S Giridharan remembers watching his grandfather B Ramasamy Naidu cook biryani in a gigantic copper cauldron at their ancestral home on Nettu street, Dindigul. “I was probably five or six years old then,” says the 46-year-old. “A paati in the neighbourhood would often drop by, bringing ghee that she made at home. Grandfather always bought from her.” Ramasamy learned to cook biryani from his father, P Bangaruswamy Naidu, and the dish became an instant hit in Dindigul in the 1930s when he established a small restaurant. Today, Giridharan, who has been in the food business for 25 years, hopes to recreate the dish in Chennai.
He has tied up with three cloud kitchens run by Coimbatore-based Pricol Gourmet in the city to supply Dindigul-style biryani. Bangaruswamy Naidu Biryani was started a little over a month ago and is Giridharan’s third attempt at establishing the brand in Chennai. “I set up our restaurant in 1998 and 2008 in Chennai, but had to close down both times owing to issues with space,” he says.
Dindigul biryani is made using short-grained seeraga samba rice, and has its own following in the city that loves the long-grained basmati rice version. Bangaruswamy, according to Giridharan, came up with the recipe after his travels in Hyderabad with a friend in the 1920s. “He formulated his version of biryani using locally-grown spices, meat and rice,” he says, adding that he too sources rice from Thuraiyur near Tiruchi and meat from Kannivadi near Dindigul.
Bangaruswamy first carried out experiments on biryani at his home kitchen with the help of his wife B Nagammal. “She ground the spices for him,” explains Giridharan. “He sold biryani in small batches at a small restaurant near where he lived.” Bangaru sold twice a day; from 6am to 10am and 5pm to 8pm. “In the evening, a helper would balance on his head a pot of cooked biryani from home to the restaurant,” recalls Giridharan. Today, the restaurant still stands in the same spot, and is known as the ‘10am biryani place’, open from 6am to 11am.
Giridharan is aware of the role of water in influencing the taste of biryani. Water from the Athoor Kamarajar dam is said to enhance the flavour of Dindigul biryani. “We really cannot transport water from the dam to Chennai every day,” chuckles Giridharan. But he is satisfied with the Palar River water he is now using. “I am able to achieve more or less the same taste,” he says, adding, as an afterthought: “We may perhaps lose 5% of the original flavour due to water, but I hope to make up for it by following my great grandfather’s recipe to the T.”
Bangaruswamy Biryani is available on popular food delivery apps. You can also pick up biryani from 11am to 11pm from A12, SIDCO Industrial Estate, Guindy; Door no 2, 2nd Floor, 2nd Avenue, Anna Nagar East; No 23, St Thomas Street, Santhosh Nagar, Kandanchavadi. For details, call 9962547426.