When India and Pakistan meet in the Cricket World Cup, the opponents will have a common favorite dish: NPR

Chicken biryani at the Royale Restaurant & Bar in Carle Place, New York.

Marco Postigo Storel for NPR


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Marco Postigo Storel for NPR

Perhaps the most anticipated match of the Cricket World Cup is the match between Pakistan and India on Sunday. The countries are bitter rivals and their cricket teams rarely meet. However, there is one thing their fans agree on: Biryani is the best thing you can eat during a cricket match. The rice dish is a favorite throughout the Indian subcontinent. Every culture has its own way of preparing biryani, but the desi restaurants around the World Cup stadium in East Meadow, NY, are used to serving multiple styles.

Each of the three biryani shops closest to the stadium in Eisenhower Park has halal meat, limited beef options and a range of vegetarian dishes. But the most popular item on all three restaurant menus is the biryani.

Fans arrive for the Cricket World Cup match between Sri Lanka and South Africa at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Eisenhower Park, NY, on June 3.

Fans arrive for the Cricket World Cup match between Sri Lanka and South Africa at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Eisenhower Park, NY, on June 3.

Marco Postigo Storel for NPR


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Marco Postigo Storel for NPR

Biryani became associated with cricket partly because of the format of the sport. The oldest version of the game lasts five days. Fans eat multiple meals from early morning to evening. The pauses in the play are even named after the meals. The World Cup format is much shorter, about as long as a baseball match. But in every format of cricket, there is a long break before every game. It's the perfect amount of time to scoop meat, rice, yogurt and other condiments onto a spoon.

There are more than 35 varieties of biryanis spread across the Indian subcontinent, with each city offering different flavors. Just like cricket, the Indo-Pak rivalry is also playing out over biryani. Vegetarian biryani is more popular in India, along with chicken and mutton, but not beef, which most Hindus avoid. In Pakistan, meat biryani is more common – but never pork, which is forbidden in Islam.

Sahar's Kitchen and Chai – Karachi Style

Mohammed Rehman, owner of Sahar's Kitchen & Chai, and the restaurant's chicken biryani, in East Meadow, NY, on June 4.

Mohammed Rehman, owner of Sahar's Kitchen & Chai, and the restaurant's chicken biryani, in East Meadow, NY, on June 4.

Marco Postigo Storel for NPR


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Marco Postigo Storel for NPR

In East Meadow, the desi restaurants have both Hindu and Muslim customers. At Sahar's Kitchen and Chai, Mohammed Rehman, who comes from a Bengali family, offers a Karachi-style biryani with the raita, a yogurt sauce on the side – signature Pakistani flavors!

Rehman enjoys watching cricket with a plate of biryani. “Biryani is quick to eat and makes you feel full,” he says, adding descriptions of various subcontinental biryanis. “The Pakistani one is more dried, with more sauce on top. The Indian has more spices. And Bangladesh is more curious.”

The Royale – biryani diversity

Amrinder Singh, owner of the Royale Restaurant & Bar in Carle Place, NY, on June 4.

Amrinder Singh, owner of the Royale Restaurant & Bar in Carle Place, NY, on June 4.

Marco Postigo Storel for NPR


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Marco Postigo Storel for NPR

The Royale Restaurant & Bar serves alcohol and meat dishes, but that doesn't stop devout Muslims and religiously vegetarian Hindus from eating there. For Royale owner Amrinder Singh, this is a reflection of Indian diversity. “We have great respect for every religion and every ethnicity,” says Singh, adding that although his restaurant cooks all the food in the same place, it is happy to adapt the recipes to the needs of the guests.

The subcontinental diversity is reflected in Royale's menu, which also includes shrimp biryani and cheese biryani. This is the place for authentic Indian biryani from Hyderabad.

Spice and Curry – a long time favorite with all kinds of people

Naveed Haroon, co-owner of Spice & Curry Kabab & Grill, and the restaurant's chicken biryani, in East Meadow on June 3.

Naveed Haroon, co-owner of Spice & Curry Kabab & Grill, and the restaurant's chicken biryani, in East Meadow on June 3.

Marco Postigo Storel for NPR


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Marco Postigo Storel for NPR

The East Meadow biryani route ends at Spice & Curry Kabab & Grill, the oldest desi restaurant in the area. Despite describing itself as a Pakistani restaurant, Spice & Curry does not have beef biryani on its menu. “Beef biryani is not that common. We make it on special order. We also accommodate vegetarian options including the chana [chickpea] biryani,” says owner Naveed Haroon.

Customers from both India and Pakistan attend biryani-filled cricket screenings at both the Royale and Spice & Curry. Though the Indo-Pak banter prevails, there is no trace of any animosity. “It's all politics. In Nassau County, there's a large population of Indians and Pakistanis. And they get along great.” says Haroon.

The Royale Restaurant & Bar on June 4.

The Royale Restaurant & Bar on June 4.

Marco Postigo Storel for NPR


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Marco Postigo Storel for NPR

Royale owner Amrinder Singh echoes the same sentiment, citing the example of his former roommate from Pakistan. “He lives in Virginia. He comes to me – I go to him. The emotions are the same.'

Both Singh and Haroon agree that the US co-hosting the Cricket World Cup will significantly increase the popularity of the sport in the US, thereby introducing biryani to a wider audience. But are they prepared to serve a wide range of customers? You will find the answer in the kitchen of Spice & Curry, where the chef will show you how the restaurant's biryani is prepared.

First oil goes into a day, a large pan. Then they add a sachet of dried onions and fresh tomato paste, followed by a number of spices, including red chili powder, turmeric powder and zeera coriander. Once the sauce is ready, the basmati rice goes in. Meat or vegetables are added separately to create different biryanis.

On June 4, cricket will be played on the TV in the lobby of the Holiday Inn hotel connected to the Royale Restaurant & Bar.

On June 4, cricket will be played on the TV in the lobby of the Holiday Inn hotel connected to the Royale Restaurant & Bar.

Marco Postigo Storel for NPR


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Marco Postigo Storel for NPR

While the customers may have their favorite cricket team or biryani, they are bound by the love for both. “Food will unite love. Whatever rivalry they have on the field, when they come back, they will enjoy the food,” says Singh.

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