A piping hot plate of biriyani served with pappadams, lemon pickle and a boiled egg that has been lodged effortlessly into the rice is as common a sight across restaurants in Kerala as coconut palms in the state!
However, it is not very common even in God’s Own Country to find a piece of pineapple being served with this timeless dish. But, if you walk into the iconic Azad hotel in Thiruvananthapuram and ask for their signature ‘Mutton Biriyani,’ you will find this seemingly unusual accompaniment being served alongside the delicacy!
Interestingly, this rare combination has been part of the menu since 1940, when Meeran Pillai Pareed Kunju opened the doors of ‘Azad Pukka Travancore Biriyani’ for the first time in Vallakadavu.
At the time, it was the only hotel in the area that served mutton dishes, and a plate of biriyani was sold at 1/4th of an anna!
Attempting to bring the original cuisine of Travancore back to the fore, Kunju’s small outlet and its biriyani went to become such a hit that soon, not only was he able to open outlets in busy areas like Statue and Chalai in the city but also cities like Kollam and Nagercoil.
Today, the Azad chain is managed by Kunju’s three grandsons, Mahin, Wazim and Ozman Azad, who are quite famously known as the Azad brothers in the city.
The ‘Azad biriyani’ is a must-have recommendation that is often made to people heading towards Thiruvananthapuram, and what makes it unbelievably popular is how the traditional mix of flavourful spices has been retained, even 78 years after its debut.
Yet another speciality of the hotel is its chefs who have more than 40 years of experience!
“The recipe followed is almost same as followed 78 years back. Only minor changes have been made to give the recipe a modern touch. More than the rich spread of dishes, the effort of our chefs to maintain the traditional flavours, is the high point of our restaurant. We are trying to bring back the recipes which were popular in the 1940s,” said Wasim Azad to The New Indian Express.
Besides the mutton biriyani, other popular dishes on Azad’s menu include traditionally prepared Fish Mancholi, Mutton Mandi Biriyani, ‘Beetroot Chicken’ (a chicken dish topped with thick beetroot gravy) and ‘Kanthari Chicken,’ which is made with crushed fiery kanthari chillies!
Though the name Azad is quite synonymous with biriyani in the capital city, the chain also has an established bakery and confectionary division which is known as Azad Bakery, that has its own manufacturing unit.
They also have a boutique bakery chain, Bread Factory, that is known for its delicious range of pastries and cheesecakes.
As far as catering to the city’s non-vegetarian food cravings, Azad has been doing an exceptional job for the past seven decades, while giving generation after generation an unforgettable taste of the Travancore cuisine and its flavours from the past.
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“There are many who don’t know there exists a Travancore cuisine. We want to introduce people to it,” added Mahin.
So if you plan on heading to Thiruvananthapuram anytime soon, make sure that Azad hotel is definitely on your list of places to eat in. Trust us; you won’t be disappointed!
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)