Spicy, savory, and immensely satisfying, there’s nothing quite like a great bowl of biryani. And with so many regional versions of the mixed-rice dish to try (like Hyderabadi, Karachi, and Afghani, just to name a few), there’s plenty of opportunities for you to find your favorite. Or, you could let us be your guide. Below, you’ll find some of our favorite versions in LA. From Artesia to Culver City to Little Bangladesh, these are the spots you need to be ordering from when that biryani craving hit.
LA has no shortage of iconic dishes: The Godmother at Bay Cities, Philippe’s French Dip, everything at Mariscos Jalisco. It’s time to add Zam Zam Market’s Karachi-style chicken biryani to the list. The tiny Pakistani market in Hawthorne has a tight menu of excellent dishes like beef seekh kabob and tangy chicken karahi, but the biryani will forever be the star of the show. Spicy, savory, and deeply aromatic—it’s one of the most complex and mind-blowing plates of rice we’ve ever eaten, and the kind of dish that every Angeleno should be required by law to eat at least once.
Despite the name, Biriyani Kabob House actually specializes in biriyani, kabobs, and curries, a fact the owner will explain to you several times over the phone while you order. That said, the one dish that we never leave here without is the Hyderbadi lamb biriyani. This is a massive plate of spice-filled basmati rice, accompanied by a lamb shank that’s approximately the size of a landline telephone (photo reference, if you don’t know what that is). The gaminess of the tender lamb is balanced perfectly by the coriander, cumin, and other spices, making it not just our favorite thing at Biriyani Kabob House, but a dish we’ll drive across the city to eat.
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It’s hard to put into words how uniquely special of a place Baja Subs is, but once you step foot inside this tiny market/convenience store in Northridge, you’ll start to understand. Yes, you can come here for a pack of cigarettes, a Diet Coke, and a turkey sandwich from behind the bar, but that’d be missing the point entirely. At Baja Subs, it’s all about the secret menu on the wall, filled with some of the best Sri Lankan food you’ll find in LA—including an exceptional biryani rice that comes topped with caramelized onion relish, cashews, pineapple chutney, and a boiled egg.
Bangla Bazar is a tiny market in Little Bangladesh that sells grocery essentials, a wide variety of produce, and Bangladeshi specialties from their hot bar. While we recommend getting involved with just about everything on their menu, for the purposes of this guide, let’s concentrate on the goat biryani, which is remarkable. The goat itself is cooked perfectly and could frankly be its own entree, but when combined with the cinnamon, saffron, and clove emanating from the basmati rice, the whole dish becomes more than the sum of its parts.
Abhiruchi Grill is among our favorite Indian restaurants in Culver City, and though they have an entire section of excellent biryani on the menu, our favorite is actually off-menu: Vijayawada paneer biryani. Named for the city on the Krishna River in southeast India, this is a fairly mild biryani (even compared to others on Abhiruchi’s menu), but the paneer adds a certain savory-sweetness that makes it one of the most unique in LA.
Annapurna is a vegetarian southern Indian restaurant in Culver City with a menu featuring specialties from the chef’s home city of Chennai. Dishes across the menu here are spicy, rich, and deeply aromatic—and the biryani is no exception. Filled with carrots, potato, peas, cauliflower, green beans, fresh mint, and dozens of spices, this is our favorite vegetarian version in town, and one that should be ordered whether you eat meat or not.
Banana Leaf Restaurant in Culver has 13 different biryanis on their menu, and if you feel the need to try every single one, that’s a journey that’ll result in eating 13 very good biryanis. If you only have time to try one though, we recommend the Chicken 65. This spicy, deep-fried chicken dish was first invented at Buhari Hotel in Chennai in 1965 (hence the name), and while it’s a delicious dish on its own, when mixed with herb and spice-filled basmati rice like it is at Banana Leaf, it’s taken to new levels of excellence.
Spice Affair Beverly Hills Indian Restaurant
Even by Beverly Hills standards, Spice Affair is fancy. Its expansive La Cienega dining room has multiple water fountains, conversation-starting chandeliers swinging from the ceiling, and big circular booths for family dinners or intimidating work lunches with your company’s board of directors. It’s all a bit over-the-top—and expensive—but the food is good, and we’ll make a special trip for their lamb biryani. The basmati rice and meat have been cooked so well together, there’s an almost creamy texture to it. Sure, it’s $32 (welcome to Beverly Hills), but it’s important to note that it will easily feed two grown adults.
Chances are you’ve driven past an India Sweets & Spices at some point—this tiny Indian market has locations from Culver City to Northridge. But that’s not to say it’s not some mass-produced mini-chain. Each location is independently owned with its own style and character, and most sell hot food items prepared in small takeout counters at the back of the store. At the Fairfax location (just south of Little Ethiopia), it’s all about the biryani. There are several different kinds on the menu ranging from paneer to shrimp, but we like the chicken best, which arrives moist every time (no easy task for a slow-cooked dish like biryani). We prefer to order it spicy, but just know that the chefs don’t hold back on the heat.
Don’t be scared off by the fact that Paradise Biryani Pointe has over 45 locations across the US—great biryani is great biryani and PBP cooks up plenty of it. Our favorite versions here include the sweet and spicy shrimp dum biryani (available at the Canoga Park location only), as well as the gongura chicken, a dish that hails primarily from Andhra Pradesh in southeast India and has a uniquely sour flavor that blends well with the fragrant basmati rice.
We’ll be honest here: this casual Pakistani spot in Hawthorne probably makes the most mild chicken biryani on this list, but what it lacks in overall spice and depth, it makes up for with absolutely incredible protein. Marinated perfectly so that the meat basically falls off the bones with each scrape of the fork, the chicken in this dish pulls the biryani together and makes it a must-order.