Tried and Tasted: This tiny eatery serves the best Kanpur biryani in Delhi
In an old familiar place, it’s always nice to spot a new face. I have been in and out of the Walled City in Delhi so many times that I know every pothole on the road, apart from, of course, all the vendors who have been feeding us for generations. So, I was rather happy to see Baba biryani’s little outlet in Matia Mahal the other day.
Baba is a chain from Kanpur that has been making news of late. It has grown significantly in recent times. They have just opened up a biryani shop in the old city. Right now, all that they have on the menu is chicken biryani, though they have other dishes in their branches. But they hope to add to the menu once they have settled down.
As I have often mentioned, our regions have their own typical biryanis – characterised by different spices, ways of cooking or use of ingredients. You cannot, for instance, have a Kolkata biryani without some juicy potatoes in them, or go to Hyderabad and not have its kuchche gosht ki biryani, where marinated meat is cooked with the rice. In the south, Dindigul biryani is cooked with small-grained rice and small onions. The Kolhapuri chicken of the west has a lot of spices and dried coconut and Goa’s chicken biryani is redolent with the flavours of star anise.
Kanpur biryani has its own taste, too. At Baba’s, the chicken biryani is somewhat light – even though it’s cooked in desi ghee. The rice is not yellow, as biryani often is, but is an appetising cream and brown affair. The biryani is also cooked with whole spices – cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper and cloves. The chicken pieces in Baba’s biryani are nice and plump, and the long grain – in Kanpur they mostly use sella basmati – has the flavours of whole spices, as well as the infused taste of meat. The chicken had been marinated, so it gave its own flavours to the dish, and the rice was not overdone – which gave it a bite that I quite enjoyed. Baba’s biryani is served with raita and sliced onions.
It’s a neat little place, where people can sit and eat. It’s still to take off in Delhi, where people can be really sectarian when it comes to biryani. But I am sure it will get its clientele over time. I enjoyed the Kanpur biryani. Let others look at Kanpur as the most polluted city in the world. I would like to see it as a place that has just added its much loved dish to the huge table of regional food that Delhi now of boasts of.
Ingredients: 400g sella basmati, 400g chicken, 2 cups of water, 2 finely sliced onions, 3-5 green chillies, 4 cloves, 4 green cardamom, 1 small stick of cinnamon, 1tsp ginger-garlic paste, ½ tsp red chilli powder, 1/2tsp whole black pepper, 1 tsp lime juice, ghee for frying, ½ cup milk, salt as required.
Method: Heat the ghee. Fry the onions on slow heat. Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry some more. Add the chicken pieces and stir well. Fry on slow heat for some time. Add the milk, green chillies, red chilli powder and salt. Take off the heat when half done. In a pot boil the rice with water, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper. When the rice is almost done, drain the water. In the pot, put one layer of rice and a layer of chicken. Add the lime juice. Now cover with a layer of rice and another layer of chicken. Cover with rice again. Now close the lid and seal it well. Keep it on dum for five minutes or so. Remove from heat, take off the lid and serve the biryani hot with raita.
(Rahul Verma has been writing on food for over 25 years now. And, after all these years, he has come to the conclusion that the more he writes, the more there is left to be written)
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