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Having lived in Lucknow for the first fifteen years of my life, none can take away my special fondness for Lucknawi Biryani. Well, I really don’t remember how old I was when my taste buds surrendered in love to the spices and flavors of Chicken or Lamb meat cooked in the rice but the affair has been going strong and steady. My fondness has been such that I distinctly remember asking Mum that why did she make two dishes, a chicken curry and rice separately when she could do away with just one dish – Biryani, dats it!
Shake me in my sleep and ask me my favorite meal, I bet I would utter anything else other than chicken cooked in rice. Biryani happens to be an all time favorite but now I know its cousins too. Each one is cooked in unique spices and is equally tempting. I am bad with cooking but yes traveling has given me a chance to savor different types of Biryani and my taste buds have relished them distinctly.
For many years I nursed the thought that it was too easy to cook Biryani, equal to putting rice and meat, spices, water together on the burner and going off to sleep.My visit to Riyadh two years ago was an eye opener where I got a chance to eat different forms of chicken in rice. One that I ate most was called Al Kabsa – Traditional Saudi Rice and Chicken. Its eaten with fresh salads, lime and hot sauce that’s called ‘Shattah’. Shawaya House was my favorite eatery and I would get it for 15 SR. I also enjoyed eating chicken shawarma over rice. Instead of being rolled in pita, boneless form of chicken in pieces tasted more fun with rice.
Last year when I visited Oman, I got a chance to eat Mandi. On our way to Jebel Shems from Nizwa, our guide took us to this Yemeni Restaurant. It was too small but the only one that was open and had people seated around. The driver suggested that this was famous for its traditional rice n meat mandi. Honestly, I did not understand in the first go because I had never heard about this dish. (What I knew of this word ‘mandi’ was that it means a market or bazaar like we say sabzimandi (vegetable market). Also, there is a place in Himachal in India)
While I ate, I learnt much about it morsel by morsel
- Don’t touch the spoon, Mandi is to be eaten with the hands- Roll some rice, tear some meat, put them together in the hand, take it to the mouth and savor the flavors
- The soup that was served along with it looked very interesting. Mandi never comes alone on the table. Always with salad, chili sambal and clear soup.
- In Arabic, ‘nada’ is the word for dewy texture of meat and Mandi takes it origination from nada
- Republic of Yemen and Sultanate of Oman have had a great relationship such that this Yemeni dish is too famous in Oman too
- Cooked with various Yemeni spices in an oven it makes for its special taste
- The meat is cooked in a special type of tandoor to make the meat soft and tender. “Madhbi” is the name given to the method of preparation.
- I also picked on the Yemeni words- dajjaj (chicken) and laham (lamb)
- Yemenis also call it ‘Hanneth’
- Rice is yellow in color because saffron is added to it.
- Much later I got to know its got an Indian connect too as people in Malabar region in Kerala eat it too
After a sumptuous meal of Mandi when I stepped out of the restaurant, I noticed that this small place had won many awards. Kudos! The driver had rightly said this was a famous place known for its Yemeni dishes.
Since my trip back from Oman, I have been missing on the flavors of Mandi. In fact nobody wishes going to Riyadh but I wouldn’t mind going there for the local flavors of Kabsa.
Recently a blogger visited Jordan and when he tweeted about Mansaf, I learnt that it is also a different version of chicken cooked in yogurt and is served with rice. Is it a cousin of Biryani too? Not sure!
If you are into Biryani and would like to share something here, please don’t hesitate. I would love to know more about it.
This is my post for ‘Food and Travel Carnival’ to be a part of #BloggerDreamTeam
A very helpful discussion that happened on Facebook after the post when live, here it is.