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Several urban legends have always been floating around about the true birthplace of the biryani. A common theory claims the dish has Persian roots; many also believe it originated in Mughal royal kitchens, while some even suggest it was derived from the Arab pilaf in South India. It is no big surprise, then, that there are as many versions of this magical mixed rice meal all over the country as there are tales of its origin. Pune offers a staggering variety of this fragrant delicacy as well.
The chain Dum-A-Dum, for instance, does some divine Awadhi-style slow-cooked dum biryani delicately infused with saffron and other exotic North Indian spices and loaded with succulent chicken or mutton chunks. They also do a matka biryani prepared in a clay pot, which lends a rustic, smokey flavour to the dish. Food Story, on Dhole Patil Road, rustles up a kachi yakhni biryani, which basically has raw marinated mutton layered with rice before being cooked together, so that the juices of the meat are fully absorbed into the grains. Mellower than your usual spice-laden affairs, it goes well with a bowl of cold raita.
Desi Aroma in Baner offers an exhaustive range of biryanis to choose from – there is the popular Hyderabadi version, another one with chicken tikka, as well as a beautiful raan biryani which has a whole leg of lamb creating a world of flavour in the bed of moist rice it comes nestled atop of. Madinah Restaurant in Kondhwa dishes out a delightfully cheap biryani with juicy slivers of buffalo meat and a generous sprinkling of crispy, golden-fried onions – absolutely scrumptious!
SP’s Biryani House, tucked away in a quaint bylane of Sadashiv Peth, is an old favourite – the ‘sazuk mutton biryani’ here is a mildly spiced rendition that features long grain rice and fall-off-the-bone meat both thoroughly soaked in pure ghee – sinful, but so worth it. They also offer all their biryanis in two types of chicken – gavran (country) and broiler.
If you are a seafood fiend, Gajalee’s prawn or fish biryanis (the former topped with crunchy, lightly fried prawns and the latter ensconcing some achingly tender pieces of either surmai or pomfret) would be a good bet for you. For homesick Bengalis, Wakad’s Kanaka Durga cooks up a lovely Kolkata-style biryani – gentle on spice levels and replete with soft potatoes and a boiled egg, creating an interesting texture play on your palate.
Savya Rasa in Koregaon Park makes a host of elusive biryanis hailing from different parts of South India. From a Kongu-style biryani flavoured with spoonfuls of coconut milk, which add a strangely creamy taste to the dish (it also comes accompanied with some coconut raita), a kozhi chatti biryani with pot-roasted pieces of chicken rubbed with a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon and carom, to a Thalassery meen biryani packed with juliennes of seer fish and Kerala spices; there is a lot you could surprise your taste buds with over here!
On that note, I am off to get my share of that meaty, greasy goodness.