I still recall my first working day in Singapore last year. A colleague asked me if I wanted to join him for lunch – I accepted, and asked that we go somewhere local. He asked me if I was OK with plastic tables and chairs – I said that this was my preference.
He took me to the Al Zouq Food Centre (3 Shenton Way) for Dum Biryani – as promised, a place where the locals eat.
Dum Biryani/Briyani as presented in most places here consists of a protein (chicken or mutton mostly), some rich pilau/biryani rice, some salad, and some curry sauce.
I’ve had it in a number of places but none have impressed me more than Al Zouq. It remains a favourite whenever life takes me to the financial district.
There are many ways of eating biryani – my favourite is to shred the meat off the chicken and mix it into the rice before pouring the curry gravy over the top:
The observant will note that I’ve added a piece of curry-fried fish to the meal above for flavour
What makes the Al Zouq biryani stand out from the competition? For me, a key component is the flavour in the rice. The standard Dum Biryani comes with steamed chicken as the protein, and it is pretty hard to mess that up (some places do manage this though) A good rice, good chicken, well flavoured curry gravy, fresh salad, it all combines together so nicely. Spicy, but more flavour than chili heat.
I have to add some praise here for the masala chai.
The chai is well flavoured – it stands out because it is not overly sweet, too thin, or under flavoured – I would not say it was the best anywhere but it is certainly matches my ideal.
This is the day to day biryani menu at Al Zouq:
I’ve tried the mutton biryani more than once, and the butter chicken biryani is certainly worth trying again. The black pepper chicken is interesting – chicken done in a Chinese/Malay style black pepper sauce. If you do go for the fish, please note that you must be careful with the bones (I find it worth the effort of taking extra care, it is very tasty).
There is other food at Al Zouq – the vegetarian thali is one of the best value meals I’ve seen here for the size and quality of the meal – but for me it is the biryani that keeps bringing me back.
Do you know of a spectacular biryani place in Singapore? Please leave a comment and let me know.