Sharjah: The hunt for the "Best Biryani" — a mouthwatering South Asian dish made with highly seasoned rice and meat, fish, or vegetables — is over in the UAE.
A small outlet has won the Best Biryani Award instituted by two Emirati friends — but it is not the first time this tiny restaurant in a bylane in Sharjah’s Yarmouk area has made headlines.
The Hyderabadi biryani made by Silver Spoon, a small but popular restaurant that serves cuisine of the erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad, was voted Best Biryani in Town by Gulf News in 2012.
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Established 12 years ago by master chef Mohammad Shabbir, who aided by his son Abdul Jabbar cooks massive pots of biryani twice daily, the restaurant doesn’t offer a fine-dining experience, but draws in thousands of Asian bachelors daily purely on taste.
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“My son and I, we are driven by a passion to cook the best biryani and serve people. We are grateful for all the love showered on us,” said Shabbir. “It is perfect recompense for our hard work and dedication.”
Trained by his father Mohammad Mehboob, Shabbir started cooking at the age of 13. After working in Hyderabad, India, for a few years, he took up a job as cook at a restaurant in Sharjah where he served for 17 years.
“I learnt cooking from my father and have now passed on the baton to my only son Abdul Jabbar, who does most of the cooking now. I would love to see this tradition passed down to my grandchildren. When I set up this restaurant, I didn’t have much. I had to borrow money and with the grace of Allah, I worked hard and people loved what we served,” said Shabbir, who serves around 400 plates of mutton and chicken biryani daily.
Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Mutton Hyderabadi biryani at Silver Spoon Restaurant. Mohammad Shabbir cooks massive pots of biryani twice daily aided by his son.
Jabbar, who joined his father’s business around eight years back, says Silver Spoon’s small size is not an issue as more than 60 per cent of the orders are for takeaway. They also cater to parties and weddings.
“More than half of our customers are Emiratis who order takeaway and home delivery. We also get party and wedding orders from as far away as Fujairah, Kalba and Dibba, so the space constraint is not felt much except on weekends when we have more customers,” said Jabbar.
How did the award organisers find this hidden gem?
“It was a casual quest,” said Mohammad Sultan Thani, who along with his friend Majid Abdullah Al Shamsi, set off to find the best biryani on a September afternoon last year as they were hungry after work.
“Deciding to eat biryani, we went to Karama as there are many restaurants in the area. We asked people about good biryani places and after a few suggestions, we ate at a place, which we didn’t like much. That’s when we decided to begin the quest,” said Thani, 55, who works at the Dubai Land Department.
As they began their search, Thani and Al Shamsi posted a question about the best biryani in town on social media. Based on the suggestions, they reviewed 54 restaurants in seven months, shortlisting the top five in May this year.
“Every Monday evening was a biryani evening when we would visit two restaurants, which were usually suggested by friends and followers on social media. We ordered only one plate of biryani at each restaurant and only ate a small portion so that we could have enough appetite for the next review,” Al Shamsi said.
They tried several varieties of biryani, which included Hyderabadi, Lucknowi, Mughlai and Pakistani.
“[We tasted] a wide range of biryanis at different places with the cost of a plate ranging from Dh15 to Dh200. What we primary looked for was taste and composition as well as the tenderness of meat and the quality of rice,” Al Shamsi said.
What did they learn? “The best biryanis are not necessarily found at expensive restaurants,” Thani said.
The duo, who have more than 60,000 followers on social media, is planning to institute the award on a bigger scale in the next edition.
Silver Spoon, Sharjah (winner)
Pak Lyari, Deira
Grub Shack, Dubai Healthcare City
Jaafar Bhai, Karama
Saif Restaurant, Hor Al Anz