Chennai’s biryani ‘masters’ are specialists at cooking large feasts for 1000’s of individuals

Deep inside Chennai’s biryani heartland of Triplicane, a cauldron of biryani is beginning to burn. “Take away it from the hearth and place it on the ground,” M Lookman Ali instructs his staff on the telephone. He’s removed from perturbed. “Nothing will occur to it, we’ve got caught it proper on time,” he provides.

The 54-year-old owns Amrin, a small biryani outlet on Triplicane Excessive Highway. Within the enterprise of biryani, he is called ‘grasp’: a talented prepare dinner educated to make biryani by the kilo with assist from a staff. These males command a lot respect of their circle; there are 500 of them in Triplicane alone, with an estimate of fifty every in Royapuram and Periamet, the opposite neighbourhoods well-liked for biryani.

Watch | Meet Chennai’s biryani ‘masters’

| Video Credit score:
S. Shiva Raj

Lookman has been a biryani grasp for nearly 20 years now; he cooks at his outlet, in addition to at celebratory occasions based mostly on order. “A grasp is aware of every thing,” he says. “However within the kitchen, he’ll solely give directions to his staff. He’ll take over through the essential moments, to test if the meat is finished and salt and spice ranges are so as.”

Triplicane has nurtured a number of masters through the years. “The preferred amongst them being the late Abdul ‘bhai’ and Razaaq ‘bhai’,” says Lookman. “Razaaq ‘bhai’ has retired now and his son has taken over,” he provides. In his youthful days, Lookman watched with awe as Razaaq did prep work. “He would meticulously prepare all of the elements in a row: onions, tomatoes, spices, meat, and rice earlier than he lit the firewood,” he says. “He wouldn’t begin even when one ingredient was lacking.”

Most biryani masters of right now had been helpers of their youthful years. “I began out by choosing pudina leaves as slightly boy,” says Okay Rafi, the grasp at Periamet’s well-liked Nayeem Biryani. The 28-year-old is standing subsequent to a huge aluminum trough, holding 30 kilograms of aromatic mutton biryani, which he scoops into metal plates for ready prospects. A small iron range lit by firewood beneath maintains a dum, guaranteeing the biryani stays piping sizzling.

For years, Rafi watched his boss H Nayeemulla whip up mammoth portions of biryani. He took all of it in; the measurements, the order the elements are launched. “I as soon as made a small pot of biryani and supplied it to him,” he recollects. Nayeemulla was impressed, and Rafi graduated from helper to grasp. At present, he works together with his personal staff that readies mountains of chopped onions and tomatoes for him earlier than he takes over.  

M Lookman Ali of Amrin Biryani on Triplicane High Road

M Lookman Ali of Amrin Biryani on Triplicane Excessive Highway
| Picture Credit score:
S. Shiva Raj

“Anybody could make biryani, however not everybody could make it the best way folks will bear in mind for years,” says Lookman. “Which is why of the five hundred masters in Triplicane, solely 200 might be thought-about expert.” So, what provides them the additional edge? “Kai pakkuvam,” says 53-year-old A Habibulla, a biryani grasp from Royapuram. He’s speaking about how some cooks are born with a knack for this. “In case you ask me, all of it boils all the way down to this,” he says, lifting his arms.

“My father and grandfather had been sought-after biryani masters; I grew up surrounded by large meals ready over firewood in entrance of our residence in Royapuram,” he says. Habibulla was naturally drawn to it. He’s now a biryani grasp at Delkhush Delicacies, a catering firm within the neighbourhood. His father and grandfather travelled throughout the State to prepare dinner at features comparable to weddings, and Habibulla has had his share of large-scale feasts too. “I not too long ago cooked 600 kilograms for an occasion,” he says, including that over 4,000 folks ate the feast.

K Rafi, the master at Periamet’s Nayeem Biryani

Okay Rafi, the grasp at Periamet’s Nayeem Biryani
| Picture Credit score:
Thamodharan Bharath

A grasp wants a staff of 4 to prepare dinner 100 kilograms of biryani, which might be ready in three to 4 hours. On common, he’s paid ₹140 for a kilogram. Each grasp has a algorithm he goes by; Habibulla, as an example, is a stickler for freshness. He discards coriander leaves even when they’re barely shrivelled, and follows hygiene protocol.

He remembers his grandfather cooking in bronze pots with tin lining on the insides. “Aluminium troughs step by step took over,” he factors out, including that masters have the choice of hiring these pots and pans.

The perfect biryani is that which is as soft as a flower to touch

The right biryani is that which is as gentle as a flower to the touch
| Picture Credit score:
S. Shiva Raj

The right biryani, based on him, is that which is “as gentle as a flower to the touch”. He explains: “The rice ought to be agency but moist, and the spices shouldn’t be overpowering,” he says, including: “I prepare dinner taking into account kids as effectively.” He is aware of his biryani might be eaten and mentioned by a whole lot, and typically 1000’s of individuals, and agrees to feeling anxious as mealtime approaches. He waits with bated breath to ask folks strolling out of the eating space in the event that they loved their meal. “I’ve my meal solely after I hear that they did,” he smiles.

These males don’t have written-down recipes or measurements. “All the pieces is by reminiscence and remark,” Lookman tells us. “Every grasp, nonetheless provides his personal contact,” he says. “He brings a sure magic to the dish that any common prepare dinner could make. He’s a grasp for a cause.”

To order, name: Amrin Biryani: 9790902172; Nayeem: 9940338693; Delkhush Delicacies: 8825792318.

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