The Arcot belt, including Ambur and Vaniyambadi is famous for their biriyani! Some time back, I would have called it a 'Slightly better tomato rice', but yeah, now that I am trying to understand biriyani, I realize that biriyani in this belt is one that is made with lesser of the spices and more of the masala! That is how the natives there like their biriyani and therefore that is how you will get it there. What happens when, in a place where biriyani is a home dish, waits every week to get their biriyani? Apparently people in this town get this biriyani and they call it 'Breakfast Biriyani'. WOW!!!
And that is how I discovered the 'Naatu Kozhi Biriyani', a weekly special made in a small tea shop, every Sunday and gets sold between 7 AM and 9 AM! Yep, AM!!!! My preparations started a day earlier - no Saturday night out with friends or late dinner, but skipped dinner totally! The fact that one bloke in the group had his anniversary that Saturday and another one stayed back in Bangalore made matters easier! Woke up at 5 AM, prayed to God for a safe journey of gluttony, and left Chennai at 545 AM. Reached Vaniyambadi at about 830 (Vaniyambadi is a small town, about 20 km beyond Ambur, when you go from Chennai), and landed ourself at a friend's home there! My friend, his cousin and me then took the 2 km ride within the town to reach this potti kadai and we saw the crowd waiting already. We blocked a table, asked the man there for 3 biriyanis and waited. The biriyani's arrived and (yeah, after taking only 3 photos during which time, those two already started), I ate the biriyani. And as expected, it was under spiced, though my plate had a large cinnamon and two yelachis in it, higher in masala, but the country chicken was AMAZING!!!!! Just AMAZING!!!! No chicken 65, no brinjal, no seating, no nothing to distract you from the biriyani, but just biriyani and a little onion raita.
It put us to sleep like we were sloshed!!!! Woke up at 330 in the afternoon and on the way back, we HAD to eat at Ambur. I know that Star and Star Original and others are famous there, but I have had biriyani in almost all of those shops and for me if it is Ambur, it has to be Khaja Biriyani and boneless chicken 65 (which they call boneless fry). If you are on there on any day, then Khaja is the biriyani to head to. Slightly more flavourful than the Vaniyambadi biriyani but this was the regular mutton biriyani, with super soft mutton pieces, a rather bad brinjal gravy, but greasy and tasty chicken 65 to go with it.
And if you are in this belt, especially Ambur, you must try their local adaptation of the gulab jamun, called the Makkan Peda - a really sweet dish, but unlike gulab jamun, you can either have it hot and fresh, or let it dry for a few days and then eat it. It is different both ways, almost like the soft and hard Mysore paak.
I have no way to tell you directions for this weekly special biriyani at Vaniyambadi, if you are there at the right time, enter the town and ask for Naatu Kozhi Biriyani Kadai and hope to get directions from the locals.
As for Khaja, it is on the highway, when heading from Chennai to Bangalore, it is on the left as soon as you enter the Ambur part of the highway. Khaja also has the country chicken biriyani on select days and is supposed to be popular among the locals!!!
Keep watching this space for more on Biriyanis!!! And if you liked reading this, please share!!!