Which is India’s most cosmopolitan city? If biryani is the yardstick to measure how diverse a city’s ethnicity is, then Bengaluru might be the city to stake that claim. While the city’s donne biryani – that has been served in military hotels for over a century, might be the city’s ‘original’ biryani, it is by no means the only one. Unlike Hyderabad, where the local biryani style rules the roost or Chennai, where biryanis from Ambur and Dindigul lead the pack, Bengaluru is literally a melting pot of biryanis. From Kolkata to Ambur to Thalassery to Lucknow, you can experience biryanis from across India without leaving town.
1. Donne Biryani
Bengaluru’s signature biryani takes its name from the arecanut palm cups that it’s served in. Bengaluru’s military hotels have been a quintessential part of the city’s foodscape since the beginning of the 20th century. Many of the city’s old school military hotels are in the heart of ‘Old Bangalore’, areas like Cottonpet and Malleshwaram. This biryani is traditionally not as spicy as the Hyderabadi biryani; it gets its unique flavours from the short grain seeraga samba rice, generous quantity of mint leaves and the meat marination technique that also includes curd. Try this at Ranganna Military Hotel in Jayanagar or at New Govind Rao Military Hotel in Chickpet.
2. Andhra-Style Biryani
Nagarjuna on Residency Road boasts of a loyal legion of fans. This restaurant has grown to become a chain but old-timers still head back to Residency Road. Nagarjuna’s Andhra meals are legendary with their spicy ‘podis’ (powders) but I also go back for their fiery Andhra-style biryani packed with flavours and cooked with tender mutton.
3. Thalassery Biryani
A welcome departure from the spicy biryanis, this version from Northern Kerala is cooked with aged, small grain, khaima rice and uses a subtle spice mix with a sprinkling of cashews and raisins. The cooking style is unique – the rice and the meat are cooked separately and then assembled together to cook in a dum style. Kappa Chakka Kandhari in Koramangala does one of the best versions of this dish. You can also try it at the eponymous Thalassery in Kammanahalli.
4. Kolkata-Style Biryani
A biryani with a fascinating back story that begins in the 1850s, when Wajid Ali Shah was banished from Lucknow to Kolkata. The Kolkata Awadhi style biryani is believed to have originated in his kitchen in Kolkata with its unique use of potato and eggs (that was apparently done to deal with the shortage of meat). Ask anyone who has moved from Kolkata to Bengaluru and they’re likely to direct you to Lazeez in Koramangala for the best spin on the Kolkata biryani in town.
5. Lucknow Biryani
There’s something irresistible about an authentic Awadhi-style biryani from Lucknow. This is not an overly spicy biryani but one that is full of subtle flavours that are enhanced by the slow dum-style cooking method. Kebabs and Kurries at ITC Gardenia Bengaluru is one of my favourite spots for an authentic Lucknow-style biryani. The restaurant also serves signature dishes like the Dal Bukhara and Sikandari Raan.
6. Bhatkali Biryani
I still remember the first time I tried this biryani on a road trip from Mangaluru to Goa. It is road trippers along this scenic route in coastal Karnataka that have put the spotlight on this biryani. Many of them make the stop at Kwality hotel in Bhatkal. You can also try this out in Alibaba Café in Frazer Town that serves an authentic version of the Bhatkali biryani marinated in a spicy onion masala.
7. Ambur Biryani
If I have to pick one version of biryani from Tamil Nadu, it would be the Ambur biryani. This famous biryani town is also a global sourcing hub for fine leather products and is halfway between Bengaluru and Chennai. It’s the unique cooking style – where the rice and meat are cooked separately before bringing them together in a covered vessel in traditional ‘dum’ style, that sets it apart. Cooks use both basmati rice and the small grain local seeraga samba rice. If you don’t have the time for the three-hour drive to Ambur, you can head to outlets like new Ambur Biryani Point in Koramangala for your Ambur biryani fix.
Hope you liked these options. Do let us know your opinion in the comment section below.
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie – a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.