When it comes to Biryani, Kolkatans are fiercely protective about the Calcutta Biryani or now, the Kolkata biryani. Any other biryani doesn’t stand a chance against this mildly fragrant rice dish with a large piece of mutton chop and a potato. There are several restaurants in Kolkata which serve Kolkata biryani. However, it is the old Biryani joints, who are the custodians of the authentic Kolkata biryani recipe. Royal India has been there for a century. Aminia has just completed 90 years and Aminia biryani has a special place in my heart. There is India Restaurant at Kidderpore, which has its own strength. And then, Arsalan has branched out to every possible location in the city. There are people who will vouch for the biryani at Shiraz and will hear nothing else. Each place tells a different story, which lies in the finer details of the dish.
Anindya wrote about Royal India Hotel opening in South Kolkata here (Link)
Which is your favourite biryani place in the city? Is it Aminia?
It is difficult to say which is the best biryani restaurant in Kolkata. Every person has an emotional connect or a memory with a particular restaurant. These memories are deep-seated from childhood. Biryani equals emotion for a Kolkatan. When Anindya posted about our Aminia experience, there were multitude of tweets from friends and their Aminia memories.
Koyel Mitra, a freelance content writer, who has been away from Kolkata for 11 years, beautifully put her thoughts for Aminia. “I can write pages and pages. The affair with Aminia dates back to the time when I couldn’t even pronounce biryani. I used to say Biyali. Whether it’s noboborsho lunch or bijoya or Khawadawa it had to be aminia r biryani. I first visited Aminia when I was three and most of the people associated with my memories are gone hence Aminia now is even more special to me.”
My Aminia Memory
My Aminia memory dates back to 1993, when I shifted to Kolkata from Port Blair. Those four years till my class 12 in 1996, we used to live in Jodhpur Park. Aminia Golpark was the closest to our place. Every time we had a guest from out of town, we would take them to Aminia Golpark for an experience of Kolkata biryani. For any impromptu get together at home, it was a takeaway of Aminia mutton biryani and chicken chaap. Cut to recent times, office located at Lenin Sarani and a bad day at office would mean ordering in biryani from Aminia New Market. Our monthly meeting of project heads from various locations would also mean Aminia biryani. It was the easiest and it was the best.
Joydeep Ganguly, another Aminia loyalist said that he used to go to the Esplanade outlet with his father and now he goes with his sons and time has stood still there.
When that plate of Aminia biryani and a robust chicken leg enveloped in a greasy thick gravy of the chaap comes to the table, I forget all my worries. To re-establish our love for the brand, Anindya and I went to Aminia New Market a couple of months back. We decided to sit in the non ac section. That’s where you get the real feel of the place. We ordered for a plate of mutton biryani, chicken chaap, tandoori roti and a mutton rezala. That was a little too much to eat for just the two of us. So we packed most of it back home but our love for the brand was re-established that day.
A Few More Memories to Share
While Rakshit was happy that his childhood memories were revived, he is of a strong opinion that Mutton Biryani is the asli cheej. Rest all are versions of Pulao. Debjani Banerji, who heads the East and North East chapter of a multinational educational book publishing house and a voracious reader herself, has been an Aminia New Market Loyalist since childhood.
Awrytro, a financial analyst from Bangalore, shared another unique aspect of Aminia. “Aminia was my first eating out permission from home. After School, we walked all the way to have Aminia special and Biryani. But the best story would be my father telling me when he joined work in Esplanade in early 70’s Aminia Special was Rs 1.40”
90 years celebration of Aminia
Amidst the roller coaster of emotion, Aminia, completed 90 glorious years in Kolkata. So what does Aminia offer? It’s not just biryani. There are so many dishes, which are excellently made with closely guarded recipes. A few days back, we were invited for lunch at Aminia Golpark. That’s when I first had the pasinda kebab from Aminia. We also had many more dishes other than the biryani. So, why stick to biryani and chaap only.
Here are our top 5 pick from the menu of Aminia, other than the famous biryani
- Pasinda Kebab– Once you have their mutton pasinda, you will not want to have any other in the city. The process of making this kebab involves peeling of mutton skin from the leg. Then, marinating in secret spices before cooking the kebabs. Unfortunately, it is made in small batches every day at limited outlets. If you don’t reach on time, you will probably miss out on this legendary kebab.
- Mutton khada masala– Made with whole spices, this dish has tender mutton pieces bathed in a rich onion gravy with whole peppers. Broken pieces of dried red chilies along with the semi thick onion gravy makes this a sensational dish.
- Mutton Rezala– This dish has changed over a period of time to suit the local taste. Mutton rezala is a favourite with Bengalis. The consistency of the gravy is quite thin and the taste is sweeter than a normal rezala. Floating chunks of mutton along with fox nuts, almost striking out like jewels in the gravy, is a crowd pleaser.
- Chicken Isfahan– Not many know about this dish and not many order this stellar preparation. Isfahan is a city in Central Iran and this recipe travels from that region. This has a chicken breast stuffed with dry fruits, nuts and caramelised onions and then cooked in a creamy cashew nut gravy loaded with green chilies.
- Aminia special curry– This is Aminia’s secret weapon and you won’t forget the taste of this fiery dish once you have it. It’s always a mutton shank which is prepared with garam masala and other spices. What is interesting about this over the top red dish is the use of whole tomatoes, whole shallots, sliced carrot and whole potato. It is light and thin in texture and goes brilliantly with tandoori roti or rumali roti.
Can there be a best biryani place?
When there was Madhuri Dixit, there was Sridevi. When there was Tom Cruise, there was Tom Hanks. Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara existed at the same time. With Lata Mangeshkar, there was Asha Bhosle. The ultimate pet peeve in this for a Bengali will be when there is Uttom Kumar, there was Soumitra Chattopadhyay. And as much as Mohun Bagan, there is also East Bengal. We often take sides for the sake of expressing our loyalties, knowing well that there is some greatness on the other side also. Which one is the fav biryani in Kolkata is more than a debate, more than a discussion. Like all the above examples, it’s a question which lets us know that Kolkata is still in Kolkata. Cheers for Aminia, shout for Royal, dance for Arsalan but in the end, stay calm and eat Biryani.
I kept the best for the last, my friend “Finelychopped” Kalyan Karmakar wanted me to wish Aminia a happy 90 and he shared two of his posts. Please read them, after you read this to get a whole perspective of what Biryani is to Kolkata
A trip down the Kolkata Biryani Lane (Link)
Grunge grand and green. (Link)
Did you know chicken chaanp and Biryani is like the deadliest fast bowling pair ? Read the recipe here (Link )