I am a big fan of chicken biryani. When I say big, I don’t mean Burj Khalifa-big- but, Big bang theory-big would be an understatement. Whatever, I am a true, loyal fan of chicken biryani. To me, from time immemorial, this has been a magical dish. A dish that has always made my soul -complete, stomach-full, heart-glad and any day-memorable; I am proud to feature my views on this amazing dish in my blog.
Of the few things that I am known for apart from writing about poems, current affairs, movies, news, Obama ( I am accused of writing pretty much about him, too) is a new found love for cooking. Prior to coming to Canada, I have never touched a knife to chop onions, a peeler to peel potatoes, or for that matter clean my plates. Though I was appreciative of anything food, I’ve always knew that they arrived on my dining table through a certain act of divine intervention-of which I am mighty proud, too.
In my growing years in a Muslim country, Friday was the markedly blessed day. The day when my mother after days of pestering, gets down to make this dish. In a family of two children, where the older one (me!) had a long standing love affair with this dish and the younger one (my sister!) had a love for chicken fried rice, it required enormous amount of tact and ploy to make sure that the weekend special that emerged from the kitchen-was chicken biryani. Let’s not divulge into the relevant backdoor politics that ensued, chicken biryani was our Friday dish and, as many Indian hotels opened and closed in Abu Dhabi, as I grew like a rocket both physically and mentally; the chicken biryani of mom was the best.
It saddened me to leave Abu Dhabi for my secondary school education to God’s own country that mom (out of her sorrow for letting son go,) and me (ever happy to capitalize on it) made her make back to back dishes both to take back to India .
Studying in St.Thomas Central, was a challenging experience, but the first dish in those funny canteens, was once again chicken biryani and I fell in love with the dish. But in Kerala, I realized how Malayalis had a certain affinity to make it a chicken-less affair. This dish, was a regular with all our family friends, this was Tenny’s favorite and if you needed to be in his good books, this had to be there on the table. I still remember the first visit back to Abu Dhabi after St. Thomas in 11th Standard, when I landed in Dubai minus 15 kilos from leaving the Emirates to the wails of parents; only to have them reassured when I gobbled up 3 straight plates from my cousins’ house.
Then in 12th Standard, came the escape from boarding to a Catholic- run hostel in Trivandrum, where this dish was a regular, in addition to the countless trysts with Hotel Chinnus in Keshavadasapuram, Trivandrum; just to have this dish. I relished this dish like no other and loved it.Then came the TKM days, the Uniarab-oilfield days, I ate, ate and ate. Everyone used to make fun of me and my infatuation to this dish. I dint bother. As long as I got mom’s variant or the Arab, Hyderabadi, Bombay etc etc variant of this dish, I was just might happy.
However things changed, when I came to Canada. There was no one to make biryani. I felt so sad; and however way people made it here, it never tasted good or any better. Nostalgic and depressed, there was no solace, except a South Indian restaurant, where it was so oily that you could fill your automobile engine with it. Then came the astonishing cooking madness phase of my life in 2009; and I made, made and made chicken biriyani. I still fondly remember my first chicken biryani, when I mixed the rice and chicken separately in a pressure cooker and without tightening the lid (I was fortunate here), I put it in the oven to bake, only to be alarmed by the burning of the plastic handle-the biryani was good enough for my roomie to leave me with a warning.
Cooking this dish brought issues like over-cooked rice, flavoring etc etc. Reading Kite Runner gave me the idea of a life time to use turmeric milk as a flavoring agent; with further experiments, judicious use of cilantro, the use of green onions in the chichen masala to the time required for baking, to proper use of nuts, eggs- I perfected making my own chicken biryani and could never appreciate it from anywhere.
Incidentally one of my testimonials in Orkut, introduced me as Biryani King; which till date, my friends use to refer to me.
I believe in this dish. Its magnitude and scope to make any one happy; the aroma to make the salivary glands run crazy with passion, the humbling ability of anyone to make this dish, despite the time consuming task involved, the ability to make people happy eating the one you made; to see it, savor it with a heavenly feeling is-priceless.