Midnight Biryani Run in Hor Al Anz

There’s an area in Deira which is a GOLDMINE of Indian and Pakistani restaurants. It’s called Hor Al Anz, and it’s not the same as Hor Al Anz East. Let me explain this very critical difference.

If you were assaulted by my blog posts last year or earlier this year, you would have read Hor Al Anz East in association with pots of Moroccan tagine, folds of cheesy Egyptian feteer, and three-foot long Iranian sangak bread that I shovelled down with juicy logs of kabab koobideh. Hor Al Anz East is a self-contained square of Middle Eastern and North African specialities. So if you’re craving Ethiopian doro watt or Egyptian koshari or Omani sweets, this is where you’d go: right across from the Abu Hail Metro, behind the old Ramada Hotel and in the same block as the Canadian Speciality Hospital.

But if you’re craving biryani or dosas, then you’re in the wrong part of town. You need to trot over to an adjacent neighbourhood, Hor Al Anz. Hor Al Anz should really be termed Hor Al Anz West, but in the grander scheme of keeping this city’s urban planning as counter intuitive as possible, it’s just been called Hor Al Anz. This Indo-Pak pocket of restaurants is tucked away behind the United Hypermarket, on the road heading from the Clock Tower towards the Deira Corniche.

Now that thats clear, let’s talk about a Hyderabadi restaurant that I finally walked out of, feeling like I had come THAT much closer to a biryani resembling the one made by the gifted hands of my very own Hyderabadi mother. While the biryani we had at Anmol was still at Pluto relative to Mom’s version, at least it was still in the same galaxy. That’s really, really rare. Even one of the most acclaimed biryanis I’ve tasted in Hyderabad (Paradise, overrated I tell you.) doesn’t orbit half as close to mom’s as the mutton biryani we ate at Anmol.

Anmol’s Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani, a very teeny tiny atomic step closer to mom’s version.

The key was that the rice grains were fluffy, easily separable, and not greasy. Biryani grains that leave an oily slick down your fingers should be instantly downgraded to an inferior race of biryani, and EJECTED out into the ether…floating like helpless, unwanted, greasy grains of rice amongst lonely particles of astro dust. Harsh? Yes. But do your tastebuds deserve better? A resounding YES that makes a paddy field of basmati rice rumble in agreement.

Then there are biryanis where the mutton is chewy. I don’t know what to tell you about chewy meat in a biryani, other than it should never happen. Never ever. But it does, and you shouldn’t have to suffer your jaws through it. In a city with innumerable biryani options, not just the Hyderabadi kind but those prevalent across other cultures, you don’t need to be a biryani slave. A fellow blogger recently shone the light on the Sindhi biryani at Pak Liyari, so go out there and help yourself with a big fat serving of the right thing.

While Anmol got two of the most fundamental yet flouted principles of biryani right, it lacked the sultry saffron aroma and ghee-kissed soul that a high-quality biryani would seduce its diners with. To be fair, Anmol is a hole-in-the-wall joint, one whose biryani is meant to feed the throngs of bachelors in Hor Al Anz at a jaw-droppingly low price, not be analysed by some snooty biryani critic who patches together a few four syllable words and calls it a review.

We may have pioneered the first female footsteps into Anmol that night. I’m going to start carrying around a ‘Female Has Been Here’ Flag in my boot for such momentous occasions in the future.

But it was a very well-made biryani, made even better with thick dollops of mirchi ka salan. Mirchi ka salan literally translates into gravy of chillies, and while the version mom makes at home will give you your own personal rocket fuel to China and back, this one kept me rooted to the spot, praying that my friends wouldn’t discover the dish before I could stealthily overturn the entire bowl into my own plate. The gravy was a slow-simmered potion of three prominent flavours, coconut, toasted sesame and sour tamarind. And when the flavours had successfully melded into each other, the gravy wandered off the stove-top in search of the perfect biryani grain for its nutty, tangy vows.

Other dishes that hit the spot on this midnight dinner run were a creamy, coconut-coated Chicken Noorani and a Khatti Daal that was soured with tamarind and tempered with peppery mustard seeds. Both were sopped clean off my plate with stretchy coils of South Indian paratha. The dahi wade were less successful. The fried balls of black gram lentil were far denser than the soft, fluffy globes my tastebuds have been trained to hunt out in similar bowls of coriander and chilli-speckled yogurt that mom prepares at home.

Clockwise, from top left: Coconutty creamy Chicken Noorani, tongue-squinching sour lentils, aka Khatti Daal, South-Indian style Parathas, and Dahi Wada with dense fritters bobbing about a spice tempered yogurt

Anmol is not the place you visit alone if you’re a lone lady. Make no mistake, this is a raw, testosterone-pumped South Indian bachelor joint. There’s no menu, save the list scrawled on the wall—which is only suggestive of what could be available on any particular day. If you’re really craving some authentic coconut and tamarind spotted curries and a hefty bowl of tender mutton spaded right out of a massive old-school aluminium cauldron of biryani (degda), then call ahead and drive by for a takeout.

Anmol Hyderabadi Restaurant
Google map
Phone: +971 (4) 297 6646

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

11 thoughts on “Midnight Biryani Run in Hor Al Anz

  1. chirag says:

    Love it as usual! I really missed out, didn’t I? :(

    ’Female has been here’ flag sounds like a brilliant idea btw. Maybe you should have them as giveaways on the tours?

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @twitter-18575450:disqus – no dude, not a veggie-friendly place I would say. And those flags are in production…once I get elastic stretchy pajamas to hand out to overstuffed people at the end of the tour. It’ll have a little frying panesque message at the back: Caution: Sizzling Hot. Handle with Care.

      Maybe I will expand the colour selection from white to dirty yellow too. Always good to give customers options.

  2. StuffYourFace.net says:

    brilliant post. hor al anz is an interesting neighbourhood. i spent the better part of a day tracking the cabbie who stole my phone. so the phone tracking software identified the buidling and the wing where the phone was hidden. only in that 1000 square feet area – there were 25 bengalis stacked up in triple bunks. needless to say i never got my phone back.

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @e179160cd861176321da16c21f45cfe1:disqus – hahhaaha…sorry to hear about the phone, but hope you got yourself some biryani in the area to console yourself after that escapade!

  3. Rads says:

    I would go back to this place in a heartbeat .. real soul food!
    Lovely b/w shot of the restaurant Arva!

    1. inafryingpan says:

      @fd883b4c14da93e981870cc9c332b55f:disqus – girl, thanks for accompanying me into the bachelorhood – we will be back, maybe on an off-day that they decide to have some pukka hyderabadi dessert in stock.

  4. Hasher Ummar says:

    Haha, #Brave walking in there , the area has another called Silver eagle, they have this special chicken tikka masala think at just aed 7

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      Hasher – thanks for the tip! I will keep my beady eyes peeled for Silver Eagle the next time I’m in Hor Al Anz :)

    2. inafryingpan says:

      @facebook-899315214:disqus – thanks for the tip, I will have my greedy eyes peeled for Silver Eagle the next time I’m in that neighborhood!

  5. anita menon says:

    The Biryani looks amazing. Had some for Eid at a friend’s who had made a Kolkatta version of the same. Was sumptuous

  6. ahmed says:

    being hyderabadi ..i can say anmol hyderabadi is ok…but their is one more restaurent called kings palace..not only their biryani, they u have lot of options like chi 65, patyala mutton …and list is go on on…simply delicious


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