The classic Indian fluffy-rice dish biryani boasts royal beginnings, but the ingredients are simple. Layers of vegetables, rice, and meats are infused with ginger, garlic, cardamom, cloves, and many more herbs and spices. Every Indian restaurant and household has its own version, reflecting the flavors of particular regions. The same holds true at Indian restaurants in the Valley. Here are five spots to find biryani in and around Phoenix.
Curry Corner1212 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe
There's a reason Curry Corner made Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: The aroma of cumin, cinnamon, and garlic meets you in the parking lot. (Don't wear your Sunday best; the strong spices will stick to your clothes.) Curry Corner's biryani is served in authentic Indian pots, and diners may BYOB. The rice is soft, you may choose your own spice level, and the meat is well seasoned. In addition, the portions are generous, the garlic naan is fresh, the paneer is soft, and the curries taste homemade.
Sweet Magic Indian Restaurant3607 East Bell Road, #6
You might miss Sweet Magic Indian Restaurant if you aren't paying attention. The storefront is small and hidden in a strip mall. A large section of the menu is dedicated to biryani and rice. Options range from goat or egg orders to Ulavachur Chicken Biryani and Gongura Paneer Biryani. Sweet Magic also often offers BOGO (buy one, get one) biryani specials in case you can't decide.
Chennai Chettinaad Palace2814 East Bell Road, #1455
At Chennai Chettinaad Palace, Indian artwork accessorizes the walls while TVs play various Bollywood videos. There are many types of biryani here, including chicken, lamb, and vegetable, and the rice contains the right amount of fluff (it can't be too moist). Chennai knows how to slow-cook this dish, offering equal time to all the players — rice, spice, and vegetables. You might pay a little more, but servings are generous. The naan is a welcome complement and baked in an authentic tandoor oven.
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Biryani and BitesMultiple Locations
At Biryani and Bites, there are six flatscreen televisions, two displaying the menu and three cued to various channels of Indian entertainment. They all set the scene. Biryani and Bites can be a little rough and tumble, dining room-wise, but the rice is cooked perfectly — slightly moist and tender. The overall taste is buttery, but with very little spice or flair to the dish, meaning diners get the opportunity to dress it up. Our recommendation? The guntur pachimirchi boneless chicken biryani.
Pastries N Chaat920 East University Drive, Tempe
Pastries N Chaat offers more than a dozen biryani options, including fish, chicken, and vegetarian, the latter of which is the signature dish here. Topped with crispy onions and tomatoes, the biryani at Pastries N Chaat has an ample amount of vegetables and no single ingredient overpowers another. The chicken biryani comes with a high spice level, meaning raita — a cooling yogurt topping infused with roasted cumin seeds, salt, pepper, and cilantro — is a must.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on January 15, 2019. It was updated on September 12, 2020. See what Valley restaurants are offering takeout, delivery, and dine-in services with our Phoenix Restaurant Directory.