Food @ Trivandrum

Azad Star – First Visit

Azad Hotel is one of the oldest in Trivandrum which is said to have started before the Indian Independence and have expanded to multiple restaurants over the years… They are famous for being the exponents of Travancore Cuisine and have been one of the regular places for both me and my parents especially during my school and college days… The frequency of visits have reduced ever since we moved to our current home in Kazhakuttom but we do still go for their delicacies once in a while… When I visited the Mall of Travancore for the first time, I had noticed a restaurant by the Azad group over there and so this time, I thought of checking it out and had my lunch for the day there… Turns out this restaurant is the Azad groups first venture into the Fine Dining genre and so, this post is about my first visit to the Azad Star…

As can be seen from the pics above, the interior do look posh indeed and menu even though had many of the very familiar items already from their other restaurants, there were some new multi-cuisine additions as well that were new… However, the reason why I visited the place was because I was craving for a classic Trivandrum style Biriyani as it has been quite a while since I had that cause these days most places end up doing or rather attempting to do a Malabari one or an attempt at a fusion of Arabic and Malabari styles… So, I went for Azad’s Pukka Travancore Biriyani and along with that I took a Cream of Chicken Soup and also a plate of Prawns Fry as well… Lets talk about each of them…

So, the first item to be served was the Cream of Chicken Soup as can be seen in the pics below… This is a classic soup made with Chicken with cream added to the broth… Most places I have seen do tend to make this soup a bit thick / starchy by adding corn/potato flour or even the all purpose flour as well…

As can be seen from the video below, the soup that I got was quite thick / starchy and in-fact, it almost felt like having a Chowder rather than just a soup… However, the Chicken pieces were cooked nicely and the whole soup was seasoned well too… So, no further complaints… 🙂

As I was done with the soup, they served the item for which I came here, the Azad Pukka Travancore Biriyani… From my understanding, this is not a Dum Biriyani (Dum Biriyanis started appearing in Trivandrum quite recently in fact), but rather the rice and the meats are cooked separately with spices and just assembled before service… This particular kind of Biriyani is said to have been invented by the founder of the original Azad Hotel as a way to safely preserve and transport cooked Rice from Tamil Nadu to Kerala back when there was a famine and transportation of raw grains across state borders were banned… So, you’ll see that compared to other Biriyani’s the water/moisture content will be less and you’ll see a slight oiliness to it and you will feel the taste of salt (don’t worry – I don’t mean that its too much) in the rice, which I guess is part of what helped preserve the rice for the long / slow transports back in the day… The practice of including a slice of Pineapple is a signature of the Travancore style Biriyani too and I guess it was designed to provide a refreshing taste which also helps mellow out the saltiness too…

I had gone for their Chicken Biriyani cause Chicken is the meat of my choice… I have had Biriyani from Azad Hotel many times before but this is the first time at Azad Star… The Biriyani was served with some Raita and I refused the Pappadam cause I am not a fan of those… The Boiled Egg clearly looked like it was boiled separately and just included on the Biriyani as a topping 🙂

Coming to the taste, I found that the spices were on the subtle side and everything was seasoned just enough… Salt as expected was the dominant taste in the rice but at the same time, I don’t mean that there was too much salt… Its just that normally, in most recipes, we first feel the flavours of the spices and herbs the most and the salt pretty much works behind the stage as we normally don’t pay attention to it but at the same time we do feel its absense in a strong way too, get it?? Here, you can’t ignore the salt… However, as I said, the pineapple does bring back the balance 🙂 The Chicken on the other hand was clearly marinated with spices and fried and assembled along with the rice… It was not too spicy… Just the right amount for me and seasoned just right too… The combination of-course seemed to work well for me… Overall, its a unique biriyani that I think is a must try…

At this point you may have noticed from the photo and video that I had one more item on my plate… That was their Prawns Fry served with fried Onions, Curry Leaves and Coriander Leaves as can be seen in the pic below…

The Prawns were a bit overcooked for me but I liked the taste of the spice rub which was nothing special, just the same old classic Turmeric, Chilly Powder, Pepper Powder, based Kerala style spice mix thats typically used for frying seafood… I think the onions and curry leaves were fried along with the Prawns… It was nice to have with the Biriyani…

Anyways, while I enjoyed the lunch I ended up being confused about one thing… What exactly did they mean when they said “Fine Dining”?? Is the posh look and well dressed staff the only criteria I wonder… Why I asked is cause I really couldn’t tell the difference when it came to the food I had… I did ask about this to the manager their while exchanging pleasantries at the end and what he told me is that they are in the process of slowly revamping their menu soon… So, hopefully next time, I’ll get to try from their new menu… 🙂

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