The Biryani Trail in Dindigul - A Gastronomical Adventure
Image Credit: Dindigul Thalappakatti Biryani

Biryani lovers would testify that cravings are often for a particular kind of Biryani, or at least, an authentic version of the many popular Biryanis prevalent in the gastronomical universe. These biryani cravings have led people to the small town of Dindigul in Tamilnadu for many decades. Located 66 kilometres from Madurai and 100 kilometres from Trichy, Dindigul is in the heart of a rich culinary belt known for its bold use of spices and indigenous culinary techniques honed for centuries. But how did Dindigul come to be known as a Biryani city?

Mr Nagaswamy Naidu’s famous Thalappakatti Biryani

In 1957, A Thalapa (Traditional Head Gear) wearing man started a small eatery in Dindigul. With his eye for detail, he worked out a biryani recipe, which in the last many years has given much fame to the biryani brand ‘Dindigul Thalappakatti Biryani’ and the city of Dindigul as a biryani city.

Small and tender pieces of mutton cooked with the short-grained Seeraga Samba rice at the Dindigul Thalappakatti Biryani is a case study-worthy phenomenon on the efficient use of spices, enabling optimum flavour to be absorbed by the rice and the meat. Each bite of Biryani lends a depth of flavour to be enjoyed by your palate, creating an atmosphere of utmost appreciation for its creator, Mr Nagaswamy Naidu, or as he was lovingly called, Mr Thalappakatti Naidu.

                   Image: Mr Nagaswamy Naidu AKA Mr Thalappakatti Naidu

Biryani and its accompaniments often depend on each other for an authentic biryani-eating experience. Mutton Dalcha prepared by Mr Nagaswamy Naidu has remained a loyal accompaniment to the famed Dindigul Biryani. The meaty flavour extracted from the bones and the spiced lentil it is cooked with makes a flavourful Dalcha. It plays an ideal accompaniment to the style of spicy and tangy biryani cooked, and enjoying the same at the exact location where the biryani saga of Dindigul started is an unmissable experience for all food explorers, especially the biryani lovers who are salivating reading this article.

Dindigul Thalappakatti Biryani got immense culinary fame and recognition for its unique taste, and gastronomical pull, which brings people to the city from far and wide. Dindigul Thalappakatti Biryani has expanded and has successfully established around 80 food outlets across South India; if you are travelling to the states of Tamilnadu, Kerala or Karnataka, you will likely see a Thalappakatti Biryani outlet, with a picture of Mr Nagaswamy Naidu prominently displayed in its iconic Logo.

Venu Biryani

When you are in Dindigul, a polite enquiry about the best biryanis in the city will suggest that you must eat at ‘Venu Biryani. And as widely believed by most food explorers, a local’s advice on the best food in the city is always gold standard information. As you stand outside the iconic Venu Biryani outlet in Dindigul, its logo is styled similarly to the Thalappakatti style, with the photograph of its founder as the focal point started approximately half a century ago by Mr Venu, the popularity and taste of the delicious biryani served at the Venu biryani match seamlessly.

                         Image: Venu Mutton Biryani

Two large and separate dining halls demarcate the air-conditioned family section and the regular dining hall, from where one can see biryanis being shelled out from giant cauldrons, filling up the room with the aroma of the fragrant and meaty biryani. On a big plantain leaf, they will serve a portion of mutton biryani and onion raita. A server with a trolley full of different curries will ferry around the tables, offering the accompanying gravies to each diner.

For the last five decades, Venu biryani has preserved an authentic dining experience for its patrons, with halls full of food lovers enjoying the aromatic and spicy biryani. A stand-out feature in venu biryani is the generous amount of tender and spiced meat served with each plate of biryani. Venu biryani, on its own, carries bags of flavours and can be considered a spicier and more robust version of biryanis available in Dindigul; however, the culinary charade of trying the biryani with Dalcha, or the white korma, or the spicier Natu Kodi (Country Chicken) gravy makes it an experience worthy of lifetime memories.

Exploring food in South India introduces you to many culinary hubs across different states. In Dindigul, the biryani rules the roost; however, one can enjoy a variety of Tamilnadu’s spicy non-vegetarian kebabs and curries, including Kola Urundai (Meat Ball Kebabs), Natu Kodi curries, Mutton Kuzhambu, Mutton Varuval, Chicken Chettinad etc., at its many restaurants and local food joints. Another tip would be to try the Jil Jil Jigarthanda to cool off your palate with this chilled sweet beverage. The Dindigul food experience takes you on a flavourful journey and enriches your culinary understanding of Tamil Nadu and the aromatic world of Indian Biryanis.

Sidharth Bhan Gupta, Founder of 361 Degrees Hospitality, is a Hospitality / Food and Beverage / Restaurant Consultant, Travelling across India on a Cultural and Culinary Exploration.