Cheap & Good

Cheap & Good: Biryani cooked in a bamboo stem at 99Bistro

99Bistro
99Bistro

Biryani rice comes in many forms, whether slow cooked in broth over the stove or via the "dum" method where it is sealed in a pot and cooked over coals.

But the version at multi-cuisine halal restaurant 99Bistro, a five-minute walk from Paya Lebar MRT station, is a more novel bamboo biryani.

Lamb shank from Australia, spices from Karachi in Pakistan and basmati rice from India are cooked in a bamboo stem from India. The dish is a fusion of a Middle Eastern- style biryani and a tribal Indian cooking method.

The dish was introduced only last week and is made to order, with the partially cooked rice stuffed into a metre-long bamboo stem, along with lamb shank that has been braised for two hours. There is about a 20-minute waiting time for the dish.

The bamboo adds little flavour to the dish, serving instead as a cooking vessel similar to puttu, a breakfast dish from the Indian subcontinent made with ground rice and coconut.

But part of the draw of the dish is the drama of its presentation. At the table, the chef explains how the dish is cooked before removing the banana leaf covering the opening of the bamboo. He then uses a thin bamboo stick to scrape out the briyani.

  • 99BISTRO

    01-02 Lifelong Learning Institute, 11 Eunos Road 8, open: noon to 3.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 5 to 8pm (Mondays to Thursdays), 5 to 10pm (Fridays and Saturdays), noon to 3.30pm (Sundays). For reservations, call 6745-9958 or go to www.99bistro.com/ www.facebook.com/99bistro

    Rating: 3/5 stars

First, a hardboiled egg tumbles out, followed by the fragrant rice and a generous 250g piece of lamb shank.

The lamb is basted in its own juices while it is being braised. Hence the meat is mildly flavoured and not very spicy, unlike in a typical Indian or Pakistani-style lamb biryani. If you are looking for something spicier, this dish might not work for you.

The lamb is passably tender but the highlight of the dish is the aromatic, cardamom-studded rice which is infused with the flavours of the meat.

The light and fluffy rice goes wonderfully with the side dishes of a raita (yogurt sauce) and "salata hara", a version of Arabic salsa.

Made with chillis, tomatoes, mint and coriander, it is typically served with Arabic rice dishes containing chicken or lamb to add the spice kick missing from the meat.

At $24, the dish is slightly pricey, but it comes with two drinks, including a honey lemon digestive drink, as well as a rice kheer (Indian rice pudding) dessert.

The portion is generous enough for two people.

But if you still have extra rice left over, you may like to order a side dish of curry.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 30, 2017, with the headline 'Cheap & Good: Biryani cooked in a bamboo stem at 99Bistro'. Print Edition | Subscribe