Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Nizamuddin 05: Moradabadi Biryani

[NB: This is part of an ongoing series on the Nizamuddin locality of New Delhi. For a brief background, please read the prefatory note.]

Many foodies I know swear by the cuisine of Rampur-Moradabad. They insist it is one of the most refined India has ever produced, and feel it has been unjustly overshadowed by the more glamorous Lucknow. I'd tried to organise several trip to the region, with zilch success. The only time in recent years I actually passed through the place (en route to Nainital), I was in strict vegetarian company. Then years later I spotted this Moradabadi Biryani shop in Nizamuddin. Even then I couldn't immediately try it out. The first time I came across it I was with a dedicated kabab-freak, and the second time the shop was closed.

Last month I finally got my chance. Some family friends had come over from Bangladesh to attend the Urs at Ajmer Sharif. As per custom they were also required to pay obesiance at Hazrat Nizamuddin's Dargah too. I decided to accompany them. The experience was, ahem, interesting. We reached there just in time for Namaz. Magically, the entire crowd veered westwards. Everyone except yours truly, who was standing there looking thoroughly bewildered. This elderly bearded gentleman glared: 'Namaz nahin padhni kya?' I just about managed to shake my head. He took about half a second to digest this astounding statement, and then said, 'OK, you stand to a side.' The rest of the process went off just fine.

Obesiance done, we decided to pack some food for home. I suggested Moradabadi Biryani, and they readily agreed. I had also wanted to try their Shab Degh, but that was not available. So we packed two plates of Biryani, along with some Nahari from Moniskda Hotel, and Mutton Tikka from Ghalib.

Frankly, the Biryani was a disappointment. For 25 Rupees a plate, it had lots of meat, and mutton at that. Fairly soft the meat was, but not exactly rich in aroma. More important, it did not impart any flavour to the rice, which remained bland apart from the occasional whiff of spices.

Moradabadi Biryani is eaten not with Raita, but with a kind of thin, sweetish Chutney. I could detect tomato, coriander, sugar, cucumber and chili powder in it. Adding it to the Biryani did enhance taste levels, but not by much. All in all, therefore, a fairly mediocre concoction, at least the stuff this shop churned out. Maybe it was a bad day for them; after all the Urs crowd was pretty dense that day. I still harbour the dream of going to Rampur to try out the real McCoy.

In view of the disappointing fare, though, I shall refrain from giving directions. At least, till such time I go back there and come out satisfied.