. What they serve these days is not their trademark biryani which you get to eat in Hyderabad. “Rasavid” is another restaurant joint in South Chennai which claims to serve authentic Hyderabad biryani. Honestly, am yet to eat an authentic Hyderabadi biryani in Chennai. Incase any of you know one, please tag this post.
The next type of Biryani which is famous in Chennai is the Ambur Biryani. Ambur biryani gets its name from the place Ambur close to Chennai where you can find every alternate shop serving this biryani. Star Biryani is one who branded this and expanded to several cities. They also use Jeeraga Sambha rice and it tastes more like Kalyana Biryani. Apart from these there are several biryani shops in every street which sell largely under the suffix of Ambur and Thalapakatti biryani and sometimes it’s called 1KG biryani (two pieces of chicken and rice weighing 1 kg). These are not of great quality. It’s best to avoid these unless you are on a tight budget and don’t care much about the quality of food served. Lastly, you must have heard about the Behrouz Biryani (dark kitchen model) served online in all platforms. Its a good option if you need a very rich flavour full biryani but very costly.
To make it easy for you, am listing below some of these joints (NOT IN ANY ORDER) which you can try out when in Chennai.
Best Kalyana Biryani (or typical Muslim Marriage biryani’s)
Charminar Biryani Center
Ya Mohideen Biryani
Aasife (and Aasife and brothers)
Thalapakatti Biryani - Dindigul Thalapakatti
Beef Biryani - Sukkubai
Malabar / Thalasseri Biryani - Sea Shell, Kumarakom, Maplai
Ambur Biryani – Star
Hyderabad Biryani (kind off) –Sea Shell, Rasavid, Hydrabad House, Paradise
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