The trip to Kodaikanal had been finalized and we were all excited. Lush Greens, Mountains, streams, the chill and fresh air of the mountains is always a welcome break. We had booked a cab from Trichy to Kodaikanal and like every other time I start to plan my trip around places to eat at. A little research on Maps and the journey passed directly through Dindigul. Now having lived in Hyderabad, you should understand the special place that Biryani holds for us settlers of the city. But many people down south consider Dindigul as ‘Land of Biryanis’ and that got my curiosity going.
Dindigul is a small town, lots of traffic whizzing through the by lanes and I made my way using the GPS to Thalappakatti. The restaurant which started in 1957 with humble beginnings has grown on to a chain of reputed chain operating under the ‘Thalappakatti’ brand. Thalappakatti’s success can be attributed to the fact that they have not compromised on the quality. The taste yet consistently remains the same since it’s inception. Thalappakatti surprisingly translates to ‘turban’ which the Nagaswamy Naidu, the owner was seen wearing at the cash counter.
The Biryani we ordered was packed full of flavors. Three small buckets of Mutton Kulambu, Dalcha and Onion Raita had been placed on the side as accompaniments. The Thalappakatti is made of seeraga samba rice with each rice being flavored uniformly. The seeraga samba rice by packs a lot less flavor by itself and hence is an excellent substitute to capture the essence of the masalas and meat. The heavy smell of ghee could be felt emanating from the bowl and yet eating, we felt light. The aroma was still felt lingering on the hands even after quite sometime after lunch.
Ponram Biryani is another variation of Dindigul Biryani which originated almost 20 years later than the Thalappakatti. They have done a great job of ramping up too while Thalappakatti has also opened up branches all over Tamil Nadu. As I sat down and requested the server to get me a bowl of the Ponram Biryani, I couldn’t help notice the numerous parcels being doled out. A banana leaf had been placed in front immediately upon taking my order and the Kulambu gravy and raita had been placed on it. The Ponram Biryani too uses the seeraga samba rice, but I felt the Thalappakatti packed a lot more flavors. Here the meat was much tender, but you don’t get that lingering aroma which you carry away with you. It felt like a poor man’s version of the Thalappakatti.
There is no doubt a lot of innovation has taken in this small town when it comes to Biryani. The Thalappakatti definitely carries the mantle far ahead among the rest of the variations of the Dindigul Biryani. There is also a Venu Biryani in Dindigul which I didn’t have the time to sit down with. Probably something for the next time. But the meticulousness with which they pack flavor and the consistency with which they’ve been churning out some amazing Biryani is worth applauding.