Biryani, India’s most popular dish is actually an Iranian import. And since we Indians never agree on anything and each of us love to do it our own way, there are a thousand varieties of Biryani available across India.
Down South, people take their Biryani very, very seriously; be it Hyderabad, Bangalore, and especially in Chennai where contrary to what people in the vegetarian North and West think, love fish, chicken and meat.
There are many types of Biryani available in Chennai. From the Tamil lands, there’s the Dindigul (thalapakattu) Biryani, Ambur Biryani (from Arcot and similar to Hyderabadi), Chettinad and Buhari (after a family-run restaurant). There could be more varieties but I have tasted just these.
When it comes to popularity and marketing, the Thalapakattu (turban) Biryani is Chennai’s current battleground. The legend is that the man who started the restaurant wore a turban and people referred to the Biryani place by that name. And two groups claim that they are the original Thalapakattu Biryani.
The founder of the Dindigul-based ‘Thalapakatti Naidu Ananda Vilas Biryani Hotel’ definitely wore a turban and they have planted enough evidence in their restaurants dotting Chennai. However, this story is from a period when most Indians wore head-dresses, not just the Sikhs. The turban wearing Rawthers of Chennai were also selling a Thalapakattu Biryani in their restaurant.
The two fought it out in courts. The Madras High Court settled the case and directed the Chennai-based restaurant to brand its Biryani as ‘Chennai Rawther Thalapakattu Biryani’.
The turbans stayed on both heads. It seems that all Biryani makers wore turbans whatever their religion or caste and now it’s time for their grandchildren with modern catering skills to cash in on the taste.
Today, the story is that many Thalapakattu and Thalapakatti biryani houses dot Chennai and it’s become a generic name.