Biryani In A Leaf Bowl: The Hearty Donne Biryani Of Karnataka
Image Credit: Ranganna Military Hotel

Talk about a meal that is made by cooking meat with rice and all biryani lovers will want a plate in front of them at that instant. Biryani is one dish that is prepared in different ways across various regions of India. Each type of biryani also has its own origins, history, set of ingredients and secret recipe across the country. While Lucknow's biryani may be popular and Hyderabad is considered the biryani capital, have you heard of the distinct donne biryani from Kanataka?

Donne biryani is a nati-style biryani that incorporates locally grown and sourced ingredients like Bannur mutton, country chicken, ginger, garlic, spices like stone flower, cinnamon, etc., which are known to have high nutritional value in comparison to the hybrid versions of ingredients we get in the local markets of the city. Nati is that style of cooking that preserves the rustic rural flavours in its delicacies.

History And Origin Of Karnataka's Donne Biryani

It is popularly believed that in the 17th century, Maratha's victory over Karnataka by capturing Bengaluru led to the rise of many military-based restaurants that served nourishing meals to the Maratha soldiers and donne biryani was a popular dish on the menu. With the rise of many military hotels in Bengaluru, the donne biryani made in the nati-style became popular not only with the commons but was also enjoyed by  Tipu Sultan’s army and the British forces, who included donne biryani on their menu during military get-togethers and other functions.

Some believe that Maratha Mannaji Rao was the one who created this dish and started serving donne biryani at the Shivaji Military Hotel located at the 8th block in Jayanagar, Bengaluru. And on the contrary, some accounts suggest that Govinda Rao Rannave, who started the S. G. Rao Military Hotel in 1908, started making this dish to feed the farmers who didn't flee Bengaluru city when it was struck by a plague.

While there are many theories about the donne biryani's origin, this dish has gained popularity since the early 1900s and continues to be an integral part of Karnataka's culinary heritage that draws influences from states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. This type of biryani is also popular in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

What Makes The Donne Biryani Unique And Special?

Donne biryani gets its name from the dried palm leaf bowl called a donne in Kannada. Since the biryani is served in this leaf bowl lined with banana leaves, it came to be called donne biryani. The history of donne biryani is at least a century old and till date, it is served in a donne across all the restaurants that serve this delicacy.

While most biryani varieties, like the Lucknowi-style or Hyderabadi biryani, are predominantly prepared with the fragrant long-grain basmati rice and flavoured by onions, tomatoes, spices like red chilli powder, etc., the donne biryani is made with a ground green masala that comprises mint, coriander, green chillies, local spices like stoneflower, small cardamom, etc.

These ingredients make this not only a fragrant biryani but also a refreshing one with the burst of herbs in the mix. Also, the rice used to prepare this biryani is a short-grain, fragrant variety called seeraga samba, or jeerige samba rice. The mutton or chicken used for donne biryani are grass-fed, locally sourced fresh meats and country chicken that are packed with nutrition.

Earlier, most of the military hotels cooked it over woodfire in dum-style, imparting the smoky flavours, and now they are cooked in dum with hot coals placed on the lid. Green peas are included in the donne biryani, which adds a subtle flavour and a tender bite to the hearty dish that barely uses some onions and tomatoes or not in most places for flavour.

What is interesting about this biryani is that there is no saffron, rose water, or keora water added to enhance the flavours of the dish. The mint, coriander, green chillies, the meat, be it mutton or chicken, and the in-house whole spice powders bring this biryani to life.

Donne biryani is served with half an egg placed on top of the donne, a wedge of lemon, a side of mutton gravy, and a cucumber-onion runny yoghurt raita. Most people like to pair it with pepper mutton dry fry or spicy chicken fry. But the biryani is a soul-satisfying meal on its own that really needs no companion on the run.

Iconic Places To Try Donne Biryani In Bengaluru

Bengaluru has many iconic military hotels where you can try the donne biryani and some delicious country-style meat preparations. Most of these places are multi-generational family-owned and run businesses that refuse to compromise on taste and quality.

Shivaji Military Hotel:

This restaurant has been in the Jayanagar vicinity since 1935. It was started by Maratha Mannaji Rao and is currently managed by his grandsons, Rajeev and Lokesh. While the donne biryani is a must-try, the mutton pepper dry, mutton liver and chicken leg fry are worth a try as well.

Address: 718 1st C Main Gurumurthappa Building, 1st Floor, 45th Cross, 8th Block, Jayanagar, Bengaluru 560082

Timings: 08:00 AM–3:30 PM

Cost for two: Rs. 800

Ranganna's Military Hotel:

Since 1964, Ranganna Military Hotel has been serving up authentic, meaty delights that have stood the test of time. You can start your day with their flavourful biryani for breakfast or opt for classic ragi mudde with a spicy meat gravy. They are famed for their leg soup and aromatic mutton biryani, accompanied by sides like kheema gojju, mutton chops, or chicken fry.

Address: 61, 1st floor, Opp to Indian Oil and Petroleum, Krishna Rajendra Rd., 7th Block, Jayanagar

Timings: 7:30 AM to 4 PM and 7 PM to 10 PM

Cost for two: Rs. 800

Maratha Darshan:

Maratha Darshan offers a delectable spread of military mess-style cuisine, particularly renowned for its mouthwatering mutton dishes, all at unbelievably affordable prices. Along with their signature biryani, mutton kaima and mutton fry, perfectly paired with refreshing buttermilk.

Address: 4, Miller Tank Road, Queens Road Cross, Cunningham Road, Vasanth Nagar, Bengaluru

Timings: 12:30 PM to 4:00 PM

Cost for two: Rs. 500

Sri Govinda Rao Military Hotel

Sri Govinda Rao Military Hotel, affectionately known as SG Rao Hotel, beckons with its legendary military mess-style fare like mutton biryani and mutton fry. Some other specialities are chicken kebabs and chicken fry.

Address: 6, 758, Cottonpet Main Road, Bhashyam Circle, Chikkapete, Majestic, Bangalore

Timings: 8:00 AM to 10 PM

Cost for two: Rs. 800

Apart from that, many new-age restaurants like RnR Biryani, Naati Cafe in Koramangala and Ulsoor, Malgudi Mylari Mane, and Nammura Nati Maney are some places that popularly serve the nati-style donne biryani in Bengaluru. for all those who want to try making donne biryani at home, here is a recipe for you:

Donne Biryani Recipe


500 g of chicken, washed and cleaned

1/2 cup curd 

1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric powder

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

1 1/2 cups Seeraga (Jeeraga) Samba rice , washed and soaked

2 tablespoons of oil

1 bay leaf 

1 inch cinnamon stick

2 Cloves

1 Cardamom 

2 Star anise

2 onions, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped

1/2 cup coriander leaves

1/4 cup of mint leaves 

4 green chillies 

Salt, to taste


For Chicken Donne Biryani, start by marinating chicken with curd, turmeric powder, lemon juice, and salt. Let it rest for 30 minutes.

In a blender, grind coriander leaves, mint leaves, and green chillies into a paste.

In a pan, heat the oil, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom, and star anise. Sauté sliced onions, finely chopped ginger and garlic until golden brown.

Add the marinated chicken and cook for 5–7 minutes. Mix in the ground masala and soaked Seeraga Samba rice. Add 3 cups of water, cover, and cook on low heat.

To seal, place a hot saucepan lid on top. After 20–25 minutes, check for doneness. Fluff with a fork and serve hot.