Biryani Muqabala: Mumtaz Mahal (Arabian Courtyard)

Biryani, the much-loved aromatic rice pilaf hailing from the Indian subcontinent, has since evolved into countless variations and every household has its special secret recipe, some handed down generations!

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Mumtaz Mahal, the popular North Indian themed restaurant at Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa, honors the popular pilaf with an annual ‘Biryani Muqabala’ (‘Biryani Contest‘ in Hindi), and every UAE resident from all walks of life are encouraged to take part. 9 years since its inception, the ‘Biryani Muqabala’ contest received over 500 entries this year. After careful consideration, this was narrowed down to 7.

“We are pleased to announce that we are holding our 9th Annual Biryani Muqabala (competition) on 9th October 2015, and I would like to invite aspiring chefs to this exciting cooking competition. This competition is open to everyone who loves to cook and show their skills in preparing and presenting the internationally renowned dish.” – Mr. Habib Khan (General Manager, Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa, Dubai).

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The seven Biryani Muqabala contestants.

The chosen 7 (unsurprisingly all ladies, and all hailing from the Indian subcontinent), spent the morning of Friday 9th October in the fully-equipped kitchen of Mumtaz Mahal, and had a little over 3 hours to recreate their signature biryani dish.

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Busy biryani experts in the Mumtaz Mahal kitchen!
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Marinating chicken in the Mumtaz Mahal kitchen.
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Ingredients for a delicious biryani.

The judges presiding the contest included:

  • Ms. Hannah Joji (Food Blogger)
  • Mr. Rakesh Puri (Passionate Cook, and Author of several cookbooks)
  • Arabian Courtyard’s very own Executive Chef Glen Ferdinand

It must have been hard work narrowing down to one winner. Each biryani was so uniquely delicious!

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The judges inspecting the biryanis.

The winning biryani was created by Mrs. Nabila Waqar, a housewife residing in Dubai. She aptly named her biryani ‘Maan Pasand Biryani’ which loosely translates to ‘most loved’ or ‘favorite’ biryani.

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Malabar Gold & Diamond Jewelers were the official sponsors of the event. Other sponsors included Unilever, Ocean Fair Trading and Max Cosmetics.
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Mrs. Nabila Waqar receiving the grand hamper for the Biryani Muqabala 2015.
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Mrs. Nabila being interviewed by the media.

Post-event, we got to try out all the biryanis. Its impressive to see so much cooknig talent by home chefs. The word ‘biryani’ has been stretched beyond its definition. There was a Green Chicken Biryani, a Veg Methi Mutter Biryani, and even one that incorporated chunks of deep fried bread.

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Some of the biryani entries at the Biryani Muqabala 2015 contest.

The winning biryani by Mrs. Nabila Waqar was brimming with flavor, and really had a kick of chili heat. It had succulently soft, well-marinated pieces of chicken in it that had taken on a gorgeous fiery red hue.

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My very overloaded plate at the tasting session! The winning biryani is the one on the very top of the plate, the fiery red ‘Man Pasand Biryani’ by Mrs. Nabila Waqar.

I had a chat with Nabila post-event, and she tells me cooking is her passion, and this is a recipe she has created from scratch all by herself. Highly impressive!

Watch out for next year’s Biryani Muqabala at Mumtaz Mahal. Perhaps you’d like to take part in it too? Send me some biryani to sample please 😉