Chicken Biriyani From Bars Cafe
By Savindri Perera
Yesterday I was at Bars Cafe and I had their Biriyani and I am happy to say that I took many pictures and labelled them all nice for your convenience because I am nice like that.
But before that, some history on the Biriyani.
The cooking method of the Biriyani, according to Wikipedia, originated in Iran (Persia) and this method was brought to India through Persian merchants, where it was popularised. Today, the Biriyani is a popular favourite amongst all of us. Based on personal experience, the best Biriyani always come from Islam homes and Ramadan is an excuse for me to demand Biriyani from my Muslim friends.
Just like the Lamprais in the staple of the Dutch-Burgher household and the Milk Rice, the symbol of celebration for the Sinhalese; the Biriyani has become the go-to dish for Muslim weddings, engagements and all sorts of other celebrations. I am not ashamed to admit that I have forced myself into Muslim weddings to which my parents were invited, just so that I could sink my chops into the amazing, fragrant pot Biriyani that they serve. The Sri Lankan Biriyani is a yellow and orange pot of steaming, fragrant goodness, and it is usually made using beef, chicken or mutton. Spices include a wide range of aromatics such as cardamoms, cumin, coriander/cilantro leaves, ghee, nutmeg, pepper, bay leaves, and of course the usual onions and garlic. It is the combination of all these spices as well as the meat curry that give this dish its characteristic mouth-watering aroma.
This Biriyani comes in a cute black pot, with halves of a deep fried egg arranged on the side, chicken, a curiously cup shaped pappadam and two side dishes of Raita and Mint Sambol. The first thing that is pleasing about the Biriyani is the presentation and then the smell wafting from it. There is a lovely, subtle aroma of cilantro, cumin and other spices, married together beautifully.
The rice is steaming and the steam washes over your face when the dish is placed down on the table. The visuals and the aroma of the dish are instantly pleasing. However, we all know, looks can be deceiving and I could not wait to dig my spoon into the aromatic delight.
Firstly, the rice. It is lovely, soft and fluffy. A golden cup of Basmati grains that have been infused in a lovely scent of bay leaves and cardamom waft up at you. I loved the rice because the flavours were very mild and complimented the chicken really well. The chicken is placed at the heart of the dish. There are two-three juicy, succulent pieces of curried chicken sitting at the heart of the bowl of rice. The meat is tender and soft, and it is well spiced and salted. While this chicken is nothing like the amazing chicken you would find in an authentic Muslim-mother made Biriyani, I did honestly like the chicken and how absolutely soft it was.
There is also a deep fried egg that has been cut in half, placed artfully on the side of the dish. I loved the crispy skin of the deep fried egg. There are also the other two accompaniments; the mint sambol and the vegetable raita. They add different textural and flavour components to the dish. The raita almost acts as a Tzatziki and the mint sambol adds a subtle but firm kick. The last element of the dish is the crispy, bowl shaped pappadam.
All in all, the dish comes together in terms of flavour and taste. There are factors about this dish that I adored. The chefs at Bars Cafe seem to have taken rather a ‘gourmet’ take on a traditional dish. Personally I will always love the original, traditional (and far cheaper) Biriyani better than the Bars Cafe Biriyani. However, I do guarantee that this dish, while not being as amazing as an authentic Biriyani, does not taste bad and is filling!