25 June 2010
One of the most popular local
brands of Pakistan, Student Biryani opens its first branch in Dubai
You can tell a great dish by the many legends surrounding its beginnings. One such meal — one that comes from humble origins and yet has satisfied kings and presidents alike is biryani. And being a biryani freak, I am always on the lookout for new biryani places. With a wide number of cuisines on offer here in Dubai, my mantra has always been simply to eat where the natives from that country eat.
Just 10 minutes from Karama Metro station, opposite the shop Day To Day, you will come across an eye-catching logo: a chef holding a plate of biryani in front of a bright red background with the restaurant’s name in shiny yellow. And that’s Student Biryani for you.
If there’s one success story that epitomises the ‘Rags-to-Riches’ story in Pakistan, it is Student Biryani, earlier branded Café Student. The brand has gone from strength to strength over a period of more than 30 years. And where did it all start? As a biryani cart on the very spot where its first ever shop is located in Saddar in Karachi.
S Shahzad, the youngest son of the founder of Student Biryani Haji Muhammad Ali, relates the story of how his father migrated to Karachi from Uttar Pradesh, India, in the 30s, how he worked in restaurants from the age of 12 — cleaning, washing, waiting on tables before he took the entrepreneurial route. From what started as a modest little restaurant, emerged a chain of restaurants across Pakistan with several franchises, and a plan to now take it outside the border of Pakistan into the
It was on a warm October afternoon way back in 1969, that Haji Muhammed Ali, a 40-year-old, stood behind a cart with a sign which read Student Biryani. Students returning from school noticed him standing behind a cart on Katrak Road with a few plates and a bucketful of aromatic biryani. And being students, they couldn’t resist the temptation and thus began a local food chain called Café Student.
“It’s a long history of 40 years of hard work, perseverance and passion. The idea of establishing Café Student was conceived and materialised by my father with very humble beginnings. It all started from home cooked biryani and a few other dishes served from a small eatery,” recalls Shahzad. It is that popular taste of biryani which dominated the business name of Café Student, and now Student Biryani is the title of fame.
Making biryani is never that easy, it is normally a multi step process — prepare the meat and the gravy, fry the rice, cook the rice, mix the rice with the gravy and bake for a while… give or take, and mix and match some steps here and there.
But it’s their secret recipe that stands out says Shahzad. “Chillies and spices are our key ingredients towards the taste that we are famous for. However, it is experience in keeping a perfect balance in every meal that we cook that is our strength.”
He adds, “For people in Karachi, this is a restaurant that has delivered mouth-watering biryani for as long as they can remember. People in their 60s today remember the time when they were students and had to pool money to eat at the Café Student on special occasions.”
The menu has all the usual suspects you might expect: shami kababs, qormas (braised meats in a yogurt-based sauce), chargha (grilled chicken) and raita. There are also plenty of house-made breads such as naan and paratha.
For Dh20 you can have your fill — a meal that includes a plate of biryani, a piece of chicken, one shami kabab, a salad and raita along with a drink.
While the dish takes time in arriving, I sit back to watch the packed room feast on buttered naans and goat korma.
Student Biryani is a variant of the Bombay biryani and therefore includes potatoes in the most tender, yet undamaged, form. Rice grains are soft but separate from each other, almost religiously following the definition of an ideal biryani. Steaming and hearty, the chicken can require some maneuvering, but the added flavour that its bones bring to the biryani makes it completely worthwhile. And the aroma is lingering.
As I scoop up my first fork full, I take in the good seasonings and email@example.com