I’ve been spoilt rotten by Mom’s Hyderabadi Biryani.

I just refuse to eat biryani anywhere else but home. On the rare occasion that I do, the rice will be too greasy, meat not tender enough, coloring too excessive, saffron not enough – or too much of it, and a basketful of other complaints that I attribute all to years of growing up on the Bestest Biryani Ever.

Don’t for a second be under the misconception that this post will reveal mom’s biryani recipe and all the trade secrets that get baked into this complex symphony of meat, basmati and spices…my lips are sealed. What can I share is this heaped up plate of mutton biryani from our biryani dinner party last week. Non-greasy, perfectly fluffed apart colorful rice grains, meat that’s been blasted into tenderness in a pressure cooker, and soaked through and through with a yoghurt-based marinade, and that rich biryani essence throbbing with pure ghee and saffron that slams your senses as you bring a mouthful of fragrant meaty rice close to your face…

See that layer of cashews and fried onions up on top? Salty, crunchy, nutty, and addictive as all hell…mom always makes the mistake of leaving the nutty garnish on a plate in some obvious visible corner of the kitchen, right within reach of greedy paws that may be lurking around [turns to grin at sister accomplice].

Mom even made a vegetable biryani this time around, and it was phenomenal. While I love the meat biryani, sometimes the meat gets you distracted from the other spices and aromas going on in this multi-layered dish. With the veggie version, the saffron and spices really came alive to a whole other level.

Other treats accompanying the biryani…

Lukmi [aka look me!]. The deep-fried minced meat in pastry starter than nearly risked killing everyone’s appetites before the plates of biryani emerged. Lukmi is a close relative of the samosa…though in my opinion, the dough casing is far more thick, crunchy and flavorful than the thin samosa skin.

And like all things deep-fried and crunchy, lukmi deserves to be dunked into some tamarind chutney, lemon pickle, or my all-time simple but super versatile sauce, ketchup.

Up above you’ve got Kachori. Another deep-fried starter, though a veggie one with the distinct taste of fennel seeds and coriander powder. Best had with chai, or as breakfast, or during snack time…anytime really if you’re a big time kachori fan *points vigorously to self*

Crunchy papad. Can’t have an Indian party without papadums.

Raita, the most simple and traditional of biryani side dishes made of yoghurt, chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, coriander powder and if you like a touch of heat, some red chilli powder. There’s something so good, so ridiculously comforting, about having that cool yoghurty shower in your mouth accompanying a biteful of steaming hot rice and spicy meat. Every biryani worth its rice deserves a fat spoonful of chilled raita.

Bagare Baigan…whole eggplants simmered in an uber-nutty, earthy gravy pulsing with sesame, coconut, cumin, peanuts, lemon and a host of other South Indian spices, all tossed in with a true-to-mom artistic flair that escapes anyone trying to document the magic in a recipe.

Tomato Kut – tomato gravy infused two prominent South Indian flavors, coconut and curry leaves. This has been an all-time childhood favourite of mine…I can lick bowls of Tomato Kut clean, right down to the last curry leaf soaked in tomato gravy (ever tried munching on a curry leaf? If you haven’t, GET ON IT.)

And finally for dessert, custard withtraditional Hyderabadi Qubani ka Meetha…thick stewed apricot compote. Over the top sweet, rich and fruity, it’s one of those things whose sweet decadence is best mellowed out with custard or yoghurt or ice cream. Or with thick fresh cream, aka malai, befiitting a traditional Hyderabadi wedding.

Those teeny almond-looking things are apricot kernels. My google attempt to find a more technical term than ‘almond-looking things’ resulted in some shocking findings…I found a few references to how these innocuous looking babies release cyanide in our bodies…wha…?! um, mommie? Mom and I are still in shock – years of (non-fatal) tradition being questioned in one fell Google swoop. Worse, online references are fairly lacking in proper information on this topic. Anyone out there have solid, conclusive info that they can share on the subject? I’ve got to confirm whether this scare is real or whether there’s another layer to it that I’m missing. Anyhoo, till we find more intel on the topic, no kernel garnish in the future.

On a full belly that night, there were two thoughts that drifted in and out of my food coma’d head. First, that moms are so selfless. I groan and take cover in some unreachable place of the house every time she asks me for computer advice or to help about with little odds and ends…and here, the same lady goes and cooks this feast for my sister’s and my friends on Tuesday. By the law of what goes around comes around, I’m still waiting for life to smack me in the face for this gross injustice. Some sage people in my life have said that the smack will be delivered with a heightened sense of poetic justice when I have my own children. Till that day, I’ll sit brat-faced and comfy on my computer chair, eating biryani leftovers and feeling helplessly wretched about my shameless take, no-give equation with mom.

Second food-drugged thought: dang, that biryani was to DIE for.

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.

21 thoughts on “I’ve been spoilt rotten by Mom’s Hyderabadi Biryani.

  1. Lin says:

    The first time I tasted Hyderabadi Biryani was at our wedding, been in love with it ever since. Soooo very jealous I missed it. Looks awesome. We have to do it again :)

  2. saleem says:

    I can vouch for what you have written – have enjoyed her cooking for more than 30 years and each time time she cooks it is better than before.

  3. ginger and scotch says:

    What a beautiful feast! You had all that food in one night?! Lucky!

    I feel the same about my mom’s fried rice – no other fried rice in any restaurant or someone else’s home can come close to Mama Ginger’s version. And don’t feel wretched – having had wee Scotch and being a new mom, i think just having your child(ren) around you is all the "give" a mom needs.

  4. sukaina says:

    Arva…..thiss is just sooooo not fair. How can you make us drool over such amaziiiing food with fabulous pictures and then NO recipe?!!! That’s torture. Not fair at all—–any chance you want to email me the biryani and raita recipe in exchange for some dessert?!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @saleem – aw :) that’s so sweet! dad’s are the best – true sign that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach! [God help me and my cooking skills if that’s really true.]

      @ginger and scotch – I needed that consolation. If you say so mommy Scotch, that’s all it takes, now I shan’t feel shameless anymore :D

      @sukaina – I know, I know :( mom’s are so secretive like that. Trust me though, I would have to mail you mom’s magic hands if you wanted to recreate this stuff, if only it were as simple as a recipe.

  5. abigail says:

    No recipe. :( Little V loves papad influenced by our neighbor. If only I can taste your Mom’s biryani from my pc.

  6. Mukesh says:

    I am sure even if u put the recipe no body can cook the way the Mom’s do they put something which is just so right ………we only tend to think about Mom’s only when our Tummy is full…anyways gr8 article and the pics are so fab can just wonder what would have the food tasted like…….

  7. radZ says:

    What a lovely night of total indulgence … bagare baigan , biryani and of course my first taste of Qubaniii !
    Made me feel like royalty …. Big thanks & hug to Aunty : )

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @abigail – aaah. I feel guilty now. Maybe I can convince mommy to start a biryani service. If I were her, I would have worked to become a biryani millionaire by now.

      @Mukesh – Precisely! You’ve gotta come to Dubai – we promise to feed you some!

      @radZ – I’m glad you enjoyed it, need a night to make us feel royal every now and again :)

  8. Srinath says:

    Your description of the whole experience along with the fabulous photos is as close to "smellovision" as we will get I guess (for now). : )

    Nobody has better described what the ingredients undergo to become the wholesome biryani…description is along the lines of caterpillar-to-butterfly-transformation me thinks.


  9. Radhika Gupta says:

    I just died and went to heaven looking at this… the next time I come to Dubai, you and I are jointly begging your mom to cook biryani and that awesome looking apricot thing for me. What is it about mom’s food that’s just unmatched….

  10. Ameera Khan says:

    YUMMMMM!!! This looks so royal, so amazing!
    Can you send the biryani recipe via Aamir?! Pleeash *cute puppy eyes* ……*blink blink*

  11. chefandsteward says:

    Meng, now this is what I call a spread! I love biryani… and biryani loves me way too much… We are back on our low carb plan but maybe one day we will meet your lovely mother and her wonderful cooking!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Srinath – AWW THANK YOU! I am floating now…on a happy cloud that really mom deserves more, but I will float for a bit anyway. :D

      @Radhika Gupta – Done. Come back and plates of veg biryani and Qubani ka meetha shall be here to greet you.

      @Ameera Khan – ssssh! mom is monitoring this forum, so no words of betrayal! Treachery = no dinner for me :(

      @chefandsteward – yep, biryani and low carb don’t gel together too well. But gotta keep reminding the body how to burn fat and carbs, and no better way to do that than with healthy doses of yumo biryani.

  12. Farheen says:

    Being a Hyderabadi i totallllly agree with everyword out there :-)
    Your pics just ascend them to another world!
    umm..still wondering about those kernels? is it really true? have been eating those since childhood! *gulp*

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Farheen – thank you :) means a lot coming from a true Hyderabadi gal! yeah, I’m still in shock about those kernels too…though just read about bitter almonds being eaten without a care in the world in Europe too.

  13. saba says:

    I just discovered your blog, and am regretting it already :( These pics (Biryani !!! qubani ka meetha !!!!) made me go weak in the knees, no one should be punished this way :P

  14. InaFryingPan says:

    Nooo! But t’is true – there needs to be an end to this torture. Ma needs to open up a Biryani shop and distribute the goodness far and wide. If I could make Biryani like that, I would have taken over the world by now.

  15. IshitaUnblogged says:

    Well hopped onto this post from the your post ‘

    The Isfahani Biryani that spanks the rice out of all others’ on Fooderati Arabia website since this is the only link that was given, but no link to the original post.

    And good for me, coz it gave me the chance to hop onto your Mum’s Biriyani post. I have to say that I want to be a bit shameless and ask for an invite, the next time Mum Sizzler makes this Hyderabadi Biriyani. Specially, the qubani ka meetha. I have never ever had it (just hope that makes me sound like an orphan and a plate comes this way!).


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