Out of the few things that Kolkata is famous for, biryani is probably one of the toppers. In this post, we’ll divide the biryani scenario in Kolkata into 2 broad aspects , Kolkata Biryani and Hyderabadi dum style. And for Kolkata Biryani, I’ll check the following restaurants
- Shiraz, Mullikbazar crossing
- Royal, Chitpur
- Zeeshan, park circus
- Mezban- Rippon street
- India Hotel, khidderpore
For the adventurous types, the hyderabadi biryani has also set foot in Kolkata, despite the biggie being here. I’ll check only 2 joints
Please understand, there are lots of other good biryani joints in Kolkata, but I find only the above mentioned discussable. This is absolutely my personal opinion and all bashings welcome.
Let the quest begin…..
What is all the fuss about ?
Origin of biryani
The origin of Biryani is uncertain. In North India, it is traditionally associated with the Mughlai cuisine of Delhi and the Awadhi cuisineof 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 yeqni. 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 accompanies the dish.
It is featured in wedding feasts in Bangladesh, usually served with borhani, a spicy drink. Kolkata biryani comes under the first (pakki biryani) type, whereas the hyderabadi biryani comes under the second (Kacchi biryani) type.
The great Kolkata Biryani now …
Shiraz, Mullikbazar-Park St crossing
How to reach and when to go:
If you’re coming from sealdah, take the road towards AJC Bose road and you’ll find Mullikbazar crossing, from there, turn left and the second/third shop is Shiraz. From park circus crossing, take the park street and the first signal after park circus is mullikbazar crossing. Siraz is at your right-hand-side. It operates from morning 530 AM- 10 PM in the evening on all days
Just get in, choose any of the sofa and order for the Shiraz special biryani (eyes closed). This comes with 2 pcs of meat (chicken/ mutton), rice, 1 potato (the integral part of kolkata biryani) and recently they’ve started giving 1 boiled egg (god knows why). This is probably the second most subtle biryani in Kolkata, extremely lightly spiced, yellow and white rice mixed, its a treat for the eye as well for the smell…. forget about the tastebud. You’ll just fall in love with it by just the smell. I’ve been there probably a hundred times and still am little hyper about this place. The meat size (for chicken especially) is a little smaller compared to a few other joints, but taste and aroma makes up for it.
For heaven’s sake, please do not order champ with it, the champ, though being a great food at his own, just kills the mildness. This biryani goes extremely well with the mixed raita. The Shiraz Raita is spicy, yet having the correct blend of sweetness (depicting bengali woman ??? ). They make a pretty good paratha and mutton kalia too, but once you’ve found the champ, who cares for the second place holder ?
The second option for good Kolkata-style biryani in Kolkata is Royal Indian hotel, chitpur. I ranked Siraz is the second most subtile tased biryani place in Kolkata- Royal comes as the top spot holder.
How to reach and when to go
Royal is bang opposite to the Nakhoda Masjid, chitpur. For reaching the same, either, you’ve to follow the tram-line from Poddar court towards chitpur and you’ll reach Nakhoda Masjid. Or, from central avenue-MG Road crossing, you’ve to take MG Road towards howrah station and get down a the Nakhoda stoppage. They operate from 11 AM till 1030 PM every day.
One you get in front of the place, do not even think of saving the small bucks and go straight to the first floor via the long flight of stairs. There’s an AC section as well as an old fashioned cabin wala non-AC section. Choose as per your convenience. Royal is famous for its Mutton and chicken Champ and roomali roti. The champ is brillliant here and worth a mention even in this write-up on biryani. In the mutton champ, its actually difficult to make out where the gravy ends and the meat starts, such is the smoothness- sheer brilliance. Roti is a little thick here unlike other places- just made for the champ. Go for it.
And then order the underrated item- Biryani. Long grained rice making subtle love with the meat pieces- ahhhh…. sheer gastronomic poetry. the biryani here is a little more yellow-colored (or is it the yellow-ish lighting ? ), extremely smooth yet slightly spiced up with peepery taste in taste and that is THE keyword. Definitely and highly recommended.
They surprisingly never serve raita, but the biryani makes up for it.
Zeeshan, park circus
How to go and when to go:
Next in the line comes the Zeeshan, park circus. Its situated in between park circus 7-point crossing and recent Quest mall and is a landmak in itself. Just like Siraz, Zeeshan operates from morning 6 AM to 1030 PM at night.
The Zeeshan Biryani is like making a 30-ish woman. Hot and full-bodied. It takes on the palate immediately and subtlity is not her cup of tea. The taste is definitely good and little rich in taste.
Earlier they used to serve as per client request of Sukha cut biryani (the dry, less spicy rice portion from the biryani handi with meat) and Gila cut (rich, more aromatic portion from the handi) but now like all good things, they’ve stopped it. But, if you tip the waiter well enough, who knows what might happen. The make a surprisingly well Chicken rashmi kabab also, worth a try.
Mezban- Rippon street
Mezban is a new entrant (as compared to others) in the Kolkata Biryani scenario and has already curved a name for itself in the market. Its a small shop tucked in Rippon street (the formal address is 6, Beside Dustarkhwan, Ripon Street, Wellesley, Kolkata ).
Some people, unlike me, prefer the strong aroma of mitha attar and keora water in the biryani. Mezban is for them. They beautifully balance the strong aroma from getting overboard. Rice is long grained and quantity is huge. May not be the best but worth a try.
India Restaurant, Khidderpore
The last contender in this segment is India Restaurant and Caterer, khidderpore.
How to reach and when to go:
This is just beside the fancy market and 5-star market in Khidderpore. And that’s the biggest landmark there. They operate from 11 AM to 11 PM at night.
Now this is a place worth at least one visit by kolkata biryani lovers. Their biryani is neither subtle nor very strong, aromatic. Its extremely balanced and full-bodied. The portion is pretty huge and very much likable. They make a surprisingly good fish tikka- spicy but very, very good.
If you are looking for a subtle Kolkata biryani, go for Siraz (despite their small meat size) or Royal (almost perfect) and if you love an aromatic Kolkata styled biryani, go for the India Hotel (despite the locality) or Zeeshan (difficult-to-get car parking).
THE Hyderabadi biryani
For the kachhi biryani lovers, kolkata biryani scenario has got their hyderabadi options. In this style, raw meat and rice are cooked together. This version of biryani is spicy and subtlity is not its forte. Instead of one/ two big meat pieces like Kolkata Biryani, hyderabadi biryani comes with multile small/ medium meat pieces and noticingly no potato. Egg is given though for the Kolkatan’s love for it.
For the hyderabadi cuisine, Khwab is a well-known joint. They’ve got their outlets in Deshapriya Park, Girish Park and Unnayan, Ajay Nagar and their base kitchen in Kasba, Ruby. The specialty of this place is they serve hyderabadi cuisine dedicatedly and know their business damn well. I tasted their mutton handi biryani family pack with salan gravy and raita. At 350/- a package, they give rice (enough for 2 heavy eaters), 6 medium pieces of meat and 2 eggs. Extremely VFM.
The taste is pretty good. Its spicy but not fiery- full bodied but balanced and extremely tasty. Rice is of fine quality and meat is tender. The biryani is spiced up with jaiphal, javitri and chakriphool among other secret ingredients. The Salan gravy was pretty thick but being a bong basically, I preferred the biryani without it. Definitely worth a try. They do a home delivery above 800/- Rs billing (which is justified) and outdoor catering.
Tamarind, Lansdown Road
The last entrant in this biryani category is Tamarind, Sharat Bose Road. They are one of the oldest restaurants in Kolkata serving non-veg south Indian dishes and thus taking bengalis out of the mindset that south-indian dishes consist of only idli-dosas….. hats off to them for the courage way back then.
How to reach and when to go:
This is one of the easy-located restaurants. Located on the Sharat Bose Road, just opposite to the deshapriya park and second (or third…. ) building on the deshapriya park-lansdown road crossing towards manoharpukur. They operate from 12 noon- 330 PM and 7 Pm- 11 PM at night on all days.
The non-veg dishes in Tamarind is extremely tasty and worth a try, but the Hyderabadi Biryani here disheartened me.
I am not very sure, whether it was a bad day for the chef or the recipe is like that. The biryani that I got is extremely dry. They gave 2 pcs of meat and rice in a plate (rice quantity is little less for a heavy eater like me), moderately spiced, tastefully garnished (I had it parceled though). But, its dry and not juicy. I worked in south India for considerable number of years and tasted hyderabadi biryani probably a hundredth time, but its not the taste. For somebody who never tasted original hyderabadi biryani, it’ll probably taste great (I mean literally) but for me, a no no. Sorry, Tamarind, I would rather visit you for your other dishes (for which you’re one of the champs), but for biryani, sorry.
Khwab wins hands down for the hyderabadi biryani, nothing doing.
Hope the above info helps somebody for having an idea about the famed biryani scenario in Kolkata. As I mentioned, there are n-number of outlets serving biryani and some are pretty popular too. But, as per my taste, I felt the above worth mentioning.
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