An ongoing promotion at Sangam hotel’s Chembian restaurant allows foodies to sample variations of the sumptuous dish.

Biryani. The word brings mouth-watering memories of the gastronomic delights that I first sampled in my childhood, the tasty dish that I’m hooked to even today.

The fragrant and scrumptious dish is prepared with a mixture of spices and condiments, rice (usually basmati rice), meat or vegetables and yoghurt. The dish finds its origins in the Mughal dynasty and derives its name from a Persian word beryan, which means fried or roasted.

Vegetarian or non-vegetarian, mild or spicy, as a standalone dish or combined with a complementary curry and/or raitha, the appeal of an authentically prepared biryani is indisputable.

Being a biryani lover, I am always keen to try out varieties of the dish, prepared in the different states of our country. So, when Sangam hotel in the city launched the ‘Flavours of India - Biryani Food Festival’, I headed straight to their restaurant to sample the exotic variations they had on offer.

The Chembian restaurant, where the festival is being held is minimalist in décor. Beautiful paintings and colourful cloth decorations hang from the ceiling. The unmistakable aroma of various spices wafts through as soon as you enter. Waiters dressed in traditional kurta pyjamas welcome me graciously and show me to my seat.

“We have chosen to highlight four varieties of biryanis on each day of the festival. This makes it easy for our customers to exclusively sample the varieties and not be bogged down by two many varieties in a day. This way, they can relish the uniqueness of each kind of biryani,” said K.Selvam, food and beverages manager, Sangam hotels.

The menu changes each day so that it is interesting for connoisseurs, he added.

The hotel has on offer approximately 40 varieties of biryani, spread over the 11-day festival. Each day of the festival has four varieties of biryani; two vegetarian and two non-vegetarian.

The biryanis are prepared using mostly two kinds of rice, says Chef Antony Samy - Seeraga samba rice, a tiny grained aromatic variety that gets its name from its resemblance to cumin, known as seeragam in Tamil Nadu, and the universally loved long grain Basmati rice known for its fragrance and delicate flavour.

I started off with the nawabi shahi chicken biryani, the taste of which matched its appetising aroma. It was prepared in Mughlai style with basmati rice, cooked in traditional ‘dum’ method with chicken, which left a juicy aftertaste.

I followed it up with some of the yummy looking Hyderabadi vegetable biryani, which proved to be a worthy competitor to its non-vegetarian counterpart. A liberal dose of veggies and fruits, such as cucumber, grapes, green peas and carrots cut into interesting shapes, made the biryani, made with basmati rice, not only interesting to look at, but also victorious in the taste department.

Next in line was the south Indian delicacy, Ambur mutton biryani. Known to leave your fingers with an appealing aroma after consumption, the dish was quite spicy and had ‘south Indian’ written all over it. Made with Seeraga samba rice, it didn’t need any curry and was a meal by itself.

Finally, I tried out the Kabuli channa biryani, a mild vegetable dish made of seeraaga samba rice. With a liberal dose of cashews for good measure, coupled with the kabuli channa (chickpea), the biryani was mild and had a light juicy texture, not too filling and sat lightly on the stomach.

All through, Uttar Dakshin Murgh, a sweetish, delicious chicken curry complemented the biryanis. It went well with the mild kabuli channa biryani as well as Hyderabadi biryani. Raithas were simply not required for any of the briyanis which were good as standalone dishes.

With all four briyanis tasted, I was full to bursting and had to decline the offer of desserts.

Apart from the briyanis other things on offer in this promotion include a welcome drink, vegetarian and non-vegetarian starters, soups, salads, curries, naans, rotis and an array of desserts.

The dinner buffet is priced at Rs. 550 plus taxes and is on from 7.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m., daily till September 8. For reservations call: 0431-4244555/2414700