Now that Copenhagen is essentially a resounding failure, my exams are finished, and christmas is coming, I thought I’d go for a more light hearted blog post, but one no less close to my heart.
Biryani, or pilao, is a rice dish cooked with meat or fish or vegetables – it’s my favourite food. Most food cultures have an equivalent: paella, risotto, jambalaya, jollof rice, nasi goreng etc.
What makes biryani stand out is that the rice is very slowly cooked in the cooking juices – nothing else makes a biryani. My (Hyderabadi) mother uses a very traditional method of par cooking the rice before layering it with the meat and sauce and then sealing the dish with a dough.
Every region of South Asia has its own recipe – some add nuts, raisins, potatoes, garnish with fried onion. There’s always a slight difference in the combination of spices.
There are very few places you can get real biryani in London. The vast majority of ‘Indian’ restaurants in the UK actually stir fry rice and a meat curry and call that biryani – it’s not. (But it can be nice too) In my experience the only place I’ve found it in restaurants is in east London – Bangladeshis make great biryani. Biryani House and Dhaka Biryani are the only places which regularly make real biryani. Every day they make a huge pot full and sell it in portions for £4 (or less) It is definitely worth the trip if you are biryani connoseur. Strangely they are a few doors away from each other – I’m sure I should know some economics reason for that to be the case. I used to work a few doors down at the Sure Start and went to these places way too often. Having said all this – they are a pale imitation of home made biryani – even mine is better than the restaurant version. They are also essentially cafes in pretty grim areas of London (sorry whitechapel high street) so you have to be really committed!
UPDATE: I just received an email from the manager of Kadiris restaurant in Willesden who says that they make the traditional style of biryani – I will definitely be looking into this!
BTW A remnant of the Jewish East End is Rinkoff’s, the best Jewish bakery in London (and I lived in Golders Green for six years). The bread is gorgeous.
Having worked in Whitechapel and Old Street, South Ken is unfortunately finding it hard to compete on the cheap food front. Lots of tourist traps. The uni food is okay and cheap though, but a bit like school dinners. So I thoroughly recommend that you venture beyond the immediate area; London is great for food!