ThahseenFaizel runs Double Dum Biriyani, a successful biryani joint in Chennai, India, helped by one or two cooks. That’s not unusual in itself but for the fact that her employees have little or no cooking experience. Yet every day at lunchtime, they sell 300 to 500 plates of the famously labour-intensive but beloved rice-and-meat dish, and they make it from scratch in two hours using four 60-litre pressure cookers and one huge 200-litre pressure cooker.
It’s all thanks to a cooking technique called OPOS.
OPOS, which stands for One Pot One Shot, is an innovative set of cooking techniques; as the name suggests, each dish is prepared at one go instead of following the numerous steps of most traditional recipes. Complicated recipes are ingeniously adapted, and feasts are prepared using just one pot in a fraction of the time. The Indian pressure cooker is the main gadget used, but there are precise instructions for a standardised heat source, the cooking time, the quantities and the layering of ingredients. According to B. Ramakrishnan, the inventor of the technique, once these are understood and mastered, any recipe can be “OPOS-ed”.
For a start-up business that is a little over a month old, Thahseen seems to have circumvented the usual teething troubles food businesses suffer. “As the cooking technique was OPOS, the challenges are quite minimal,” she told My Salaam. “Generally, the major problem faced by restaurateurs is unavailability of highly skilled labour and the long working hours. When it comes to OPOS, the cooking time and the usage of highly skilled labour are not an issue.”
The OPOS techniques are continuously tried, tested, validated and adapted to new recipes by a considerable army of “OPOStars” across the world. These make up the core group of over 2,000 people who OPOS at least one meal a day and are part of a passionate Facebook group called OPOS School, creating, replicating and sharing recipes. Additionally, there are about 60,000 members in another OPOS Facebook group who occasionally use the techniques to prepare their meals.
Thahseen, known as Taz in OPOS circles, is one of the pioneers of the OPOS groups and is responsible for creating most of the meat- and fish-based recipes. She has an impressive collection of original recipes, including various types of biryanis and even a whole roast chicken cooked in 10 minutes in a 2-litre pressure cooker. “I’m all theory. I have never tasted meat. It took Thahseen to put the recipes into practice,” Ramakrishnan remarked.
Thahseen says that, for her, the biggest advantage of OPOS is the speed and ease of cooking meat and fish dishes. “It felt like magic; never in my life had I imagined I would cook a biryani in six minutes or a mutton dish in 10 minutes!”
The encouragement that Thahseen received from the OPOS community boosted her enthusiasm and confidence. “It was very encouraging to see them trying my dishes and post validation. It made me do more and more for the group. With each dish, I also learnt much more … [which] finally ended up [becoming] this new venture, a biryani chain.”
Ramakrishnan has big plans for the brand: “OPOS levels the playing field. Anyone can produce and sell great food. I hope to be the Uber of food, with good food just a click away, wherever you are. […] “Anyone is free to use the techniques to start the business. They only need to pay a small royalty if they choose to use the OPOS brand.”
It was OPOS Kitchen, owned by Ramakrishnan, that invested the required funds to set up the central kitchen for what would become Double Dum Biriyani. Based on the work Thahseen had done for the brand, she was offered the chance to be an operational partner in the venture. It took two months and INR 200,000 to develop Double Dum Biriyani’s two signature recipes, but Thahseen’s only major challenge was standardising them. “Trial biryani packs were sent for blind tasting across the city, and we beat all the popular biryani chains,” she said.
At the time of writing, she was already planning a second and third outlet for Double Dum Biriyani, which she plans to eventually spread across the city, ensuring that Chennaiites are never far from a plate of her chicken or mutton Chennai biryani.