For a homesick Dilli-wallah, nothing puts a bad taste in your mouth like a mouthful of Mumbai biryani – a greasier, rustic and extremely masaledar combination of potato, meat, rice and spices.

Our grouse is with the likes of Lucky’s, Jaffer Bhai, Shalimaar or a Noorani. It’s not that their biryani tastes bad – in fact, after a night of heavy drinking nothing settles or satiates the stomach better. But why is the average Mumbai Biryani {just like Dilli’s butter chicken} always better two pegs down?

Moradabad In Juhu

On the lookout for answers to this perennial question, we found ourselves in a tiny alley near Juhu PVR one rainy evening. Garam Masala, a slightly dodgy-looking establishment on this road, we were told, served up authentic biryani and korma – the kind you might find at the khau-gallis of Delhi’s Okhla or Nizamuddin.

29072016-GaramMasala.com2At first glance, the allegation of authenticity seemed misplaced. An empty dining room, loud Bollywood music and an aquarium-sized display of tricoloured chickens {malai, haryali and tandoori} were ominous signs. But when we were spotted by Imran bhai, we were given a handshake that would make Sunny bhai proud, the music was switched to qawwali, and we were off in twenty minutes with a rather substantial parcel in tow.

The Biryani Test

Unlike most Mumbai biryanis, North Indian – especially Moradabadi biryani – is as much about fragrance as it is flavour. This particular one was all about the mace. Mouths watering all the way home, we unpacked our parcel to discover mutton seekhs, korma, biryani {both the mutton and chicken kind}, roomalis along with three more surprise items – daal Moradabadi, kali-mirch chicken and some aloo gosht.

The biryani was everything our homesick hearts and bellies ached for. White in colour, speckled with orange rice grains and fatty chunks of stewed mutton, this dish is unlike any Mumbai biryani. You can barely spot masala of any kind, and yet every mouthful bursts with the flavours and aromas of fatty mutton, basmati rice, jeera, mace and most uniquely – hari-mirch {true connoisseurs would use the milder, more piquant peeli mirch}.

Anything Else?

After eating their kali-mirch chicken, never again will we order malai tikka in Mumbai. Marinated with just some dahi, ginger-garlic and a kali-mirch heavy garam-masala mix, and then cooked on the bone, this tandoori gem is a lighter more sophisticated cousin of the tandoori chicken served at a Mini Punjab or Jai Jawan.

Their juicy mutton seekhs could easily give the legendary Sarvi a run for its money. Where they lose out is – by a fraction – is their spiciness. They definitely need some roomali roti {flawlessly made with all-atta – no maida dough, which is rare in Mumbai} to tone down the heat.

As for the bad news – avoid the greasy dal. The korma {a bit too much badam or kaju paste} and aloo gosht were a bit of a let-down, but still an upgrade from local fare.

So We’re Saying…

All in all, Garam Masala is one of those hidden gems that every carnivore in Mumbai should visit at least once. For those more familiar to the bolder-punchier variants of Chettinad-style biryani, this version will feel like a breath of fresh air. And for the lost Dilli-wallas, it’ll be a a taste of home, but sans the heartburn and heartache.

Photos courtesy: Garam Masala.com