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Hyderabad Biryani House finds the way to one new Vancouverite’s heart (spoiler: it’s through her stomach).
The first time I walked through the aisles in a Vancouver grocery store, I was inspired: from the giant wall of cereal to the questionable amount of canned pasta sauce, the choices seemed unlimited. That is, until I landed in the “Asian” foods section. Would my move from India be seasoned with nothing but jarred butter chicken?
There’s a Hindi saying that is likely familiar in North America, too—“dil ka raasta pet se hokar jaata hai,” which translates to “the way to the heart is through the stomach”—and I started searching for that soul-satisfying meal. I tried cooking daal in my shared student kitchen until my fire alarm respectfully suggested I should find an Indian restaurant instead.
I was wandering through the Indian neighbourhood at Fraser Street when a cozy, curtain-walled eatery caught my eye. Through the glass, I could see that the restaurant was packed with happy (and, notably, South Asian) people—and a blast of Bollywood music and friendly chatter welcomed me in. This was South Vancouver’s Hyderabad Biryani House, a restaurant that just opened earlier this spring, and this felt like home. I would return again and again, each time ordering the same dish: the Hyderabadi goat dum biryani.
A community of spices— turmeric, ginger, garlic, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron—are at the heart of biryani, along with slow-cooked rice, rose water and fresh goat that’s sourced daily. (At least, that’s what makes up this dish: biryani comes in too many forms to count on two haldi-stained hands.) At first, I was hesitant to agree with the server’s recommendation of a “medium” spice level—in Vancouver, I’ve found “medium” to mean “bland” and “mild” to mean “cardboard.” But to my surprise, Hyderabad’s flavourful dish gave me the satisfaction of watery eyes and a comforting burn.
Every time I visit, the first bite lifts me off my seat and gently places me on a sofa crease somewhere in my childhood. It’s eight-year-old me fighting my sister for the greased-up remote, when the kitchen door swings open and my mom heroically walks in with seconds. It’s teenage me ordering delivery at 1 a.m. on a rainy night in Mumbai. And now, it’s the perfect hearty dish to have after a long Canadian hike, especially in the winter.
Besides its cozy, nostalgic vibe, what truly sets this place apart is the quantity. The goat dum biryani is $18.95, and easily enough for two people—or, two meals for one person. If that’s not an ideal offer for a kitchen-averse single person who routinely overcooks her daal, I don’t know what is.
Like almost any Indian student studying abroad, I’d trade anything to get a bite of my mom’s crispy, smokey, home-cooked bhindi. For now, though, I have found peace in neighbourhood restaurants that ease international student life with welcoming smiles, affordable menus and two full servings of home.