Cool place for hot Indian food

Juicy Tandoori Chicken pieces

WHEN you’ve lived abroad for a long period of time, there would be moments when you yearn for a taste of home-cooked food. So when Shafina Abdul Hamid tells me that “homesick Indians eat here,” it says a lot about the food served at Village Briyani Café.

A year ago, when Shafina and her husband wanted to entertain friends to a special meal, they were disappointed with the dearth of authentic Indian food in Johor Baru.  This made her decide to open a café serving cuisine that she would be proud to share with others. Her dream turned into reality when she opened Village Briyani Café, in September last year.

Briyani & Breads

Not only are the spices imported from India but the six chefs are hand-picked from the finest restaurants in Chennai and Calcutta to create an authentic menu of North and South Indian specialties. They offer an elegant briyani spread in a unique fusion of the different types of Indian briyani.

Village Briyani with mutton is the signature dish while briyani prepared in a variety of styles — Hyderabad, Mysore, Aarcaad, Midnapur, Chetinaad or vegetable briyani — is available on different days.  This fragrant basmati rice with spices, chicken, mutton or fish, is served with a side of raita or cucumber and yoghurt salad, fruit pickles and crispy papadam.

If you are not a rice person, then pick from a whole range of roti like naan and parotta, with delicious gravies like mutton roganjosh and murgh makhni, chicken pieces in a slightly, sweet butter-tomato gravy. Freshly-baked Village naan is dotted with lots of herbs and spices and there are also choices of an aromatic cheddar cheese naan and a crispy kadaak roti as well as thin, soft fulkha served with dhall or lentil gravy.

Other Village Specials

For starters, kheema samosas stuffed with minced meat are served warm. Those who love vegetables would simply fall for the dry aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower in dry masala sauce) and palak paneer (cubes of homemade cottage cheese with spinach). 

I sink my teeth into the tandoori chicken that is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.  Shafina explains that they use smaller chickens as her chefs insist that smaller birds absorb flavours better and the meat is more tender.

If you like a hot dish, try prawns fried in black pepper. This zinger dish should be approached with extreme caution or at best, get the fire brigade on standby!

To cool off, there is a list of refreshing drinks including mint lime cooler. And for sweet endings, try the lovely desserts made from home recipes. Take your time to enjoy kulfi, a milk-based saffron infused, nutty frozen dessert but my favourite is the firni, a smooth, sugee custard with roasted cashew nuts, almonds and raisins!

“We work hard to keep it authentic,” says Shafina with a smile, satisfied that the cafe has a loyal clientele who enjoys the Village’s typically Indian menu regularly.

Solid stuffed kheema samosas

Dry Aloo Gobi [Top] and Mixed Vegetables [Bottom]

Firey Black Pepper Prawns

When and Where

Village Briyani Café is located at 15, Susur 1/1 Jalan Tun Abdul Razak (near Danga City Mall). Open daily, from noon to 3.30pm and from 6pm to 10.30pm. For reservations and catering enquiries, call 07-222 0360.

This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Travel Times on 29 September 2009

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