Biryani: My Evergreen Lovable Cuisine of flavours

Reading Time: 8 minutes

“Biryani won’t divorce you nor betray you; Biryani won’t cheat on or fight with you-then. Why can’t I marry Briyani.” These are my ulterior emotions when I see or hear anyone talk about Briyani. It has been not only satiating hunger for centuries. But I am also bringing happiness to our stomachs. And India offers much on its culinary palate. In addition to its local and hyperlocal varied styles of it. And we have been spoilt with options when it comes to experiencing this melting pot of flavours called Briyani. But have me warn you, this cuisine has its loyalists to a flaw. Why am I writing about Biryani? Well, my taste buds are dying to try out the tantalising aroma of this vibrant cuisine.

Biryani: My Evergreen Lovable Cuisine
Authentic Chicken Biryani

Nevertheless, Shravan months & Corona have limited me to writing & satisfy my desire for Biryani. Considerably, I tried out this elegant cuisine first in Lucknow. And I was in love, though I subsequently tried Biryani’s of Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Mumbai. Yet, there are still many more stories of Biriyani to be explored in other cities of India. The origin of Biryani is uncertain. It is believed to be in Persia before landing in India. Biryani is derived from the Persian word Bryan-means food, ‘fried before cooking.’ And here, Birinj is the Persian word for rice.

Persian – who brought in Biryani

There have been various rumours about the origin of Biryani. The most committed one is associated with Taimur- the Turco-Mongol legendary conqueror of the 14th C. The army of Taimur with them brought not only their culture but also delicacies, including Biryani. It was a war campaign diet. Here the military would dig a pit, heat it, and place an earthen pot in that pit filled with rice and meat- this eventually evolved as Kacchi Biryani.  A simple cooking method helped drain soldiers to retain their energy and nutrition. But impact came with several chapters of history. Probably the fame of a delicacy rose, along with its ingredients. It became a food of Royals from the menu of the battlers.

From its ease of cooking, it gained complexity of the procedure century by century. There is some other legend too. An Arab trader who visited the southern Malabar coast brought Biryani to India. There are records in Tamil literature as early as the year 2 AD. It is about a rich dish known as Oon Soru. This dish is rice, Ghee, meat, turmeric, coriander, pepper, and bay leaf. And was utilised to feed military warriors. The southern origin Biryani was derived from Pilaf or Pulao, as it is recognised in the Indian subcontinent. 

Biryani: My Evergreen Lovable Cuisine
Mugal relishing Biryani

All the same, the modern Biryani developed in the royal kitchens of the Mughal Empire. In that respect is one popular theory about Mumtaz Mahal, the most beloved Shah Jahan wife. She once visited the Mugal army’s barracks and saw the soldiers’ diminishing health. She then developed an inexpensive dish that was a complete meal. It was a balanced, well-cooked diet, and the result was Biryani! But Pukki Biryani to feed the malnourished army. It was cooked in Dum since most layers were pre-cooked before being placed in a handi. And several heaths were used, which reduced the cooking time.

Biryani: My Evergreen Lovable Cuisine
Mumtaz mahal

Considerably, these legends were not enough. Suddenly I stumbled upon another folklore that explains Biryani’s widespread. On his maiden journey to the land of deserts – Dubai, a traveller from Hyderabad stumbled upon a clan based in the Al Bastakiya district. He gave Iran’s spices to the tribe’s head chef upon his arrival in exchange for a night’s stay. That night the clan was attacked by a group of bandits. The village head then asked everyone to conceal in the nearby cave. And a few goods could help them sustain for a few more days.

Subsequently, after a couple of days, there was a lack of food as products were getting over. So the cook devised an innovative idea to solve the food crisis. He held a huge clay pot and made three layers of rice, meat and some gravy on the top. Then added hot water into the mixture and hid it beneath the warm sand. The entire pot of rice and some spices and meat were cooked well under the desert sand’s high temperature. The enthralling aroma of the Iranian spices & rice enchanted the villagers. And the traveller spread the recipe while coming back to his home.

Biryani: My Evergreen Lovable Cuisine
Villager preparing Biryani in Al Bastakiya district

But there is still a question: How did this inexpensive, lower-class meal make its way to the Nawabi table? Well, history has an answer to it. 

Biryani made its introduction in India long back. However, a story says that Awadh once suffered from a feminine. And the Nawab of Awadh, Asaf-ud-Daulah, ordered his people to construct an Imambara. This kept them busy day & night. He also created arrangements of food for the workers, which was, of course, Biryani. It was cooked in large Handis, where the meat was layered with raw rice, hot charcoal, and fire.

All vessels were sealed to retain the steam from escaping. This fashion of cooking Biryani is called the Kucchi (raw) Biryani. The slow cooking allowed food availability all the time, but one night the seal was not placed. And the hot scented stream flowed in the breeze. The smell attracted the Nawab, and he ordered him to bring the food. He has not only relished the meal. Instead ordered his chefs to make the same dish for him in his royal kitchen with exotic and expensive spices. And this is how Awadhi Biryani made it to the royal table and never left it.

Biryani: My Evergreen Lovable Cuisine
Nawab of Awadh

On the other hand, Hyderabadi Biryani sprouted under the Asaf Jah, the Nizam of Hyderabad. Asaf Jah also is known as Meir Qamar-ud-din Khan Siddiqi Bayafandi. He was the governor of the Deccan region under the reign of Aurangzeb. His chef-created more than fifty types of Pakki Biryanis. With meat (deer and rabbit) & rice cooked in layers in the handi, they come together in a marriage of flavours.

Hyderabad is home to the affluent class. They always demanded excellent food with exquisite taste. The breeds of Biryani that evolved later were Thalassery or Malabar and Delhi or Nizamuddin Biryani. The evolution of Biryani spans many centuries, culture, ingredients, and cooking styles. The multiple varieties reflect the local tastes, traditions and gastronomic histories of their parts of evolution. Allow me to share some lip-smacking regional variants that I have tasted. 

Biryani: My Evergreen Lovable Cuisine
Nizam of Hyderabad

Lucknowi Biryani: 

It was the first Biryani introduced to me, and I fell in love with this culinary art. I tasted it when I was a teen. But revisited the city to relinquish my taste bud. I also tried out Tunday Kababi, Lalla’s Biryani etc. It’s also known as Awadhi Biryani. A complete form as the textures are softer and the spices milder.  The initial step involves making a yakhni stock- meat is boiled in water infused with spices for two hours or more. It is cooked in Kachchi style; the mutton/chicken is sauteed in wholesome Ghee and whole spices till tender. Later the meat is layered with cooked rice, one on top of the other. And prepared together, with a covering enclosing the vessel- known as the Dum Biriyani. It makes it moister, tender and delicately flavoured over other brownies.

Biryani: My Evergreen Lovable Cuisine
Lucknowi Biryani

Kolkata Biryani:

The origin of Biryani is Murshidabad. When the legendary gourmet Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was banished by the British, he tried to revive his beloved dish in the city of Kolkata. Since I spent eight long years in Kolkata, from my college till early work life. I hopped in the most Biryani restaurant in Kolkata like Ameenia, Shiraz, Zeeshan, Khwab etc.

Kolkata Mutton Biryani

It was returning to our story since Nawab could not afford meat due to a low budget. Hence, the local cooks tweaked the recipe, replacing meat with perfectly cooked golden brown potatoes. And this is the signature of the Kolkata Biryani. It primarily uses a yoghurt-based marinade for the heart. It is prepared separately from the light yellow rice in much more delicate spices. And precisely like most Bengali dishes, it has a hint of sweetness. But this cuisine fills our stomach to our heart’s capacity. 

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah

Bombay and Sindhi Biryani

Precisely like the city of Mumbai, the Biryani is also spicy. Above all, hearty and zesty- a pot full of flavours. It has spiced fried potato, with a slight sweetness that comes from dried plums & kewra water. Taste it at Mohammad Ali road.

Biryani: My Evergreen Lovable Cuisine
Sindhi Biryani

I also tasted Sindhi Biryani in the same city at one of my Sindhi friend’s homes. It was loaded with finely slit green chillies, fragrant spices, and roasted nuts. So it’s hot, and one needs to be aware if a first-time eater. A typical characteristic is the addition of Plums (Aloo Bukhara) in the spices. It gives the dish a beautiful aroma. Also, many sour yoghurts are layered to provide a tangy note to the spice mix. 

Biryani: My Evergreen Lovable Cuisine
Bombay Biryani

Hyderabadi Biryani: 

It is a blend of Mughlai and Iranian cuisine. The aroma, taste, tender meat, and Zaffran distinguish it. However, the rice flavoured with aromatic saffron is the dish’s star. It’s very spicy since the heart is generally marinated overnight. Probably in curd, rich spices, and generous biriyani masala. Nevertheless, there is Doodh ki Biryani, known for its light flavour. A unique Hyderabadi speciality. The creamy milk is blended with roasted nuts and aromatic spices, resulting in a subtle, refined, and delicately flavoured dish. A jewel among the regal biryanis of the Hyderabadi Nizams!

Biryani: My Evergreen Lovable Cuisine
Hyderabadi dum biryani

Mughlai or Nizamuddin Biryani

Since fond of Lavish & exquisite dining experiences, Mughals looked upon cooking as an art. The spiced meat is succulent chunks enveloped in kewra-scented rice, emanating an irresistible aroma that instantly makes one hungry. This Biryani smells as well as tastes royal! So you should try the Jama Mazid area. Biryani & other Mughlai cuisine.

Biryani: My Evergreen Lovable Cuisine
Chicken Mughlai Dum Biryani

It is a complete meal, suitable for all occasions. Indeed, it is a marvel of India’s culinary heritage. As eating with love and gusto by the rich and poor.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »
error: Content is protected !!