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September 25, 2004

The Biryani Diaries

It is my honor to introduce to you all the Incomparable Omar Ashrafi, who will serve as a guest columnist on a periodic basis. For those of you who don’t know Omar Ashrafi… this is because God doesn’t like you and doesn’t want you to meet interesting and hilarious people. I must say it is my privilege to know him and to have him write guest columns on my humble Xanga.

Over the next several weeks, Mr. Ashrafi will conduct an exhaustive review of all the so-called “best biryani places” in Chicago. Armed with no budget from me, his intrepid and rusty ’91 Corolla , his expert palate, and a relentless pursuit of the truth, Omar will answer the greatest question ever posed in the history of the Chicago Muslim community: Who has the best biryani?

Here is his first column (there were a lot of spelling mistakes that I took the liberty of editing… hey, Omar Ashrafi doesn’t need to spell correctly ok, he’s hilarious and he’s an excellent critic of food):



For decades in America, a steaming tray of gosht or chicken biryani has graced almost evey Indo-pak wedding, walima, mehendi, aqeeqa, eid and khatme quran.  Growing up, if the smell of biryani was in the air (and eventually all my clothing), I could be assured that the event was of importance.


But, alas we are spoiled today.  Biryani, once reserved for the elite of social functions, is about as scace as the Big Mac (and having a greater impact on the waistline).  A leisurely jaunt down Roosevelt road in Lombard lends itself not not less than a half dozen restaurants dishing out renditions of that carb-loading favorite. 


Any discussion of biryani will evoke strong preferences in people.  Some prefer potato in their biryani, others view it as a cheap filler.  Some with preferences for a Persian rendition will insist on raisins and nuts, where the consummate Hyderabadi will decry it as a fruit salad.  Outside of Bangladesh, fish biryani is met with almost universal revulsion.  The fact of the matter is the idea of combining meat and rice is hardly unique to the subcontinent.  The Spanish have a beach-side creation, paella, which is, as Kramer from Seinfeld put it, a “melange of meat and fish” (and rice).


All of this begets the question…what makes for good biryani?  In order to respect the variations inherent with regional preparations, I propose the following general criteria:


1) Regardless of whether the perparation is chicken or gosht (goat or lamb) The meat must be “fork tender”

2) The rice must NOT be sticky; the grains should separate readily on the plate

3) It is preferable for whole spices to be removed prior to serving

4) While it is understandable that there will be bones; they should not contribute overwhelmingly to the volume of the dish.


I also add a 5th criteria:


5) The quality of the raita served must be on par with the quality of the biryani.  Nothing will ruin a carefully prepaed biyani like a poorly made here-is-some-yogurt-we-had-in-the-fridge raita.  The raita serves the citical role of providing a cooling factor (both in terms of physical temperature and spice).  In a manner of speaking, it is a yin to biyani’s yang. (kr’s note: the raita makes or breaks the biryani, definitely. for those of you who don’t like raita with your biryani, you all deserve to be shot… repeatedly)


Over the next several months, with these criteria in mind, we will scout out locales north and south, east and west to find Chicago’s best biryani.


(KR again) Finally, Omar is looking for people to join his elite force of biryani reviewers. If you feel you have a discerning palate, are an expert of biryani, want to receive no financial compensation from me, and generally have nothing better to do with your time than to eat biryani and review it, then you may contact me for further details on how you can join this project. Application forms are available, and while an interview is not mandatory, it will certainly help Omar and myself to pick only the experts to bring everyone the most accurate information possible.


From → Uncategorized

  1. hahaha, assyrians eat biryani?

  2. Greatest post ever…
    I’m up for joining the Biryani crew.
    Ashrafi is the man.

  3. Anonymous permalink

    I also like Tamatey ki Kut with my raita and biryani. I think it adds some extra color to the already delightfull dish. And plus it gives you something to mix in with the biryani. Otherwise you wouldnt really be mixing the chawal for anything. By mixing the tamatey ki kut you get youre fingers in there and active and according to my father (borrowed from his Why you must eat with youre fingers speech) the sweat from the fingers mixes in with the food adding an extra shazaam and culinary delight.

  4. kamran, you have so much time, can you write something for the msa newsletter?? I don’t think i can post this Biryani or your woman-hating-wife-slandering theories….

  5. i do have a lot of time, but im not going to waste it writing for the msa newsletter.
    besides, didnt you just write on your xanga today: “MSA is gay.” ?

  6. Assalaamu alaikum,
    Do you know what else is inhumane? Saying that it’s inhumane not to give any eprops if the person is new to xanga and doesn’t even have a clue as to what those useless eprops are, or how to give them! That’s what’s inhumane…
    Now then, I wanted to comment on how great your xanga is, and how much I’m almost beginning to envy your funny/educational/productive posts… I didn’t just say that.
    Here you go. Here are some eprops. Happy now?
    Assalaamu alaikum.

  7. lol just ‘cus I wrote it duzn’t make it a possibility… I mean people have written that the US govt along with the Jewish lobby had a hand in sept 11… that duznt make a possibility or DOES IT? 🙂

  8. biryani is just rice with food coloring and meat and 10 lbs of spices. wuss so speshul bout DAT? i just dont understand.

  9. with a name like “realize”, it’s ironic that you have realized the greatness of biryani.
    you know why you havent realized it?
    it’s because you lack the eye of inner clarity… hehehhe.

  10. whats there to realize? that biryani is…rice, meat, and 10lbs of spices? the fact that you havent realized its immenent danger to mankind, clogging up arteries and innocent bystanding noses everywhere…proves whos really lacking the eye of inner clarity. realize that. uh huh.

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