Biryani centre by day, kabab paradise by night — Sangam Biryani in Old Delhi has a foodie’s day covered, writes Rahul Verma
I have been eating a lot of biryani these last few days. And the more I eat biryani, the more I want it. Last week I ate some home-cooked mutton biryani, and then tried out a plate of Dilli-wallah chicken biryani for a change in taste. But the craving continued so I went to Old Delhi one day in search of some buff biryani. My destination was Sangam Biryani. The place has earned a name in the area — mainly because it is run by the son of the best kababchi of Old Delhi, Moinuddin.
Sangam Biryani is opposite the Hamdard Dawakhana in Lal Kuan, at the mouth of Gali Qasim Jan. Moinuddin used to sit on the pavement opposite a butcher’s shop and grill his kababs, which were so good that people came from all over just to taste his stuff.
Then Moinuddin made a name for himself, the small kabab counter became famous, and he ended up buying a shop for himself right there.
Moinuddin, of course, sells his kababs in the evenings. Since there is not much of a tradition of buying and eating kababs in the afternoons, the family decided to sell biryani in the daytime. The shop is managed by his son Mohammed Abid (Ph: 9891197023), who sits there with a big degh of biryani.
There is a small seating area inside, but I bought a kilo of biryani (for Rs.100) — which was packed with a helping of chutney prepared with curd, mint and green chillies — and brought it back home.
I liked the biryani. The grain was long and fragrant, and had been cooked just right. The meat pieces were soft and spicy and complemented the rice, which was just mildly spiced. The rice had been cooked with green chillies, which gave it a delectable flavour.
The next time you are there, you must pay attention to the way a bawarchi scoops out the biryani from the degh. He uses a small plate, and starts taking out the rice and meat from the sides of the degh. If you go straight to the centre of the biryani, you can very easily spoil the ratio of rice and meat and the texture of the rice. The idea is to scoop it out (kaatna, as they say locally) in such a way that you get the right quantity of rice with meat in it. Abid then weighs it on a tarazu (weighing scales) and gives it to you.
Old Delhi has some great biryani places. Among the most famous ones is Bhura biryaniwallah, who sits on the pavement near Matia Mahal. But Bhura is eccentric — sometimes he is there, and there are times when he is AWOL. The biryani that Haji Saab sells (behind Turkman Gate) is delicious, but his food gets over by 12.30 p.m., so you really have to reach the place before noon to be able to taste his biryani. In that sense, Sangam is a safe bet. They sell till late afternoon, and if you are really late, you can hang around there for the kabab shop to open at 7 p.m.
I am happy that Moinuddin’s family is doing well. May their food be forever in demand.