Karigar Biryani in Chennai serves ancient Tamil fare which dates back to the Chera dynasty
Biryani is love. And this story — one that Chef Harish Rao chanced upon over research for the recently launched cloud kitchen Karigar Biryani — best describes it. Taking us back in history for a moment, roughly 13th century AD to a time when the Pandyas and Cholas were sworn enemies, we are told, there was one Tamil kingdom that remained neutral — the Cheras. “Instead of taking sides with the warring factions, king Uthiyan Cheralathan cooked for both the armies. What his royal kitchen prepared was Perun Choru,” he narrates. Chef Harish who is a consultant on this venture is known for his regional flavours at Sea Salt and was formerly at Dakshin, Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park.
We keep this in mind as we dive into a basket of the dish, laden with seeraga samba rice, rich with ghee, cooked with black pepper and succulent chunks of mutton. This was a one-pot feast, fit for royalty, that we are told was one of the earliest versions of biryani, before the influence of the Mughals. “Perun Choru literally translates to big meal or big feast,” chef Harish shares with us.
Co-owned by reputed names in the industry Kannan Velayutham (1 Rue Saffren, Puducherry) and Girish Subash (Fromage) — the concept has been under three months of R&D. This includes trips to villages such as Vembar in and around Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu for the eco-friendly palm leaf boxes the dishes come packaged in. This ties in with the name Karigar, as well, which means ‘artisan’. “We source all our packaging directly from these artisans, at the rates that are charged for them in the city,” explains Girish. He tells us, “Through such initiatives, we aim to enrich the lives of our own artisans, promote eco-friendly alternatives to plastic and also preserve ancient traditions and art forms.”
As we dig into the rest of our palm leaf boxes to sample, we find aromatic Chicken Biryani, Chicken 65 and Mutton Sukka tossed in browned onions and garam masala. Notably, our biryani pairings apart from raitha do not include the ubiquitous brinjal bharta, but instead, a tangy South Indian-style thokku that steals the show.
Dessert is a box of Paan ladoos made with fresh beetle leaves and sweetened rose petals.
Open 1 pm to 9 pm. Perun Choru at INR 350.