Words: Shivanshu Shukla
Yeah, I know. We’re making huge claims and you might feel offended and of course who wouldn’t be, I mean Biryani is a holy grail you see, but just hear us out!
Staying true to your roots is not just old saying, its a way of life for folks at Idrees Biryani. There are no frills, no multi franchising business model, they don’t even deliver meals home. Giant food delivery apps are begging to partner them and bring them onto their delivery platform. So, in order to taste the real deal we had to travel from Delhi to old Lucknow city.
While trying to locate the shop, I was told that its looks very ordinary and easy too miss. I walked and walked, through roads and narrow alleys and reached a main road continued walking. I would have kept going but a certain aroma came and I saw it. Large Degs (Pots) were being cooked on open wood/coal flame.
I quickly took out my phone and clicked this:
People always tell me that they went to certain place to dine out for an experience, and brag about what they saw, and eat. Let me tell you this, this place to me was not just a humble place that served an age old tradition, it became my best Experiential dining, ever.
Cooking platform and oven was made out of dried mud. Vessels put on open flame. It took me back to a long forgotten era, which it probably is the image that pops into the minds of western inhabitants.
Before we tell you about the food, lets take a lesson from Lakhnawi tehzeeb.
I saw man in a white shirt, after inquiring I found out that he was the owner of the shop. He earlier saw me clicking photos and we struck a conversation.
Mr. Abu Bakr, the owner of the shop was one of the finest human beings out there and you must speak to him if you ever go to Idrees Biryani. He told us that this shop was started by his father in 1968 and he is working here since he was a kid. His father was trained under his grand father for 20 long years before he opened this shop.
“This eatery is a small treasure that my father passed on to my brother and I, and we’re continuing this shop under his name and blessings” said Bakr. He also told us that, its his father’s blessings and gods grace upon his family that the taste and quality has remained unchanged for over half a century.
When enquired about expansion plans, he smiled and told us there is too much demand and he can’t keep up with his inventory and meals he makes. Just to tell you, they serve about 50+ degs of biryani every day, and during Ramadan the demands further skyrockets.
I requested for a quarter plate of biryani as I was full to my neck.
I was astonished to hear his next words, in a very polite tone, he spoke, ” Bete Danish, Dilli se khaas mehmaan aye hain. Ek Biryani lagwaye, turant! (Danish, we have special guests from Delhi, please bring a plate of Biryani)
I have been to most good places, seen a lot polite staff and courteous people, but his mannerisms were unapparelled. And that’s Lucknawi tehzeeb for you.
And then came what, I came there for:
It looked very appetizing. Mr. Bakr told us that its more like a meat pulav rather than a biryani, but since biryani was an easily recognizable name, they went for it.
Its was the perfectly balanced Plate of rice I ever had.
It felt really light, a true guilt free indulgence. Not oily, at all! Spices were mellowed down to being just perfect. Abu Bakr told me that they use almost all spices available in India, its perfect blend was created by his late father so that no spice should over power other spices and person eating it would be experiencing all notes of the flavour.
I was surprised to know that their biryani was cooked in skimmed milk and not in water. A what???
To those of you who think what so special, let me tell you, if you cook rice in milk it becomes more pudding like and resembles a texture to that of kheer (An Indian dessert) and each morcel of rice can’t stay separate.
The aroma though light, can be felt even at 10-20 metres. Finest saffron I suppose.
They also served Nahari, a stew made from goat meat and it was delicious.
The place looked ancient and I found no modern equipment in use there:
Co-owner and Abu Bakr’s younger brother, Mr. Abu Hamza, serving biryani to his patrons:
The new deg was full of biryani moments ago:
Even though I was craving for more of the biryani, I could not eat much becauseof a full day of eating out.
I opened my wallet to pay for the meal, but Mr. Bakr refused to take money. He said, “Hum Khushi ke liye paraste hain, paise pata nahi bas, aa jate hain”. (We serve for love, we don’t know why money follows).
I was awestruck to meet such a man, but he wouldn’t budge. So I decided to feed an old lady begging there since he refused the payment. He was delighted to see my gesture. We are responsible travelers after all!
I left after a firm handshake, with a full belly and big smile on my face.