Biryani from the bamboo

tasty treat Bamboo biryani is now making waves in South India, writes Fatima Taneem Ruknuddin

Bamboo biryani

In recent months, the latest food trend in many towns and cities across South India has been bamboo biryani. Food lovers in the region are relishing the steamy, aromatic makeover of biryani and its unique style of presentation.

Bamboo biryani is cooked and served from a bamboo stalk. The versatility of the bamboo plant has been showcased in the rural livelihood, culture and cuisine of several forest tribes and other communities across the country since ancient times. And the tradition of cooking in bamboo stems has been prevalent among such communities, markedly visible in North-Eastern states of India which have a thriving bamboo culture.

From Araku Valley

Yet, down South, it is bamboo biryani which has been appeasing the taste buds of almost all who sample it. Originally considered to be the traditional tribal cuisine delicacy of Araku Valley tribes near Vizag in the eastern part of Andhra Pradesh, bamboo biryani has donned many variations and flavours in the modern kitchens of major cities across India.

Till a few years ago, bamboo biryani, locally called ‘bongu lo biryani’, was freshly prepared and sold locally at roadside stalls in the Araku region. As it became a favourite among tourists and travellers, this biryani soon began to be appreciated even outside the state of Andhra Pradesh. In 2014, bamboo biryani was presented in the renowned Annual Dasara Festival in neighbouring Karnataka, where it was a major hit.

Recent initiatives taken by Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) to popularise the bamboo biryani and recognising it to be one of the signature dishes of the state have propelled its popularity in and around the state. The officials in the department are hopeful that bamboo biryani will be for Andhra Pradesh what noodles is to China. To achieve their goals, the tourism department has conducted several food festivals, cookery contests and training sessions in all the districts of AP. 

The recently opened Bamboo and Biryani Restaurant in Vijayawada, supported by AP Tourism, has become a happening place in Vijayawada. There are few other restaurants like Bamboo House, Gonguru, etc that rustle up bamboo biryani in Vijayawada.

Kalyan Kumar, assistant manager, Bamboo and Biryani Restaurant, Vijayawada, said, “Bamboo biryani teases the palate with its unique flavour. We have two varieties of bamboo biryani besides other items — chicken bamboo biryani and paneer bamboo biryani. Both are fast-moving dishes. We source  bamboo stems from Rajahmundry and Eluru belt of AP.”

In Mangaluru, Bamboo Restaurant in Bendoor is always teeming with customers. One of its partners, Mohammed Khaleel, said that their bamboo biryani is selling like hot cakes.

He says, “Rice and meat (either chicken or mutton) are marinated in light spices and packed into a tube of bamboo to lend the biryani a steamy makeover. What you get is a really aromatic biryani which leaves an enduring taste on your taste buds.”

Traditionally, tribal bamboo biryani is prepared oil-free with raw chicken marinated in local spices and herbs and stacked with rice in alternate layers within the hollow tube of a freshly cut bamboo stem.

The opening is sealed with leaves to prevent the steam from escaping and the sealed stalk is then cooked over natural fire till its outer layer is charred black. The trapped steam within the natural-made pressure chamber cooks the food inside and the heat also releases the oils of the stalk, infusing the biryani with its unique aromatic flavour.

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