Kochi’s Love for Kayees Biryani has Left Us Hungry

The beauty of this no-frills biryani lies in its simplicity—it will remind you of mom’s special recipe

Arathi Menon

For the people of Kochi, Kayikkante Biryani, loosely translated as brother’s biryani, is an emotion. Nothing beats the arousing romance that comes with a plate of warm mutton or chicken biryani served at the Kayees Rahmathullah Café in Mattancherry, Kochi. The city has changed with time and swanky new eateries have sprouted, including popular multinational names that are luring customers with crazy combos and offering several variations of mutton and chicken biryani. But the mutton and chicken biryani at “Kayees Hotel”, as the locals refer to it, has stood the test of time. Some loyalists continue to visit it even when they secretly admit that they’ve had better mutton and chicken biryani elsewhere. Like Rahmat K (42), a biryani lover who takes pride in being a Kayees patron. He hopes this warm biryani serving will survive the competition that globalization and increased tourism have unleashed, so Kayees can serve the good old mutton and chicken biryani as long as it can.

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Make chicken biryani with this easy chicken biryani recipe. Don't forget to check out the 7 types of biryani you can make at home!

Unlike other popular eateries, the food is limited here and the early bird gets the juiciest platter. So if you don't want to miss out on your plate of chicken biryani, we suggest you get here early. Now renamed Kayees Rahmathullah Café (locals are still wondering why the endearing Kayees Hotel is now a café), it is open from 12 pm to 9 pm, but even when we walked in at 7 pm, we were told that the stock for the day was almost over, save for two plates of chicken biryani. We polished the chicken biryani and visited again, and on both occasions, were left wondering what could’ve contributed to the astounding popularity of this chicken biryani, which lacks the fanfare associated with this historic chicken biryani dish. Perhaps the answer lies in the simplicity of the chicken biryani served here. There is no over-the-top garnishing, the spices are mild and sit comfortably in your stomach, the meat falls off the bone easily, the ghee used is fragrant—it behaves pretty much like a homemade handi of mutton or chicken biryani would. The cooks follow the chicken biryani recipe that has been handed down to them and yes, it’s a secret the Rahmathullah family will not share.

How it all began:

VK Kayee, who later came to be known as Kaykka, or brother, served the British army in the 1940s as a cook and then as a waiter at the Bombay Hotel in Cochin. It was in the late 1940s that he started a restaurant after trying his hand at running a tea stall in Mattancherry. Much has been said about the mutton and chicken biryani served here and many celebrities including late artist MF Hussain have had a taste of Kayikkante Biryani.

The Whole Picture:

Apart from mutton and chicken biryani, the Kayees Rahmathullah Café also serves other popular items like chicken and mutton roast, chicken and mutton kurma, ghee rice that can be scooped clean with various bread like parotta, chapati and appam. The mutton biryani and chicken biryani is priced around Rs 150 a plate. Despite its popularity, Kayees is surprisingly affordable for everyone. For the Kochi gentry, Kayees biryani is a reminder of the good things that come in small plates.

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We are big fans of biryani at Living Foodz. Don't forget to check out our other biryani stories:

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