Azad restaurant: Trivandrum, Kerala [India]

You would think that getting a Keralan biriyani in a place in Kerala that is known for it’s biryanis would be easy but no. There are two branches, one near the railway station ( the original) and the first one we tried on Press Road.

Ordering was somewhat problematic and the biriyani was not available nor the next 5 or 6 dishes we chose, each time we were asked if we’d like chicken tandoori, we did not. We finally managed to order daal fry and chicken Chettinad. The daal was nice and earthy, the chapatis were just OK. The chicken Chettinad was on the bone and very succulent and the sauce was really punchy and nicely tangy from the tamarind.

We walked past the other branch the next evening and the missus went for the chicken masala , this had a thinner sauce than the chicken Chettinad and the depth of flavour wasn’t as good, not bad though. I had the mutton dry fry, which was a bit tough but the spicing was very good and lots of chilli, which I liked. Still no biryani but we had worked out it was a lunch time only dish.

I did finally get to have a mutton biryani at Azads when I swung back through Trivandrum to go elsewhere. Given the trouble trying to get one and the fact that this was the first meal after being in an Ahsram for 10 days with no meat , onions, garlic or chilli, it turned out to be something of a disappointment. The meat was very tough and the whole dish lacked the beautiful fragrance you get with a good biryani.

Mutton dry fry.

Chicken masala.

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Thanks for the report. How is a Keralan biriyani different than other biriyanis in South India?

I’m not sure about South India as a whole but compared to other biryianis, they use a different rice and have a spice paste around the meat that makes them moister.

Ah. true. I am guessing they must be using something like sona masoori or idli versus basmati in the north.

The only time I had Keralan biryani was at Ente Keralam, superb Keralan restaurant in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. The chef was a Keralan Moplah-Muslim and he called his dish “Thalaserry Biriyani”, cooked using an aged short-grain “Khaima rice” which had an almost quinoa-like texture.

The other variety of biryani I had in Chennai was from the very popular Thalappakatti chain which serves Dindigul-style biryani (hyper-spicy, if I’m ever asked to ascribe one outstanding feature about it). Anyway, it’s cooked using a varietal of the South Indian tiny short-grained aromatic “seeraga samba” rice, known locally in Chennai as “parakkum sittu”. The use of short-grain rice for biryanis in Southern India gives the overall dish a moister texture, compared to Northern India where the use of long-grain basmati is a given.

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