Arabian Night Dreams
My Food Guru Benny Se Teo posted about this Briyani recently declaring it the best briyani he has ever tried.
I was intrigued since he is seriously into food and also I hear (but never verified ahem) that one of his fave dishes to prepare for friends (ahem) is Briyani.
I have been dreaming of Briyani since I read his post. It has been a while since I had a good Briyani .
In my dream, this really hot girl had no clothes on and was holding this gigantic silver tray of Briyani which was the only thing protecting her modesty.
She smiled at me demurely with doe brown eyes and I was transfixed.
Never breaking gaze, she slowly lowered the silver tray on to the table.
There were slivers of moist and gleaming lamb legs, succulent chicken parts, the most beautiful saffron colors of fine grain rice. Yogurt most creamy and delectable and enticing curries……
Wait …. what is happening?
So you see it’s been too long.
I better go get my Briyani fix.
This cafe has been reviewed and here is the excellent article from Makansutra on the Chef and his techniques.
In the article, it is explained that the Chef has serious beginnings in the kitchen:
That’s some serious credentials and piqued my interest.
My visit to Cafe Mariam
Guru Benny Se Teo with Chef Hassan
Chef Hassan is a fit looking bloke and his fluid and no nonsense movements at the counter suggested that he is used to working under the rigours of a busy kitchen.
He was cooking alone at the counter when I visited, serving an unending stream of customers.
I came at about 1130am and the cafe was already half full . There were two small tables inside the cafe but we decided to sit at the tables outside, which were better ventilated.
The cafe is small and seating arrangements is limited so I would suggest coming early or late beyond the peak hours if you wanted to secure a table.
I told Chef Hassan I wanted one of his Duo platter (containing nasi Briyani and nasi Mandi with both mutton and chicken so basically everything on his menu).
What in the world is Nasi Mandi? I must confess my knowledge of the world of Briyani is quite limited.
This is what I found out.
The word ‘Mandi‘ is a derivation of an Arab Word ‘Nada’ which means ‘Dew’ and reflects upon the dewy or moist nature of the cooked meat.
Mandi is a traditional dish originating from Hadhramaut, Yemen consisting mainly of meat and rice with a special blend of spices. It is cooked in a pit underground.
It’s extremely popular and prevalent in most areas of the Arabian Peninsula, and even considered a staple dish in many regions. It’s also found in Egypt, the Levant, and Turkey.
It was the most moist and tender chicken I have eaten in recent times.
The flesh tore away beautifully and had a hint of Bbq smokiness but balanced and not overpowering. It was truly exquisite.
If I had one grouse, it was that I found the curry too mild and not pedas enough.
Having said that, I recognise that it was probably meant to be that way – the taste was meant to be delicate and no single ingredient was supposed to overpower the other.
The green chilli chutney that came with it was a pleasant addition though. It had a fiery kick and was delicious.
The yoghurt was pleasantly meant to douse the fire of the chutney and the combination was delicious.
I thoroughly enjoyed the offerings of Cafe Mariam.
It was clean, fragrant, smoky but balanced, and downright enticing.
Forget the strong heady flavours we are used to in our neighbourhood Briyani stalls with strong curries bursting with spices and colours.
The version at Cafe Mariam was delicate and artisanal.
And more importantly – utterly delicious.
116 Changi Road, #01-03
11am to 3pm on weekdays; closes by 2pm on weekends (prayer break noon to 2pm on Fridays)