I’ve recently been trying to get some Indian cooking skills. Not going too well, taste wise, even though I’m learning a lot from the books. I even think I’m freaking out my favorite Indian grocer (Troy’s Subzi Mandi), who maybe thinks I’m casing his joint (given the frequency of my visits) or, more likely, that I’m just a weird white dude.
Anyway, one of my dishes that actually has turned out quite nicely is my biryani vegetable rice—a classic dish originating from ethnic Persians living in India. Therefore, when I noticed a new restaurant on the west edge of Troy (Dequindre & Maple) which specializes in this dish, I rushed in. The place is aptly named “Biryani Xpress.” www.biryanixp.com And, Biryani Xpress’s gimmick is “Every dinner is only $5.” On days where I’m resigned to eating non-organic restaurant food within my budget, the phrase “$5 dinners” has a mighty good ring to it.
The manager was very nice and let me have tastes from the various steam trays. In the end, I pulled out $27 and had one of almost everything on offer--- meat thali (butter chicken, lentil stew, rice, chapati bread, and raita cucumber yogurt dip); vegetarian thali (same but sub veg curry for butter chicken); chicken biryani; chilli chicken; and, chicken 65. The chicken biryani was pretty good and interesting, but it was VERY spicy. I asked whether any biryanis were available in medium or mild, and the manager said, “Yes, I’d be glad to mix in some plain rice when filling your biryani container.”
All the dishes were good (great for the price), but the veg thali combo and meat thali combo were the big winners, based on variety and value, even though none “took me to a flavor place I’ve never before been.” (Wow, all that good thali for $5.) I probably had let my anticipation of some kind of sublime biryani adventure go too far before getting my order, so nothing probably could have met/exceeded my excessive expectations. But, I certainly will order the biryani again. Maybe their mutton or egg version. I mean, how could my original expectations not have been too high??, after reading their recipe from THEIR OWN website:
“1. Marinate chicken with the ingredients called for 'marination'.
2. Cook basmati rice with bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, marathi mogga, elaichi, oil, salt till its half cooked.
3. Heat 1 tbsp oil + 1 tbsp ghee in a vessel, add sliced onions, saute for 8-10 mts till caramelized. Remove and keep aside.
4. Add the saffron to the luke warm milk and combine well. Keep aside.
5. Take a wide deep vessel to prepare the biryani. Add 3 tbsps oil, add the marinated chicken and spread out over the vessel.
6. Cook on high for 2 mts. Add a tbsp of oil over the chicken pieces. Reduce flame.
7. Spread half of the rice over the chicken layer, pour half a tbsp of ghee all over the rice.
8. Place lid and over the lid place a heavy weight and seal the edges with wheat dough. Cook on high flame for 2 mts.
9. After 10 mts, remove lid, combine gently and serve hot with raita and curry of your choice.”
This is the first Biryani Xpress. A new concept from a group of local ethnic Indian professionals (not previously in the resto business…just food enthusiasts/entrepreneurs). These four guys are partnering, with plans to soon expand to Toledo and then later to Cincy. Check it out, and try one of their deeply rich and sweet homemade drinks such as mango lassi or “badam milk” which I think has nut milk and squeezed fruit (whatever was in it was yummy). Just $0.99, so what do you have to lose besides your calorie points?!!