There are numerous varieties of biriyanis but Dindigul Thalappakatti biriyani stands apart with its unique taste as well as the name. Dindigul in Tamil Nadu is the birthplace of this world-famous biriyani and a trip to the town to savour this dish offers an interesting experience.
Many foodies may have relished the Dindigul biriyani from the various branches of the Thalappakatti restaurants located from Theni to Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, but tasting it from the headquarters in Dindigul is truly special.
Thalappakatti refers to ‘thalappavu’ - headgear which was the trademark of the founder of the restaurants, Nagaswamy Naidu.
Dindigul, 60 km from Madurai, gets its name from a big rock shaped like a pillow near the town. It has an old fort and was called ‘Tindu kallu’ by the local people. The British changed the name to Dindigul for easy pronunciation in English. But now even the British have no difficulty in ordering ‘Dindigul thalappakatti biriyani’ and pronouncing the name correctly!
The road from Madurai to Dindigul is very broad and smooth. The restaurant can be easily located by searching on Google. There are 19 restaurants under the chain in Tamil Nadu but a visit to the outlet at Dindigul takes you back in time.
A big board on the top of a tall building announces the location. On the left is the picture of a man wearing a headgear. He is the founder Nagaswamy Naidu, who opened the first restaurant at Dindigul in 1957.
A big flex board at the parking ground announces that most of the chief ministers who have ruled Tamil Nadu and many of the top film stars have reached this outlet in Dindigul to savour the biriyani.
Inside the restaurant, it is always crowded. The specials are chicken and mutton biriyani. Ask a waiter about his suggestion and he would recommend the chicken biriyani.
After the order is placed, the first item that would be placed on the table would be an empty plate. It would be followed by a clean tender leaf to be kept over the plate. The chicken biriyani is then served along with ‘ulli thairu’ and ‘kolambu’. While ‘ulli thairu’ is a salad with onion, the latter is a local curry.
What makes the Dindigul biriyani unique
The rice chosen to make the Dindigul biriyani is Sreeraga Chamba rice, also known as ‘parakkum sittu’. This variety was chosen by Nagaswamy Naidu himself to make his biriyani stand apart from others. The Chamba rice is well-cooked and almost melts in the mouth.
Another dish called ‘dalcha’ is also served with the biriyani. However, this item and the ‘ulli thairu’ do not really taste very good.
The attraction of the biriyani is the finest blending of the masala and rice. There will be two pieces of chicken in one biriyani. Food lovers who have tasted the biriyani served at Kayees in Mattancherry would find much similarity with the Dindigul biriyani. There is some yellow turmeric and the masala all mixed together.
The meat is so soft that it comes off even with a pinch. The rice and meat are known to be prepared separately. Even the mutton is chosen and made ready exclusively for Thalappakatti.
But as mentioned earlier, the pickles and other side dishes do no match the quality of the Thalappakatti biriyani.
Somebody tasting the Dindigul Thalappakatti biriyani would be anxious whether he or she would feel drowsy afterwards. Foodies in Kerala often complain about this problem. Such fears are unfounded as the chefs ensure that only healthy ingredients go into the dish.
The Dindigul Thalappakatti biriyani is not only tasty but also healthy, having been prepared in the cleanest manner. No wonder it has retained the name and fame for over 60 years.