Monday, March 19, 2012

The Wonderful World of Byriani

Listening to: You Belong with Me – Taylor Swift

Mood: Wired, thanks to some extra strong coffee today

My name is Becky, and I’m a foodie. Not in the pretentious New York Hipster way, but someone who truly loves food and the creation of it. No seriously. I love me some food. 

Since I started dating Daddy G almost 13 years ago (my marriage anniversary is in April – fun useless fact), I have been having an extended love affair with everything and anything spicy. My married-into folks (the inlaws) are from Andhra Pradesh India. For those geographically challenged, that is smack dab in the lower center of the country. Now Andhra – ites (not the technical term at all, but I like it anyhow) love themselves some spicy food. Being an honorary Andhra-ite, I have completely lost count of how many taste buds I have voluntarily sacrificed in the name of spicy yummy-ness. Yes, that is the technical foodie term. Yummy-ness.  Anywho, no one does byriani like Hyderabad does byriani.  Guess where my married-into folks are from? You got it. Hyderabad.  It is one of my favorite foods of all time. For those who are Indian food challenged, byriani consists of basmati rice (the nice yummy smelling one), meat (or not, if you're a veg head, then it's vegetables) and a metric ton of spices.

The magical thing about byriani is that I’ve never encountered a really bad one. I’ve had uninspiring “meh” ones, but never bad. The ones that are amazing (the ones that come from the tiny, dirty, you’ll-get-typhoid-there-son are the best way to die, but what a way to go!!!) are enough to make me consider giving my first born for. I didn’t say I’d actually do it, but damn, it’s worth the consideration.  The only thing I can think of that would really ruin a byriani is if they try to Americanize it and lose the spiciness. This would be an abomination. Byriani should be spicy. It has to be. It’s like a law of food physics (not the technical term – but I totally claim this term) or something. 

My favorite is goat or lamb. Something about the gamey, spicy meaty goodness that makes me insanely happy.
 (Hear that? That's my taste buds Sqee-ing.)

Next comes chicken, which I’m going to skip a picture of because it looks just like the one above.

After that comes Vegetable byriani. Now I have some serious concerns about whether vegetable byriani should actually be classified as byriani. This is because meat is a flavor here that belongs in the dish. It’s essential. 

 More Squee-ing.

My maid cooks for us 2 – 3 times a week. As I mentioned in a previous post about her, she is also an Andhra-ite. The woman knows how to cook some Andhra food and I love her for it. A few weeks back, she made some vegetable byriani for us. It was gone in 2 days and I have to fight the urge everyday to beg her to make it every day. It’s that amazing.  

I don’t eat much rice. I’ve been trying to cut back in order to lose some weight. (Yes, I needed to. I’ve lost 35 lbs so far, and am far from done). Having the amazing yummy-ness around the house is making it challenging to say the least. With any other curry or vegetable fry, I am totally cool with eating whole grains (Cracked wheat and brown rice the only ones I can actually find in India. I miss Quinoa! And Barley! And Bulger! And we’re done here.) in place of rice. Some people (ahem husband) have what I call a “rice gene”. This gene makes them crave white rice in a crazy way and become unwilling to substitute anything with the connotation of being “healthy” and or “Wholesome” for those beloved empty white carbs. I don’t have this gene. I love whole grains.  Unfortunately, you cannot just make byriani with whole grains. Or anything else for that matter. White basmati rice is the only acceptable carbohydrate in byriani. If you try a substitute, it is not technically byriani. In fact, you may spontaneously combust for your presumptuousness. Seriously. Just wrong. 

One of the best byriani’s I can recall came from a Pakistani restaurant on Chicago’s Devon Street – the Indian destination for everyone up to 3 states away.  The place was Gareeb Nawaz. It has the most amazing, balls out spicy, tasty byriani. It’s best to take it to go (unless you like dirty, loud, crazy cafeteria situations – more power to you!) because it’s not a fancy place. You better make sure they give you yogurt too – you’re gonna need it. If you are anywhere near Chicago and love spicy - you simply have to try it. It's really not even optional. 

I can’t even begin to rhapsodize about India’s byriani restaurants. There’s nothing quite like the real deal.


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