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16.03.2017

When KC Deepak discovered that his Mallu bride, Leena, was a fantastic cook, the germ of an idea took root. For twenty long years, Deepak, who was born and grew up in Delhi but has family in Thalassery, let it simmer over extremely slow heat. There was enough to handle on the front burner, what with running a transport business, working as a personal trainer, and raising a son.

A self-described “big foodie,” Deepak desperately wanted to start a business related to cooking. “Generally, a transporter might lie around and drink, or play cards, in his free time,” he told us over the phone. He credits his own entrepreneurial bent to the motivation he gets from working out. (Muscle) mass appeal!

About a month ago, the stars aligned, and the family, which lives in Dwarka, finally opened Malabar Biryani House, a simple outlet in Amar Colony, at the other end of town. Deepak relied on a friend’s advice, having never been to this market himself. The biryani is cooked daily in Dwarka, where a custom-made 200-litre cooker squats in a 500 square foot shop converted into a kitchen. Currently, the orders are just a trickle, but the size of his appliance matches the ambition. He’s already taking advance orders and delivering to homesick Mallus and call-centre kids as far away as Gurgaon, and promises he can make enough to feed an army, even one from Haryana. 

Dum Charades

The outlet still has a few teething issues: when we order at noon, there’s no one around to deliver until 2pm. But delivery does show up at the promised hour, in microwaveable packets with containers of gravy and raita. As a concession to their Lajpat Nagar surrounds, Malabar Biryani House offers vegetarian biryani which swaps out chicken for soya. It is “improvised for this business,” Deepak says, “otherwise no one eats vegetarian biryani in Kerala.”

As a concession to their Lajpat Nagar surrounds, Malabar Biryani House offers vegetarian biryani which swaps out chicken for soya. It is “improvised for this business,” Deepak says, “otherwise no one eats vegetarian biryani in Kerala.”

Both versions are homely but richly perfumed, with the rice well-spiced and just moist enough from the addition of meat or vegetables. These are both fresh and light compared to the versions available at Delhi’s various Mallu dhabas. (“My wife is very particular.”) The spice ratio in the biryani, ground fresh daily, is a “closely guarded secret” known only to Deepak, Leena, and their son (now 19). 

Paddy Cake, Paddy Cake

Deepak calls the dum biryani a refined version of the Moplah dish, without any whole spices to get in the way of the grains of rice, chunks of chicken, or dry fruit. For immaculate authenticity, look elsewhere—Deepak says the traditional kaima or jeerakasala rice is too expensive in Delhi, at Rs 300 of 400 for a small packet, and uses basmati instead. “The only difference is that kaima is more fragrant,” he says, “but it’s just not possible here.”   

Currently business is as slow as the cooking process: this is Malabar Biryani House’s gestation period. “It’s nothing to write home about,” Deepak says. “Khaanewaale kum hain, but jo bhi khata hai, wah wah karke jaata hai.” There are few takers, but whoever comes to eat, leaves singing its praises.

A friend suggests that Deepak take the example of the Moradabadi biryani shops and keep continuously heating water in a handi outside his shop, even if the biryani isn’t technically made there. If a little bit of marketing helps the business stay afloat, we urge him to follow this advice, for purely selfish reasons. It’s nice to have discovered a rice dish that’s tasty without needing trappings, cheap, and light enough for a working lunch. If it’ll keep South Delhi’s perpetually complaining Malayali grumps quiet for a bit, so much the better.   

Getting there: Shop 1, C-34 Amar Colony (back side), Lajpat Nagar-IV, New Delhi. Meal for two Rs 400. Accepts Paytm.

bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.

This review was contributed by Sonal Shah, journalist and editor. Read more of her work on sonalshah.in.

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