Spicy, savory, and immensely satisfying, there’s nothing quite like a great bowl biryani. And with so many regional versions of the mixed-rice dish to try (like Hyderabadi, Karachi, and Afghani, to name just 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 the biryani cravings 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. Featuring spicy basmati rice, perfectly cooked tandoori chicken, and burnt cloves that make the whole thing taste like a warm pile of cinnamon, it’s one of the most 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 (spelled with an extra “i”), 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 this is). The gaminess of the tender lamb is balanced perfectly by the coriander, cumin, and other spices of the rice, making it not just our favorite thing at Biriyani Kabob House, but a dish we’ll drive across the city for.
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 counter, 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 boiled egg.
Bangla Bazar & Restaurant
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 frankly, could be its own entree, but when combined with the cinnamon, saffron, and clove emanating from the basmati rice, the whole dish is taken to a completely new level.
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 the one not listed on there - 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.
Located in Beverly Grove, Cardamom is one of the most underrated neighborhood Indian restaurants in LA. The wide-ranging menu features excellent curries, tandoori, and other house specialties, but the biryani is simply not to be missed. We like the dum gosht and cinnamon-laced murgh biryani, but it’s important to note that, no matter what variety you order, spicy means spicy at Cardamom. Plan accordingly and be prepared for your lips to still be sizzling in the morning.
Don’t be scared off by the fact that Paradise Biryani Pointe has over 45 locations across the U.S. - 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 perfectly with the fragrant basmati rice.
We’ll be honest here - this casual Pakistani spot in Hawthorne probably makes the mildest 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, it’s the chicken that pulls this biryani together and makes it a must-order dish.