I’m not certain we can call this Biryani in the purest sense of the word. But the debate on what constitutes Biryani has been raging for decades and I don’t have the time or the inclination to delve into its subtleties. For me, Biryani will always be a one-pot meal of rice and meat cooked together with spices, served with aplomb on a Sunday afternoon. Sundays would be incomplete without Biryani in our house, though logically it had no place in Andhra-Karnataka cuisine.
When we were younger, meat eating was restricted to twice a week – mandatorily Sunday and incidentally Wednesday, as it had no major God associated with it. (Friday – Lakshmi, Saturday – Shani, Tuesday – Hanuman, Thursday – Vishnu, Monday – Shiva). There were no restrictions that mom placed on us, but meat was seen as an indulgence and hence cooking it was reserved for special days. The choice of dish was always left upto the kids and we invariably chose Biryani 90% of the time!
What we made at home can be called the Bangalore style of Biryani. This is replete with Green Chillies and whole spices like Cinnamon, Cloves, Cardamom and Mace. But what sets it apart from all other Biryanis is the use of Methi (fenugreek) and Jeera Sambar rice which results in a final product of sticky rice that is spicy, with a slight bitter aftertaste.
One of the restaurants that popularized this Biryani is the famous Gundappa Donne Biryani in Guttahalli. It gets its name from the Donne or a pressed Palm Leaf cup that is used to serve the Biryani. The rice is accompanied by hot rasam, an even hotter gravy and some cool cucumber and onion raita on the side. Each parcel of Biryani also has a boiled egg to complete the picture. Essentially a bastion of ‘Military hotels’ (small joints serving non-veg food) or ‘Beegara Oota’ (post wedding ceremony in Karnataka where the grooms side slaughters a goat for a non-veg feast), the Donne Biryani is now synonymous with Bangalore. My version attempts to pay homage to the style of Biryani I know and adore. Spicy times ahead!