If the quest to find a decent meal in Lahore has left you hungry and forlorn, take a gander at one of the most popular items tickling the city’s palette since the Mughal era.
Considered by many to be the next best thing since sliced bread, biryani today means a lot of things to different people. But at the end of the day, it is a convenient option and serves to be a full meal for starving students, workers and midnight munchers.
The biryani eating world is split between two kinds of people—those who can look up while eating and those who must look down at their food. However, due to the presence of unwanted gunk in the dish, you find yourself subscribing to the former practice. This highlights the next point — biryani is a mixture of a range of ingredients and everyone prefers varying versions of it.
Some enjoy it on dried plums enveloped by rice while some like it with the rather odd boiled egg. The range of ingredients that are available to a cook — bits and bobs of herbs and spices — can overwhelm even the most casual and least finicky of diners.
Most would argue that the best biryani is invariably found in their own homes but that is exactly why we must look past the domestic bells and whistles and draw our attention to the most common form available to the masses — the chicken biryani. In developing a framework for appreciation of this dish, a few indicators of excellence can be narrowed down to taste, convenience and affordability. An important factor in evaluating biryani is the presence of food colour, but one can hardly blame eateries for not being able to afford saffron, so we will leave it out.
The good people at Student Biryani have been around since 1969 and have franchises all over Pakistan and the Middle East; their convenient and centralised ordering system allows food to be delivered from their outlet in Lahore’s Fortress Stadium to anywhere in the city. Although cheaper options are available on their menu, the deal which includes a large plate of biryani served with a shami kabab, salad, raita, kheer and a drink, turned out to be quite the smorgasbord. And it is rather well-packed too.
Priced a little over Rs300, which may be a little steep for budget-conscious consumers, the deal should suffice for two. Despite the blandness and muted aromatics, the biryani has a pleasant taste and is filling. Rated: 3/5
Biryani Express has built a strong reputation for serving delicious biryani at affordable prices. With over 30 branches in Lahore, the chain delivers a range of attractive deals for its customers. For less than Rs200, it’s difficult to imagine how an eatery can conjure up a plate full of biryani, a piece of chicken, raita, salad and a drink. But these folks do it and they do it well. The dish is full of flavour with a balanced hint of lemon and yoghurt and a conspicuous zest of cloves and cardamoms, which leaves a trace on your tongue when you are done devouring the food.
Biryani Express remains popular because it is an affordable option for everyday diners looking for generous portions on a budget. Rated: 4/5
The rustic Dhaba Restaurant on M M Alam Road is arguably one of the best places to eat Pakistani food in Lahore. It’s small and Spartan and while it lacks decent parking space for its customers, it makes up for it in its fantastic price. Although quite steep at over Rs400, a plate of their Madrasi biryani is enough for three people and probably the closest thing to home-cooked food. It has plenty of spices and thankfully avoids artificial colours present is other establishments.
However, if you are not into spicy food then this one is not for you. Rated: 3/5
There are several other contenders in the battle of the biryani, but one thing is clear — as long as prices are kept reasonable/low and quality is preferred over quantity, everyone comes out a winner.
The writer is a food critic and enthusiast based in Lahore who is also a development planner and lawyer.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2013.
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Lahore has to go long way to have good Biryani. How is sliced bread relevant in pakistan?
@no name: That's strange, considering so much of North Indian and Pakistani food is exactly the same - same dishes, same names, everything. Obviously there may be local variations in taste, but that's about it. I've never been to India but have many Indian friends and have eaten in their homes and the food is excellent. To claim there is 'nothing to eat' in as huge and diverse country as India is, frankly, a pretty ridiculous thing to say.
Yes Pakistani food is the best. I've been to India, have relatives there as well as in Pakistan. Can honestly say there is nothing to eat in India, went from Jaipur, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow and other places, absolutely nothing to eat. But Pakistan there is so much food and the taste is excellent.
I personally like biryani and have had it from different places. Student Biryani has come across as the best choice for biryani outside home. But I would like to highlight here that although they have franchised yet the best student biryani you can have till date is in their original shop in Karachi.
this is first time I see you are praising anything Pakistan/Pakistani :)
@saikd nowhere it says it is staple dish of Punjab. Is u barking mad?
it is such a shame that the journalist/writer has been unable to do his homework properly. biryani has never been a staple dish of punjab - pulao has! it has only been as recent as a few years; half a decade or a few years over, that biryani has become popular enough for establishments like 'student biryani' to invest a franchise and outlets like 'biryani express' to mushroom. mughal delicacy or not, the punjabi/lahori palate that was so accustomed to the less-spicy pulao is now hooked onto the masala in the southern-favourite biryani.
Never heard about Biryani express but the quality student biryani has dropped during past years is not appreciable. I will never prefer student biryani in my life ever again. I would rather prefer Bombay Biryani from Burns Road or KBC.
No rice dish can ever beat Savour's pulao though! o.O
wow!!!!!!! i always believe that pakistani delicacies are best in the world........:)