Here’s wishing all Muslim friends Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri! Foodies, keep your eyes peeled, and stomachs ravenous, because this post is all about Nasi Biryani –a common dish in Malay households, especially ubiquitous at special occasions such as Hari Raya.
Check out the to follow our expedition from Jalan Kayu to Race Course Road to North Bridge Road, intent on singling out the most outstanding rendition out of the 5.
258, Jalan Kayu, Singapore 799487
Our first stop was Thohirah Restaurant –a 24-hour eatery situated at Jalan Kayu, famed for their roti prata. How does their Nasi Biryani fare then?
Chicken Biryani ($6.50 nett)
For those in the know, the usual practice of serving Nasi Biryani is burying the meat underneath the rice. As our order of chicken biryani arrives at the table, we were greeted by a massive heap of rice accompanied by a separate bowl of curry. For just $6.50, the portion is more than substantial.
The individual grains of basmati rice remain separated, and are infused with subtle aroma that’s pleasing to eat on its own. Ladle over the rice with the mildly spiced curry for additional moisture. Matched with the fragrant chicken that’s cooked till moist and tender, Thohirah’s version does not disappoint.
122 Race Course Rd, Singapore 218583
Chicken Biryani ($9.50++)
A tray is laid out with banana leaf trimmed to fit, leaving first-timers bewildered –where’s the biryani? Then moments later the server proceeds to plonk on a mountain of golden biryani goodness, with chicken and egg snugged tightly within. Sides include a condiment composed of raw onions, yogurt and coriander leaves, a portion of curry for your dousing pleasures, and crispy pappadum.
The spice-kissed rice is distinctively darker and infused with deeper flavour as compared to most versions, and the banana leaf contributes to imparting fragrance to the rice.
For a well-executed traditional Biryani, Gayatri Restaurant gets my vote.
709 North Bridge Road, Singapore 198681
Chicken Biryani ($6.50 nett)
Opened for just slightly under 3 years, Al-Tasneem Restaurant demonstrates excellence that proves a restaurant does not require a rich history to deliver a good plate of biryani.
The curry packs a spicy punch, resulted from the addition of chilli padi amidst the medley of spices. It is thick and rich without being cloying –thanks to the addition of onions that are cooked till soft and almost disintegrating, contributing comforting textures to every mouthful.
Mutton (additional portion without rice; $5 nett)
Mutton is also another exceedingly popular protein to go with Nasi Biryani. At Al-tasneem, the mutton is tender and deeply penetrated with flavours from the curry, masking the gamey odour often associated with mutton.
745 Northbridge Road, Singapore 198713
Islamic Restaurant is one of the oldest Muslim eateries in Singapore, smacked in the heart of Arab Street, with a history of over 90 years. The restaurant was packed to the brim when we arrived at dinnertime, and the only empty tables you would see are reserved. Arriving slightly before the sun begins to set, we were lucky to score a table (a coffee table in precise) outside the restaurant. A complimentary plate of dates is brought to each table regardless of diners’ race and religion; they are traditionally eaten before the breaking of fast during the month of Ramadan.
We ordered the Chicken Beryani ($8++), Mutton Beryani ($8.50++) and Fried Chicken Beryani ($9++), one of which we opted for the Beryani Set ($11++) that comes with a choice of chicken, mutton or fish, accompanied by Dalcha, Achar, Vegetable and Pappadam.
As opposed to the other restaurants that serve biryani with a bowl of curry on the side, I was slightly disappointed that there isn’t any additional curry to smother my rice with. The fried chicken turned out dry and tough, and was in dire need of curry for moisture. The rice is fragrant, though slightly on the bland side –however that might be because my palate is accustomed to the richness of curries that I had eaten previously. I would recommend the normal chicken biryani; it’s a challenge to keep chicken breast moist and tender, and they succeeded in this aspect. The mutton is fork-tender, and exceedingly flavourful –it must have been steeped in braising curry for long hours to attain such divine texture and flavour.
135/137 East Coast Road
Upon perceiving Zaffron Kitchen’s modern façade, one’s expectation of the restaurant is immediately elevated. “Pricey” and “contemporary” are two words that conjure up, but the pricing is surprisingly reasonable, and the menu does not deviate from authentic Indian cuisine.
Mutton Biryani ($15++)
The Nasi Biryani makes a splendid entrance to the dining table; a baking dish covered in a slightly charred dough, which encases the star of the dish –nasi biryani. The crust seals in the aroma and flavour, while keeping the meat and rice moist.
Chicken Biryani ($13.50++)
The Chicken Biryani is a highlight. A tremendously tender and juicy leg of a chicken is tucked snugly within the bed of fragrant basmati rice –one can never stop at one mouthful. This is one of the best Nasi Biryanis I’ve had so far –if not the best.
This family-friendly restaurant will please both traditionalists and modernists.
*SAFRA paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.*