It’s funny how living in Singapore has taught me so much about Indian food, one of the benefits of living in Little India I suppose!
In the Uk, most of the Indian restaurants (well certainly the ones I have eaten in) serve similar food -jalfrezis, rogan josh, tikka masala, sag aloo and the like. Biryani is also a staple on most menus, served as a mixed rice with tiny pieces of your chosen meat inside and a mild vegetable curry sauce on the side, it has never really struck me as being particularly flavourful and as a result I think I have only ever eaten it once.
Whist watching India play England at cricket recently, talk turned to our favourite places to eat in Little India and they were all amazed that I hadn’t eaten at Bismillah http://bismillahsingapore.blogspot.com/ yet and so I knew a visit was in order sooner rather than later. We texted our order to the owner (they are extremely popular and it is best to “reserve” your dishes if you want to ensure they don’t run out) choosing both a chicken and a mutton biryani as well as a portion of Seekh kebabs.
This biryani is NOTHING like the “biryani” I had tried before – and I should add that the owner and chef Mr Salahuddin is from Pakistan not India at this point. He arrives at work at 5:30am every day (apart from Tuesday when they are closed) in order to prepare his biryani the traditional way, Basmati rice, meat and spices such as cardamom, cumin, chilli and ginger and cloves (to name just a few) are all cooked in the same pot over a charcoal fire for hours, allowing the rice to swell to almost twice its original size and take in all the wonderful spices. Very little ghee is used in the preparation of the Biryani which means that in spite of the generous portions we were able to polish (most) of it off and not feel uncomfortable which is always a bonus!
The Biryani is a beautiful mixture of colours from where the different spices colour the rice and comes holding all sorts of secrets inside, from a whole boiled egg to chunks of chicken or mutton (often still on the bone – apparently they use buy whole sheep to prepare it themselves ensuring nothing goes to waste) and is served with raita on the side as opposed to gravy or dalcha, there are even signs on the wall stating this fact! The Seekh kebabs were also excellent, the mutton had been ground into a paste almost and wasn’t too gamey tasting as I had been worried it might.
We finished with a tiny little Peshwari kulfi with pistachios and a couple of other different types of nuts inside which was a refreshing end to what had been an outstanding meal. Bismillah has to be tried at least once by anyone who enjoys Indian and Pakistani food and I was very happy for the recommendation to dine there!