If it were up to me, I’d declare biryani the national food of Pakistan! And there are many who would share this sentiment. The great sub continental poet, Mirza Ghalib is known to have said: “In my view, there are only two essential points about biryani: it should be spicy and it should be plentiful.” Okay, maybe I altered that quote a bit, but I am sure a person with a taste as great as Ghalib would have appreciated Biryani. Developed in all its beautiful forms during the Mughal era, biryani continues to influence this region’s cuisine, and rightfully so. Chicken or beef, with or without potatoes, with raita or chatni – biryani is just beautiful.
You might have gauged my undying love for biryani by now, so it should take no one by surprise that as soon as I landed in LUMS, I decided to go on a quality biryani hunt. During the short span – just a few months – of my stay at LUMS, I have managed to experience nearly all the biryanis offered on campus. So here is my review of some of these places.
(Note: I am no expert on food, let alone a divine dish such as biryani. I will confess that my cooking expertise begin with Maggi noodles and end at an omelette. Heck, I am not even from Karachi. This is just my humble opinion based on a few experiences. Feel free to add to this or disagree)
However much you rant about it, you are bound to go back to our beloved Pepsi Dining Centre at some point. So it is only fitting to begin with this example. PDC serves biryani every Thursday at lunch. So right away you notice the restricted timeline to catch the dish once every week from 12:30 Hrs to 15:30 Hrs. But so is the case with every PDC dish. Another struggle with PDC biryani is the amount of time you will have to spend standing in the queue. Thursday afternoons guarantee a longer line. But let’s get to the more important parts: the quality and price. The price of PDC biryani is probably the most reasonable, with the half portion being Rs 80 and the full portion Rs 160. And we all know it is always better to get the half portion since the difference isn’t as much (PDC tip 101). As for the taste? Well, it is never consistent. You can get lucky one day with evenly spread out spices in the rice, but get bland white rice with just specks of masala on another day, especially if you’re a bit late. But biryani and that too in just Rs 80? I would go for it.
Standing just above PDC, Zakir is known more for well its tikkas, but it offers biryani too. Woohoo! This one comes with a restrictive factor though –it is served only during the day. I have had Zakir Biryani quite a few times in its kind of fancy plastic plate that’s almost the size of a tray. And each time, the serving has been plentiful, which is justified given that it costs Rs. 180. If you have time on your hands, and money too, I would definitely recommend it. The blend of spices in the well-cooked rice with a well-marinated chicken piece, served with raita and salad can nearly make you forget the absence of ‘aloos’. Hands down, my LUMS favorite!
Khokha offers two Biryanis: Hot and Spicy’s and the home cooked one. Since Hot and Spicy is already a well-known brand, I will focus on the unnamed home cooked one. Priced at Rs.170, it is only slightly less expensive than Zakir and although the serving is almost the same, it comes with no extras (no raita and salads sorry). It is accompanied by potatoes and the chicken is nothing out of the ordinary. The only thing worth talking, nay ranting, about is, the amount of spices. I am a person who has had a spoonful of red chilies on a dare — spices do not scare me! But God, I had to gulp down cups and cups of water after I had this biryani. Beware!
4. Mama’s Biryani:
A new but budding startup, Mama’s biryani has the edge since it delivers all around LUMS. I am torn between Zakir and Mama’s for my favorite spot. The blend of spices is almost as good, and you get to enjoy add-ons like shami kebab, aloos, raita, salad, cold drink and WETWIPES! Yes, this will be the most expensive at Rs.200, but with the taste and add-ons, it’s worth it!
Though I have yet to try Bombay Chowpatty’s offering, I do hope my varied experience helps you decide wisely. So next time you’re craving Biryani, you’ll know where to go. Because obviously: Biryani ke bina zindagi hee kya.