“Have you tried 10 biryani mandi in Ram Nagar?” I received this whatsapp message from a friend, along with pictures of the food she ate there. That is all I needed to try it out. It was clean, simple and unpretentious. And ‘10’ is the door number, and there is a large white board with the day’s offerings clearly written on it. The black and white hoarding out front is attractive with it’s pea green accents and immediately puts the diner at ease about the standards of hygiene !
For the past three months this restaurant has dished out traditional village cuisine of Tamil Nadu. There is a message of gratitude to the farmers on a blackboard at the entrance. The idea is not just to put up good food but also acknowledge the hardworking community that grows the food for us. Eye-catching artwork on the walls depict life on the farm. We learnt that the eatery belonged to Lakshmi Priya of ‘Korner Citchen’ fame. The farm drawings are apparently inspired by her own farm. All her attention for the last 10 years has been in the running and organising of her family owned farm. Now with the organic farm well established, she is back to indulging in her passion for cooking and running a restaurant. She grows all her greens like coriander, curry leaf, spinach and green chillies in her organic farm, and uses the same produce in her restaurant kitchen. It is so heartening to see someone endorsing the farm-to-table connect.
One wall has a picture of Meera and Ram, two cows who are dear to Lakshmi Priya. The artwork is by a young designer from Delhi called Aastha Mittal . She is also a close friend of the family and has managed to capture the essence of what the place is all about. Huge white and green ceramic jaadis placed overhead fit in perfectly with the decor. It is hard not to lift the lids and peep inside them. A recipe for ridge gourd peel chutney is painted below them. There is so much to see and take in as you wait for the food to arrive. Priya is not only the owner, but also the chief cook. With the help of her trusted family cook Mani, they have taught others typical kongu nattu samaiyal. She says Mani’s is the hand that carries the ‘art of cooking’ .
We started with a spicy chicken broth, steaming hot in steel tumblers. It was peppery, fragrant and perfect for unblocking sinuses and whetting the appetite. The egg paniyarams arrived, accompanied by a tomato gravy. These were undoubtedly the lightest, fluffiest paniyarams we had eaten. They had a pale golden, slightly crisp outer covering that suggested that they were not steamed but cooked traditionally in a paniyaram kal. But amazingly there wasn’t a drop of oil residue on our fingers or on the dish. It was like home food, lovingly cooked by an elder. The highly recommended kari dosai came with delicious boneless meat, cooked with onions, curry leaves and traditional spices. The kheema dosa was crisp and scrumptious.
The egg aapams were perfectly upturned with crisp edges and soft centres. And, the plump and flaky kothu parota was freshly made on order.
The kongu kozhi biryani was fragrant and not too heavy, even for a weekday lunch. Different kinds of gravies accompanied each dish.
Please note that the dishes aren’t served in any particular order. Whatever is cooked first is served first! So, if you expect to start with starters, let them know. Dessert options are limited. In all likelihood you will be too stuffed to even think of sweets. But there is pineapple kesari and mango lassi on the menu. They use only coconut blossom sugar for their sweets, which has a low glycaemic index. No refined sugar is used in the restaurant at all. They take great pride in it.
The staff is cheerful and aims to please, but they do need to up their serving skills. 10 biryani mandi owes it’s clientele to customer satisfaction .
They don’t advertise and the buzz has all been through word of mouth. For vegetarians, there is plain aapam, idiappam, coin parotta, mushroom biryani and of course paneer. Plans are afoot to open a strictly vegetarian restaurant next door. Priya is eager to showcase the vegetarian repertoire of podis and gravies. Her daughter Harshini, a trained cordon bleu chef, is also a part of this food venture. There will soon be an omlette corner too outside their shop. They plan to work between 6.30 a.m to 11 a.m for breakfast. It will feature both white and brown breads, Bombay toast, plain and spiced omelettes, besides butter and jam. Do make reservations before hand. The place does fill up pretty quick.
Oh yes, on your way out, don’t miss the ‘drishti bommai’ which is such a quintessential part of rural Tamil Nadu. Right next to it are the betel leaf and nuts complete with a smear of the chunnam.
10 biryani mandi is on Kalingarayar Street in Ramnagar. They undertake outdoor catering and Thursday is their weekly day off. For details call: 0422- 2233444/ 4520300
P.s… There is a slight lacking in salt sometimes. Less is always better than excess anyway. The management is most appreciative of kind feedback.
A big thanks to Divya Chandran for this find !