A South Asian rice and meat dish goes mainstream.

Among the rice dishes of South Asia, biryani is king. Traditionally a prized special event dish known for its intensive preparation, restaurants have learned to capitalize on economies of scale to provide biryani now as a reasonably affordable and effort-free entrée option.

Once a relative rarity in Central Ohio, several biryani-specific restaurants now exist, as does an online delivery service dedicated solely to the dish. As Tandoori Grill owner Syed Abbas observes, “Biryani is becoming popular in the mainstream, especially now in Central Ohio.”

Unlike other rice dishes from the region, the basmati rice and meat are cooked separately for a biryani. Then they're layered together in a large pot—rice, meat, rice—and further cooked over a low flame to finish. This method is known as “dum” cooking and is a critical component for biryani fans. In the past, some restaurants have cooked both layers completely and simply combined them on the serving plate.

Biryani variations are endless, and it's not unusual to find styles specific to regional tastes, multiple meat options (chicken and goat predominate) and vegetarian choices. Spicing is usually potent, if not in heat then in vibrancy of flavor, with cloves, cardamom and cinnamon often abundant.

For the most comprehensive selection, Bawarchi Biryanis on Sawmill Road is hard to beat. Its 23 unique options include multiple egg, goat, chicken, vegetable and paneer (Indian cheese) choices, with many offered in a wide array of regional styles. Portions of meat are generous, as is the spicing. Each is sold as an individual serving or a family pack, and Bawarchi's takeout business is significant.

In discussions with South Asians, a surprising number prefer Tandoori Grill's version. Considered more of a northern style, it features subtler spicing and a distinct richness. Others prefer Biryani Corner, Persis Karaikudi & Biryani Grill or Layla's Kitchen.

Whichever you choose, BiryaniWalla.com will bring it to you. On weekend evenings, it serves the northern portion of Central Ohio by offering a web-based delivery service that coordinates with a wide range of biryani purveyors.