Tantalising aroma of biryani

Secret recipe

A curious element of Indian culture is our habit of defining any person by their profession. On most days, we simply refer to our dhobi as Dhobi uncle, our vegetable woman as Sowppamma or our maid as Bai. We function in perfect harmony, sharing our lives with them, blissfully unaware of their given names.

A name such as that belongs to the famous Benson Town Biryani Aunty. Most people in the City have ordered from her at one point or another. Her number has passed on from one well meaning friend to another with nothing more than the above mentioned nomenclature attached to it. “I am not sure what her name is, but my friend passed it on to me when we had just moved into town. We were hosting a dinner party for some people. I can’t cook to save my life. Biryani Aunty was such a boon. We have ordered from her ever since,” says Kavita Rao. 

Metrolife lets you in on a secret. Huma Ali is the lady whose name has been replaced with that of a fragrant rice dish. Ali and her staff of ten people slog over a gas range for hours together to please your palate. “We make different kinds of biryani — Dhum biryani, Hydrabadi, Bangalore style, authentic Muslim biryani and Kerala style. We make prawn biryani, chicken, mutton, egg and even vegetarian varieties. It would cost you about Rs 850 for a kilo.”

“It may sound expensive, but it is a price worth paying for. We add about one-and-a-half kilos of cleaned meat for every kilo of rice. I have been doing this for 16 years now, and we know our biryani. It’s cooked without water on a slow flame. It takes time but that is the secret of a good biryani. I don’t want to reduce the price just to get more customers. I want to ensure quality,” she confides.

It’s hard to believe that Biryani Aunty was not always the queen of the kitchens. The aromas of the dishes and the taste of the tender succulent meat convince you that she was born with the secret recipe for the perfect biryani. Ali laughs at the suggestion and says: “I had no idea of how to cook anything when I got married. I learnt everything from my mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law. In fact, when we started off we catered only continental fares. The biryani is so famous because irrespective of everything else, the Indian palate likes Indian cuisine. We like our masalas.”

Ali’s establishment is called the Colonnade Caterers and the recipe for their success is personalised catering, it seems. “We personalise everything. We take up catering for up to 500 people on one hand, and we make just half a kilo of vegetarian biryani for the lone vegetarian you may have invited. We’ll make it as spicy as you’d like it to be.”
The biryani you’ve ordered arrives with a baigan ka salad and a raitha. “It’s such a load off your mind. All you have to do is call her and know for sure that the biryani will be here on time, every time. The taste is consistently good. I’m a bachelor and it’s a relief,” said Rakesh K.

If you are in the midst of planning a party, a sangeet or just a dinner for two, call Biryani Aunty - Huma Ali on 9900891424.

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