Ambur Biryani, the Other Biryani from Down South

While Hyderabadi Biryani is well-known the world over, there are a few other varieties of biryani from South India which have their own followings. Ambur Biryani from the erstwhile princely state of Arcot is one of them. The biryani is especially in demand in the northern part of Tamil Nadu as well as parts of Karnataka around Bangalore city.

Ambur is a small town in Tamil Nadu known for its leather industry, is located on the way to Bengaluru from Chennai close to the Karnataka border, It is said that about a century ago, Hasin Baig, a bawarchi from the kitchens of the Nawab of Arcot relocated to his hometown Ambur and started preparing biryani there with a similar recipe as the Arcot biryani. While the biryani at Nawab’s court was prepared in basmati rice, Baig started making his Ambur version for the masses using cheaper seeraga samba rice. The biryani (spelt “briyani” in Ambur) which was initially sold on bicycles, became so popular that a small shop was set up and people from even outside the town started to flock to this shop. Over the years, this recipe, now known as Ambur Biryani, has spread to parts of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu where it is hugely in demand.  Bangalore and Chennai, for example, has many eateries offering this version of biryani.

Apart from the variety of rice (Seeraga Samba rice is known as Chitti mutyalu in Telangana), there are other differences Ambur Biryani has from its Hyderabadi counterpart. The meat here is cooked before putting the biryani on dum, and tomatoes are used frequently in the recipe. Also, the biryani uses more of spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and green chillies and is not as spicy as the Hyderabadi one. Moderately high use of tomato, coriander, and mint leaves gives a uniform colour to the biryani. 

While preparing Ambur biryani, the meat is first pre-cooked using onions, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, curd, and whole spices. Separately cooked rice and this meat are then layered in a degh and topped with ghee before putting on dum. In some places, the rice and meat are mixed together instead of layering.  The biryani is preferably eaten with an eggplant gravy known as Kathirikal Pachidi.

The Original Pondy Parottas outlet in Moti Nagar

Three years back I located a small place in the bylanes of Madhura Nagar near Ameerpet Hyderabad that was perhaps the only place serving Ambur Biryani. Pondy Parottas an eatery run by Raja Subbiah and Judith May, a couple from Pondicherry has made rapid strides since then. They now have two restaurants in Hitech city (Road to Hitex Exhibition grounds) and Kukatpally (lane next to Manjeera Mall) as well as two delivery points at Nanakramguda and Balkampet. Though also known for their Tamil and Sri Lankan parottas, the outlet introduced Ambur Biryani to the menu and since then there has been no looking back. 

Pondy Parottas in Hitech City

As per Raja, Ambur Biryani has become his largest selling dish very fast and draws a steady flow of local customers.  He offers variants of this biryani in chicken, mutton kheema, and prawns. The biryani here is served with a special Dalcha apart from salan and raita. The masalas which are prepared completely in-house give a special taste to their biryanis.

Note: This is an updated version of the article originally published in New Indian Express Hyderabad on 9th September 2017. 

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