Cafe Mariam – Smoky and Fragrant Nasi Briyani in the East
My group of makan kakis who are also big fans of nasi biryani arranged for another lunch gathering at this newly-opened Cafe Mariam in Joo Chiat. One of us who tried it previously was raving so much about it so we all decided to check it out this week.
We met at 10.30am at Cafe Mariam, which is located in a small shop house along Changi Road, for lunch (yes for lunch because our friend said it would get crowded during lunch time). But guess we came too early. In there, Chef Hassan was still busy cooking nasi mandi.
“I only sell two things here — Nasi Biryani or Nasi Mandi. Mandi is the Arabic version of biryani and many people consider it a healthier version. My kitchen is small, so I come up with my own technique of smoking it.”
Having worked with Gordon Ramsay before, Chef Hassan is definitely not a newbie in the kitchen. He showed me how he cooked his Nasi Mandi and I was impressed. No, the rice was not smoked in some expensive Josper oven. He uses a clever trick to give his Nasi Mandi its characteristic smoky flavour and taste. This small cafe already smells wonderful even before the food is ready.
There is Chicken Dum Briyani ($6.50), Mutton Briyani ($7.50) and the Arab-style Mandi Briyani (price depends on size) on the menu. Since there were 5 of us, we shared a huge platter of Dum and Mandi with chicken, mutton and lamb shank.
The hallmark of an excellent biryani is the fluffy rice grains. Layers of meat and rice are added to a heavy-bottomed pot which is sealed tightly so the flavors and steam do not escape. “No saffron, no biryani,” Chef Hassan said. The fluffy basmati rice in biryani has a hint of saffron.
My friends and I were raving about the nasi mandi which had a very distinct smokiness that we love. The accompanying meats are spiced and stewed in a pot till soft. Upon order, Chef Hassan starts his fire guns and torches the meat surface till it’s slightly charred on the outside. The meats are paired with green chilli chutney and yogurt. If you ask me, I’ll very much love to combine both nasi briyani and nasi mandi, and savour them together. It’s so good.
Address: 116 Changi Road, Singapore 419718
Mobile: 9369 8564
Opening Hours: Mondays to Saturdays 11am to 3pm; Sunday 11am to 2pm. Prayer break from 12pm to 2pm on Fridays.