Biryani, and that too from road-side vendors- who eats that? Now there are two types of people in Kolkata. First, who loves biryani- in any damn form and secondly, the slightly health-conscious ones. This post is about the love interest of the first type. There are branded biryani joints (some of them discussed here) and then there are those lone warriors in this segment, who, over the time, has stood up to their forte. In this, series, rather in this part, I would love to highlight a few more joints, who mostly go unnoticed, but prepare pretty decent and are loved by many. Please be aware, this list is very very subjective, personal, and biased….. Hence, carry on at your own risk…
Okay, about roadside biryani, that’s a different game altogether in Kolkata. One may remember, this variety was not there around a decade back. But today, every gully, every para has at least one of the biryani sellers with the red cloth-covered handi. Subtlety is not really the USP for them. And a strong aroma of Ittar and Keora water can be felt. Now whether you like it or not, is a subjective question. The pricing is damn pocket-friendly and quantity is the keyword. Before the COVID lockdown, many roadside biryani vendors used to sell a half-portion biryani (with half aloo), but now it’s only a full plate. A complimentary helping of pre-sliced cucumber and onion (slad as they call it) or a laddle-full of kosha gravy is given on top as fau.
The origin of Biryani is uncertain. In North India, it is traditionally associated with the Mughlai cuisine of Delhi and the Awadhi cuisine of Lucknow; in South India, it is traditionally associated with the Hyderabadi cuisine. The word “biryani” is derived from Persian language. One theory is that it originates from “birinj”, the Persian word for rice. Another theory is that it derives from “biryan” or “beriyan” (to fry or roast).
Types of Biryani
There are two basic types of biryani: pakki (“cooked”, also pukka) and kacchi (“raw”, also kutchi). In pakki biryani, the cooked meat and cooked rice are layered. In the kacchi biryani, raw marinated meat is layered with raw rice before being cooked together. It is also known as kacchi yakhni. It is cooked typically with goat meat (usually ‘Khasi gosht’, which is meat from castrated goats and often simply referred to as mutton) or with lamb, and rarely with chicken or beef. The dish is cooked layered with the meat and the yogurt-based marinade at the bottom of the cooking pot and the layer of rice (usually basmati rice) placed over it. Potatoes are often added before adding the rice layer. The pot is usually sealed (typically with wheat dough) to allow cooking in its own steam and not opened till ready to serve. A boiled egg and mixed salad often accompany the dish.
It is featured in wedding feasts in Bangladesh, usually served with Burhani, a spicy drink. Kolkata biryani comes under the first (pakki biryani) type, whereas the Hyderabadi biryani comes under the second (Kacchi biryani) type.
Well, many in south Kolkata swear by the name Ratan’s biryani. It’s a typical roadside kiosk in front of the Ranikuthi telephone exchange. You can check the location on Google Map here. The owner’s name is Ashis Karmakar and the shop is in his son’s name. He can be reached on mobile at 9830662123. Operational hours are all 7 days 11 AM- 9 PM. Mutton and chicken, both the varieties are there and are respectively priced at 100/- and 130/- per plate. If you are game, you can enjoy the biryani by sitting there on the two plastic tools, or in the opposite narrow lane, they has a sit-out for 5-6 persons.
If we come to taste of this Roadside biryani, it’s pretty decent. I mean, at 130/- a plate, you can’t really expect much. The meat is soft, aloo is quite well-sized and sufficient amount of rice for one hungry soul. I prefer to reach there early- by 1 Pm, for the first cut of the biryani. The piping hot biryani is pure ecstasy unless you’re too snooty on the hygiene part. But eeven that’s not really compromised. They keep chilled mineral water jar for customers with disposable glass. Gloves and face masks are used while serving- no complaint on that part. I have one simple theory on this. If a place is there doing business for 20 years, it must have done something pretty good.
Let me share a secret- the sales volume for this shop can give many posh Biryani eateries an inferiority complex. And if you’re a regular, or talk nicely to the server, a spoonful of Kosha gravy will top your biryani, instead of the rubbish Salad.
This roadside biryani center is another hidden gem tucked inside Sadananda Road and is at a stone throw distance from the Hazra More, Bhowanipore. Please check the location on the google map here. Let me warn you, if you can’t stand strong aroma, DO NOT visit this place. But if you do, Tufani Biryani is heaven. It’s another shop serving roadside biryani for many years and is quite trusted by the locals and students of Ashutosh College nearby.
About the food
The rolls are pretty run-of-the mills, but biryani is good. The only problem you might face is getting a toll to sit and/ or the small plate with the hot biryani. I don’t know why they serve on such a small plate, but one reason can be the filled and topped up looks. again the thumb rule applies, meat- aloo and mandatory egg are there, with sufficient rice- but with a pretty strong aroma. But who cares, when you can get some good biryani in this price range.
Well, I understand we have many more good Roadside Biryani joints hidden in Kolkata and we would love to hear from you, on your favorite joints. Do let me know in the comments section for me to explore. And till then, enjoy !!!
Bon apetit !!!
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