Last year, we put personally kept in while the COVID-19 lockdown by involving in all varieties of different hobbies. A preference among several has been working out different recipes. Two hoteliers from Chennai have determined to reproduce the perunchoru, which means grand rice, a meal from the Cheran Era. The masterminds after this unique concept are Kannan Velayutham and Girish Subash, who are businessmen and also close friends.
“Biryani is a favorite amongst many South Indians. During the lockdown, Kannan and I were considering commencing a new adventure that provides biryani, but not the sort that thousands of other restaurants are cooking. So, we started Karigar Biryani, a cloud kitchen that sustainably gives a Cheran era dish,” Girish said.
By the close of August, when the lockdown was lifted and moving over cities was permitted once again, Kannan and Girish went to Tuticorin, positioned in the southern part of Tamil Nadu. While the pair was trying to recognize different traditional forms of biryani cooked in the villages encircling the city, what they ended up coming beyond was never part of their program.
“We came over a few families where the members were making boxes using palm leaves, by hand. Some families have been following the trade for many decades. They informed us that 20 years ago, every household in that village was occupied in the craft. Nevertheless, with modernization, devices carried over their works, and now only one or two families endure in the whole village that remains to make these boxes by hand,” says Girish, adding that he and Kannan were also made aware that these boxes were earlier used to pack food.
While the pair did not discover the biryani they needed, they ended up in the packaging for their food first. The next move was deciding out what recipe Kannan and Girish would use. For this, they went back in time to the Sangam era, when biryani was popularly regarded as “perunchoru”. The Cheran dynasty began in the interiors of Tamil Nadu, namely Karur, in the second century BC, and governed different sectors of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
“The word perunchoru indicates to the grand meal that was served to the King. According to history, the initial dish was invented by the Cheran King Uthiyan and made using wild boar that the king would hunt. But, we have recreated the formula using red meat, mutton, to recreate an alike flavor. We also use mapillai samba rice, a kind of fat red rice that was extensively used by the king and his people,” Girish says. The mapillai samba is indigenous to Tamil Nadu and is rich in fiber, which also improves the taste of the dish.
To discover the formula and ingredients that were used, the two related to various features of Sangam literature, sought knowledge on the internet and talked to some culinary specialists. It was a specialist chef named Harish Rao that made the recipe to life. With many years of experience as a head chef across five-star restaurants (ITC Grand Chola, Chennai), Harish was capable to know the flavors, recreate the recipe, and prepare others to do the related. After three months of research and development, a small menu was curated. Chef Harish also included a paan-flavored laddu beside, as a special dish. For the packaging, two families that hand weave palm leaf boxes were recognized from two distinct villages named Vembar in Tuticorin and Nagalapuram in Andhra Pradesh.
“The food is first covered in banana leaf, and then packed in a palm leaf box. Areca nut cups are used for the side dishes. To guarantee there is no leakage of the gravies, the cups are covered in dried Sal leaves,” Girish says, adding that the investment has been open for business since 10 December 2020.
Now, Karigar Biryani proceeds to obtain a minimum of 50 orders in a day, and perunchoru is a favorite among the buyers. Sachin Nagaraj, who hails from Chennai came across Karigar Biryani through Instagram, has bought the perunchoru three times in the last month. He says, “It is the flavor and style of preparation that keeps me coming back. I’m a foodie, but I have never come across a biryani that tastes so rich and looks so attractive despite the most simple form of packaging.”