The tale of Haji Biriyani has only one protagonist – the biriyani. No appetiser, no side dishes, no desserts; it's just one plate of biriyani.
What sets hajir biriyani apart from all other biriyanis? While we have figured out that the taste, the owners' inclination to stick to the traditional recipe and the preparation, altogether make it different from any other biryanis, the owner and the manager say that it's the mercy of the Almighty that makes their food so delicious.
The biriyani is cooked slowly with small grains of kataribhogh rice mixed with small cubes of mutton; fist pressed mustard oil and their secret spices do the rest of the magic. While you wait for your food to arrive, the aroma coming from the large cooking pot will increase your appetite to the fullest. The way they serve it on a natural self-invented plate made of dried jackfruit leaves with some fresh green chilies adds an earthly essence to the dish. If you feel uncomfortable about having your meal on a leaf, ask for a plate and you will get one.
There are two perquisites to having this heavenly dish: it needs to be eaten steaming hot. And you need to munch on the chili after every two bites to spice it up a little more. Let us tell you the secret behind the amazing flavour - the whole cooking process takes place in a steaming pot, covered with gamchha that allows the flavor to be trapped inside.
Good things do not necessarily need a label. Since its establishment half a century ago, the original branch of the restaurant has been situated at 70, Kazi Alauddin Road, Nazira Bazar, without any glitz or unusual interior flourishes. Without having a life size signboard or a fancy menu, patrons still flock to Hajir Biryani. The biriyani is cooked in its oldest outlet of puran Dhaka and then disbursed to its other two outlets situated in Motijheel and Bashundhara. It is worth mentioning that Dhaka itself has at least a dozen counterfeit "Hajir Biriyani" outlets that claim to be the original by adding prefixes like “new,” “super” “original” “real” “old” just before their name, but you know that they are as fake as the taste of their biryani.
Started in 1939 by Haji Mohammed Hossain and now run by his grandson Haji Mohammed Shahed, this 73-year old restaurant has reached the upper echelon of the list of the best restaurants in Dhaka. “My grandfather started it on his mother's advice with a pot that could hold five kilos of rice,” says Haji Shahed. "Now we serve around 1500-2000 customers everyday in our three outlets.”
Haji Shahed mentioned Chef Kalam Miah and his contribution in continuing the traditional delight. Kalam Miah has witnessed three generations in a row and he is still around to provide hands on supervision to the everyday operation of making Haji Biriyani. There is always a heavy demand in the restaurants from 6.30 am in the morning till 9 pm at night, but they only make limited quantities of biriyani every day.
Three of the Haji Biryani outlets are always over-crowded and there is hardly any place to sit. “Many renowned personalities of the country have tasted our biryani at least once in their life. Many of them prefer to do takeaway, but many film and television personalities have devoured our biryani in our restaurants!” says Mostofa Kamal, the manager of the original Hajir Biryani outlet. Students from Dhaka University, BUET and Dhaka Medical College mostly dominate the crowd, informs Abdul Haque, who works as a waiter at the eatery. “We never serve stale food and since the food is always ready, we attend to our customers without delay.”