Cheap & Good

Flavourful Pakistani briyani at Taman Jurong Food Centre's Peshawar Briyani House

Peshawar Briyani House’s chicken briyani.
Peshawar Briyani House’s chicken briyani.ST PHOTO: KENNETH GOH

I have been craving briyani the past month - partly because the well-loved Bismillah Biryani shop in Dunlop Street and one-north was recognised with the Bib Gourmand award in the Michelin Singapore Guide.

The craving increased after I read a recent article by the BBC on the evolution of briyani, from its likely origins in Persia (modern-day Iran) to the different varieties in countries such as India and Bangladesh.

Then I stumble on Peshawar Briyani House, a week-old stall in Taman Jurong Food Centre, which serves a Pakistani variant of the moreish rice dish.

The stall is co-owned by Mr Ahmed Khan, 36, who is taking his Pakistan-born wife's briyani out of their home kitchen. Her family comes from Peshawar, a city in northern Pakistan that the stall is named after.

  • PESHAWAR BRIYANI HOUSE

  • 3 Yung Sheng Road, Taman Jurong Food Centre, 02-114; open: 10am to 2pm (Tuesday to Thursday), 10am to 4pm (Friday), 10am to 2pm (weekend), closed on Monday

    Rating: 4/5 stars

There are at least three other stalls in the hawker centre that serve briyani, but the Pakistani version stands out because the basmati rice has a spicier kick and comes with raita (yogurt sauce) instead of achar.

Choose from two types of briyani on the menu - chicken ($5) or mutton ($6). The chicken briyani has a heap of saffron-hued rice that is perfumed by seven spices including cloves, garam masala and chilli powder, and flecked with coriander, tomato skin and onions.

The main difference lies in the chicken.

Instead of being clogged with curry, it is infused with briyani spices from being cooked in the rice and served separately from the curry.

Though not too juicy, the tender meat is a foil for the aromatic rice to shine through.

To douse the heat, I gingerly alternate each spoonful of rice with raita, which has diced onions, cucumber and cumin. The sour tanginess of the yogurt sauce is a good palate cleanser.

The rice is also cooked with meltingly soft mutton, like in a dum briyani. Each spoonful is a robust eruption of spices.

A hidden gem is the prawn briyani ($7), which is seldom served in hawker stalls. It is available on Fridays and public holidays and is not on the menu.

The spice level of the rice is toned down to highlight the sweetness of the three succulent sea prawns.

I usually zero in on the addictive papadum crackers first on my plate of briyani, but with such beautifully cooked rice and meat, I almost forget to pop them into my mouth.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 14, 2016, with the headline 'Pakistani briyani full of flavours'. Print Edition | Subscribe