08 Mar 2019 - 6 min read
The story of briyani is one filled with romance and war set in the Mughal and Persian kingdoms. The name “briyani” is derived from “birian”, which means fried before cooking in Persian. Legend has it, the proto-briyani was the wartime diet of Timur, a Turk-Mongol conqueror, and his legion of army when invading India in 1398. The recipe bears an uncanny resemblance to today’s briyani — rice, spices and meat in an earthen pot, buried in a hot pit, and dug up when cooked.
India has its side of the story, though. Mumtaz Mahal, the beloved wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, and his inspiration for the Taj Mahal, was said to have visited the army barracks once and found the warriors undernourished. She asked the chef to prepare a dish that combined meat and rice to provide balanced nutrition to the soldiers, resulting in the briyani!
Centuries later, Malaysia inherited this yummy recipe from Indian traders. The Indian subcontinent calls it the biryani, whereas Malaysians and Singaporeans know this dish as the briyani. But that is basically the only difference between the two!
The perfect, traditional briyani is slow-cooked over charcoal fire, allowing the meat to tenderize in its own juice while flavoring the rice. A typical briyani dish may be mildly seasoned with spices or in some types, loaded with ghee, nutmeg, mace, cumin, pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, mint leaves, ginger, onions and garlic. While the briyani is usually served with meat, there are also vegan versions for the health-conscious. But, trust that a standard briyani will always come with sides such as the mint and onion chutney, curry, boiled eggs and salad. In Malaysia’s version, it is served with the acar, a combination of pickled cucumbers, onions, red chillies and pineapple.
Find cooking the briyani too difficult? Here, we have compiled a list of restaurants in Kuala Lumpur that serve some of the country’s finest briyani to satisfy that craving. Be warned, reading this post accompanied by mouth-watering pictures will make your stomach growl from hunger in an instant!
Located on the ground floor of a less-than-glamorous-looking residential flat in Bukit Bintang, this briyani melts in your mouth, we kid you not. Asif serves traditional Pakistani cuisine and briyani is their main offering. Try the chicken briyani — nondescript-sounding, but essentially requires skilful technique to lock in the juices of chicken cooked in briyani masala and basmati rice. The lamb shank is also a great side dish to accompany your meal. Some of the other must-trys include the mutton masala, butter chicken and cheese naan.
Jalan Padang Walter Grenier, Off Jalan Imbi, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 012-249 8764
Opening hours: 11.00am – 11.00pm (Daily)
Mahbub is essentially a mamak restaurant, the kind of open-air food establishments ubiquitous in Malaysia and Singapore. Its version of the briyani is slightly different as the meat is cooked separately from the rice. Served buffet-style, you scoop the amount of briyani rice you want from a gigantic tub, then choose an array of dishes for the briyani. Our favorite pairing is the ayam madu (deep fried honey chicken) with acar timun (cucumber salad). Drizzle your briyani with dhaal or chickpea curry and trust us, you’ll be coming back for more!
15-17, Lorong Tempinis Kiri 1, Lucky Garden, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2095 5382
Opening hours: 7.00am – 2.00am (Daily)
Serving South Indian-style briyani, Insaf has been around since the ‘70s. Its longevity in business is a testimony to its great food quality. We suggest trying the mutton briyani. The dish is cooked according to the traditional Chettinad way, where chunks of mutton is cooked along with the rice to give the dish a deep, aromatic flavor. Also, order the mango juice, so thick, it almost passes off as a mango smoothie made from the sweetest and juiciest fruits you can ever find!
158, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2691 2806
Opening Hours: 11.00am – 9.00am (Daily)
JM Bariani serves Johor-style briyani, and it is more well-known as “briyani gam”, which means briyani glue in Malay. Don’t worry, what it means is that the rice is cooked together with the meat, hence “gluing” them together in a yummy-licious meal that has no association with glue! JM Bariani is a famous restaurant chain in Malaysia and so, easily found in any part of the city. But, we’d prefer the one inside Suria KLCC mall, as it is always a good idea to have a hearty meal after a day of shopping! Here, we’d suggest the lamb briyani. Cooked for several hours it results in a briyani dish with meat so tender, it falls off the bones easily. Best eaten with pickled fruits and dhaal curry. Yummy!
Kiosk 3, Rasa Food Arena, Level 4, Suria KLCC
Opening hours: 10.00am – 10.00pm (Daily)
Compared with other restaurants in this list, Bangle Publika is a newbie in the briyani restaurant scene. The restaurant serves mostly North Indian cuisine, but includes the briyani in its menu to suit local palate. The dum briyani, cooked in a pot sealed in dough, comes with fluffy rice and in no way, makes you feel you have overeaten at all! A great side order is the mutton masala which is extremely tender, and every morsel coated with flavorful curry gravy.
A4-G2-1, Solaris Dutamas Publika, No.1, Jalan Dutamas 1, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-6411 4487
Opening hours: 11.00am – 11.00pm (Daily)
Despite its modern interior decor, Flour at Plaza Damansara serves authentic North Indian cuisine and the star of the show is the mutton briyani. Moist and flavorful, the rice is also very fluffy and each spoonful is accompanied by chunks of thoroughly marinated mutton. It’s good on its own, but we like ours with refreshing raita, an Indian condiment made from yogurt, cumin, cucumbers and coriander that gives the spicy briyani a perfect balance in taste.
Flour Plaza Damansara
69-71, Jalan Medan Setia 1, Plaza Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.
Opening hours: 11.30am – 3.00pm, 6.30pm – 10.00pm (Wednesday to Sunday), 6.30pm – 10.00pm (Tuesday) and closed on Monday.
For a more atas (high-end) experience, head over to Fierce Curry House in Bangsar for a plate of lobster briyani. We think this is worth saving up for a special occasion in a group as the serving is huge! The briyani is cooked in a large steel pot wrapped in dough, with the fresh succulent lobster meat inside. This briyani needs to be pre-ordered at least 24 hours in advance, so if you’re planning to try it, make sure to give the restaurant a call first. And be totally wowed when the restaurant staff bring you the dish on a trolley!
Fierce Curry House
16, Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 019-770 1945 / 03-2202 3456
Opening hours: 12.00pm – 10.00pm (Daily)
We hear that rumble in your stomach already! Head over to one of these restaurants for a well-executed and hearty briyani meal. Trust us, you will not regret it!