One day the treasure that is South Indian food will be realized and somebody will take the pains to research the various types of biryani all over the southern states. Till then, we have to resign ourselves that some types will inevitably be more famous than others, like Hyderabadi biryani and to a lesser extent Moplah biryani.
Travel around Tamil Nadu and sooner or later you’ll encounter Dindigul biryani. Started in the eponymous town, it now has branches all over the state. Dindigul biryani, whose trade name is Thallapakkati (turban) knocks off a few myths. The owning family is not Muslim: in Tamil Nadu, the Rowthers – a Muslim community said to be of Turkish descent – have their own biryani, but it has never captured popular imagination like its country cousin from Dindigul. The latter is home to a breed of grass-fed goat called Micheri Ada, and it is this species that is used for the biryani which uses jeeraga-samba rice, so called because of its resemblance to jeera. Dindigul biryani as well as Ambur biryani, which again, is named after the place where it originated, are made by partially cooking the rice and meat separately, then layering them with chopped green chillies, mint and coriander leaves and finishing it on a slow fire.
If Ambur biryani has travelled far and wide, it is because of its position on the main highway that cuts across Tamil Nadu and goes into Karnataka. The lone pioneer of Ambur biryani, Star, is said to have modelled his preparation on the North Arcot nawabs’ royal kitchen, but today, it is safe to say that commerce has outpaced every other consideration. A whole industry has cropped up on North Arcot soil, with ‘parcel Ambur biryani’ being something of a byword for hungry travellers.
The third school of biryani emanates from the Chettinad district and features the assertive spices of the region, principally kalpasi and Marathi muggu that impart a deep, forest-like flavour. Happily, Smoky Chettinad, a tiny venture in Mayur Vihar, East Delhi is where one can ring +919958267921/+919560920440 and order a minimum of five plates of Mutton Biryani, Chettinad style, for the modest outlay of Rs 440 per plate. This particular type will be cooked on coal fire.
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