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The biriyani chronicles

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Dum perfect Chef Denny Davies, foreground with Chef Anandan Nair at work
Dum perfect Chef Denny Davies, foreground with Chef Anandan Nair at work

‘Biriyani Hungama’, a biriyani festival is on at Woods Manor

Say ‘Biriyani’ and from somewhere, aromas waft in, warm scented ones, so that suddenly you find yourself swallowing! That’s what happened at Woods Manor when the dum biriyani was slit opened. The Biriyani Hungama that began on April 3 has a variety of biriyanis, some common, some not so common and some, truly special. If you love fish, there’s fish biriyani. Lovely chunks of fish with no fishy smell at all and the masala brown and rich, nestling amidst the rice, with a hint of yellow, from the saffron.

Awash in masala

Here a raisin, there a badaam, and the chicken piece is awash in masala that has the right zing. The rice is cooked just right and the pickle goes well with any kind of biriyani. The raita tastes rich, and the pappads just disappear! That is special Mughlai chicken biriyani for you.

Says chef Denny Davies, “We don’t compromise on the ingredients, that’s why you find it different.” The difference between an ordinary biriyani and a dum one is this: In dum, the rice absorbs all the flavours of the chicken, mutton, vegetables, fish or prawn in the biriyani.

Of the several special biriyanis, the Afghani, Shahjahani and Karachi biriyanis are different. It has white gravy, made with cashew and the spices are not strong.

Trademark masala

The Andhra chicken biriyani, on the other hand may make you cry, (tears of joy?) with its pungent masala, its trademark.

The Afghan chicken biriyani (nutmeg is an ingredient in this) goes through three stages of cooking. Once, the chicken is baked in the tandoor, it becomes fatless. Then it passes through two stages of cooking, that the other dum biriyanis go through: Half cooked rice and chicken or fish as the case may be, with the masala are dum-cooked.

The Moplah and Malabari style biriyani have a different type of preparation: the chicken is marinated, then fried a bit and then the masalas are added and cooked before being dum-cooked again. Chef Anandan Nair, who has worked in Hyderabad, Germany and the Gulf, is a biriyani specialist, who has been in Woods Manor for some time. The vegetable biriyani (dry fruits with pomegranate) is a treat for the palate. Cooking in slow heat with all the right ingredients in dum mode gives that special taste.

The welcome drinks are also different as also the décor and the uniform of the bearers.

Bearers wearing Pathani suits with waistbands, in light colours greet you and familiarise you with the biriyani menu.

“We have a lot of in-house talent which we are using for this festival,” says Chef Denny Davies. For dessert, you can have fried ice cream, another speciality here.

These special biriyanis come from Rs. 100 (vegetable) to Rs. 220 for the mutton ones and Rs. 135 for the chicken ones. Egg biriyanis come at Rs. 110, while the Afghani and Kashmiri are priced at Rs. 145.

The festival is on till April 13.

PREMA MANMADHAN

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