Briyani rice is big in our family.
Briyani is a rice dish where good quality rice, usually basmati, is cooked with lots of onions and a complex blend of spices. Meat, fish, vegetables may also be added. Traditionally, mutton or lamb briyani is a dish to celebrate important occasions. And in our family, we have a long line of relatives who make excellent briyani, and who view skimping on the spices as almost a crime.
Thus I like my briyani full-bodied and robust, and I like to have it on a regular basis.
When I moved to California, I couldn’t find briyani that satisfied my taste, and I was really missing my briyani fix. Then I met Odah, a Singaporean lady, in the supermarket. We became acquainted and she told me that she knew of a restaurant near where we live that makes briyani “like the one we get in Singapore”. So we went to Noorani Restaurant in Garden Grove which serves Pakistani and Indian cuisine, and true enough, they serve briyani that was closest to the taste that I’m used to.
I’ve lost touch with Odah. But Odah, if you are reading this, or wherever you are, thanks again for the tip.
Now I go to the restaurant once every two weeks or so, or whenever the craving strikes. I usually order lamb briyani. Recently, the Malaysia Association of Southern California held its “Makan Makan” event, the association’s regular dining out activity, at Noorani. I decided to join in so that I could sample a bigger variety of dishes.
We were served beef briyani and plain briyani with a hearty lamb curry, tandoori chicken, okra cooked in spices and fried fish nuggets. We also had chicken karahi which is another of my favorite dishes. The base for this dish is a blend of spices and tomatoes.
I was told by one of the diners, Pat, that the word karahi refers to a round cooking pot used in Pakistani and Indian cooking. Well, that’s an interesting fact to learn.
Just as a turkey meal needs cranberry sauce, briyani needs a sourish or a sweet/sour relish to balance the richness. The restaurant serves mint raita, a yogurt sauce which has a nice tang. I like my briyani with spicy cucumber pickles (acar timun), or with a version of cucumber-onion raita that my grandmother used to make, using thin coconut milk instead of yogurt.
I guess, one day, I’ll have to learn to make these relishes to go with the briyani, as well as suji, a creamy semolina pudding which, for me, is the perfect dessert to end a briyani meal.
Then I can sit down to a meal that will transport me across oceans and across generations.
To read about my search for good briyani in Northern California, see more at http://buildingbridgesworld.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/the-briyani-trail/