The Food Guy: Bawarchi Biryanis Features Unique Indian Dishes

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Traditionally, Chicago’s Indian and Pakistani communities settled in West Rogers Park, along Devon Avenue. But successive generations have been moving to the suburbs, specifically Schaumburg and Naperville.

NBC 5's Food Guy Steve Dolinsky found himself near Woodfield Mall this week, eating a pair of dishes he’s particularly fond of.

Southern Indian food is mainly vegetarian, while in the North, you’ll see heartier rice dishes with chicken or goat. There’s a chain with a branch in Schaumburg, where you’ll find both, plus a lot more the next time you’re craving a dosa or biryani.

Hearty dishes, slow-cooked in seasoned gravies and traditional vegetarian platters attract all sorts of diners at Bawarchi Biryanis, one outpost of an international chain, located in a Schaumburg strip mall. The namesake is a rice dish, utterly complex and blessed with a depth of flavor, as well-seasoned as anything from the Indian kitchen.

“We cook it in different layers. With rice, chickens, we pressurize the biryani at least 55 minutes to an hour,” said Bidyut Shome, the owner.

First, water is boiled hard with cardamom, clove, star anise, mint and bay leaves, which are eventually strained. Then buckets of basmati rice are added to the water, cooked for just a few minutes. On either side of the enormous pot: goat and chicken, marinated overnight in chilies, spices, ginger-garlic paste and yogurt. The layering process begins just minutes after the rice has started cooking, thanks to giant strainers.

“Less cooked rice at the bottom part, then comes the meat – either chicken or goat meat – then fried onions, mint leaves, fresh cilantro then a little bit of cooked rice on the top,” he said.

Ghee – or clarified butter – is sprinkled across the top of the rice, then more mint leaves plus milk that’s been steeped with saffron, turning it harvest orange, added in a deliberate circular pattern. Finally, handfuls of fresh cilantro, before the pots are tightly sealed with foil to cook for an hour.

Another standout – the Masala Dosa. A dish that’s hard not to love, but even moreso if you’re vegetarian.

“It is a Southern Indian dish and it’s sort of like a crepe, with potato stuffing in it; it’s made from the white lentils – we mix it, we grind it – we make a batter,” said Shome.

Spread thin on the flat top, red chili is brushed across the top, then a spoonful of Mysore powder and typically, a filling of well-seasoned cooked potatoes. After a minute or two, the dosa is rolled up.

“It’s a very artistic style, the way you make it,” he said.

Shome says like many dishes from India, you simply use your hands to tear off a piece and dip it in either the peanut or tomato chutneys, or even the soup-like sambar.

“It brings a little more extra taste when you eat it with the hands,” said Shome.

Don’t forget a masala chai or a sweet mango lassi to drink. Also, if you’re inspired to try cooking at home, there is an Indian grocery store and butcher shop right next door.

Here's where you can go:

Bawarchi Biryanis


855 E. Schaumburg Rd., Schaumburg

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