Story of Biryani: Origin, Varieties and Popularity - FoodiBase

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Story of Biryani: Origin, Varieties and Popularity

Story of Biryani

Biryani is an Indo-persian origin dish that comprises long grained rice fumed and flavoured with aromatic spices and cooked with mutton, chicken, fish and vegetables over a low flame. It is served in many parts of the world and is a complex dish. Only the finest chefs with the most diverse skills can prepare a pot full of this savoury delicacy. The word ‘biryani’ finds its origin from the Persian words bery and birianBery means roasted and Birian means fried before cooking.

The best biryanis are cooked in an earthen pot called handi. Inside itthe rice and meat are layered. The bottom and top layer are always rice. An interlayer of some condiments is introduced between the meat and the rice. The handi is sealed and put on the coal embers to cook. The seal is broken only when ready to serve.

Origin of Biryani: A Brief History

Historically, Queen Mumtaz Mahal, wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan is credited for having introduced Biryani into Indian cuisine. This happened around the year 1600 A.D. It is said that she once visited the army barracks and found her soldiers to be under fed. She wanted to nourish their appetite with healthy food and thus ordered the chef to cook a dish that combined rice (carbohydrates) and mutton (fat & protein). This was the first ever preparation of Biryani. Gradually, this rice-mutton combo gained popularity and entered the royal court. It began to be served on almost all royal occasions. The royal emperors were known to flourish in luxury, money and fine dining. The dish became a perfect symbol of the elite status and eventually the staple dish. 

Delicious Varieties in India

Bombay Biryani
Prepared in full zeal by the Muslim community of Mumbai, this style of  preparation employs the dum technique of cooking. It is slightly sweet in nature due to dried plums. The Zaiqa Bombay Biryani Masala is one of the key ingredients added to chicken here.
Memoni Biryani
Coming from the Gujarat Sindh region, this preparation is extremely spicy. It is made with lamb, yogurt, fried onions and potatoes. Very less tomatoes or artifical colour is used for its preparation.
Bhatkali Biryani

Bhatkali variety originated in the coastal towns of Karnataka. It is quite sharp in taste and is essentially a mixture  red chillies, sauteed onions and juicy chicken chops. The fiery taste of red chilles mixes with the sweet taste of onions.

Awadhi Biryani

Vegeterian in nature, Awadhi style is the tastiest and the most flavoursome among all of vegetarian biryanis. Roasted spices are ground to provide this dish an appetizing taste. It is usually served it with ginger raita.

Dindigul Biryani

Owing its origin to the Thalapakatti region of Tamil Nadu, this form has a tangy taste. This is due to the presence of curd and lemon. No coconut or tomato are used in this particular form of preparation.

Hyderabadi Biryani

One of India’s top selling biryanis, this preparation incorporates goat meat. The meat is marinated and cooked along with the rice. Coconut and saffron seasonings are added to it.

Malabar Biriyani

It is the sole preparation of the south Indian state of Kerala. It makes use of a distinctive rice strain known as khyma rice. This variety of rice is mixed with marinated chicken and ghee. It is garnished with sauteed dry fruits.

Kolkata Biryani

Kolkata style makes an abundant use of potatoes and eggs. It is extremely light to consume and rarely uses meat for its preparation.The marinade that is used in its preparation consists of  cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. The rice is flavored with ketaki .

Ambur Biryani

Deriving its name from a small town in Tamil Nadu, Ambur variety has an aroma that one can whiff from miles away. For its preparation, the rice and meat are cooked separately and than brought  together. The vessel is then covered and cooking is done is the traditional dum style.

Lucknowi Biryani

Owing its origin to the streets of Lucknow, this preparation makes use of chicken. The rice are cooked separately in fresh spices. To it chunks of marinated chicken are added eventually.

Mughlai Biryani

An important variant of biryani, the mughlai style employs use of curd and chicken. Almond paste, ghee, dry fruits, and green chilies are also added to enhance its rich flavor. It is said that this form of biryani finds its origin straight to the kitchens of the nawabs.

Kalyani Biryani
Named after the Kalyani Nawabs of Hyderabad, Kalyani variation has lost its popularity over time. Pieces of buffalo meat go in the preparation of this biryani. It is rich in flavour but can be cooked by comparatively nominal ingredients.

Delicious Varieties of Biryani in other Countries

Pakistan – Sindhi Biryani

A variant and extremely popular in Pakistan, Sindhi biryani makes use of yogurt in its preparation. This variety is so popular that it has been made a part of the the major airlines of the region. It is made with meat and Basmati rice, vegetables and various types of spices. 

Bangladesh – Kacchi Biryani

A chicken and basmati rice preparation, this style makes use of a ton of exotic spices and food colour. This gives it a distinctive yellowish orange colour.  Layers of meat, rice and potatoes are infused with delectable blends of aromatic spices to prepare this dish.
Afganistan – Afghan Biryan
Afghan variety is prepared by cooking mutton and rice together, but without the additional gravy and other condiments that are used in biryani otherwise. The Afghani dish uses a lot of dry fruits.
Myanmar – Danpauk 
It utilizes a special rice grown domestically rather than basmati and is prepared along with chicken. The main ingredients include include raisins, peas, cashew nuts, yogurt,   cloves, cinnamon, saffron and bay leaf.

Indonesia – Nasi Kebuli 

Nasi kebuli is made by cooking rice soaked in goat meat broth with milk or coconut milk instead of water. The goat meat is later cooked and mixed with sauteed spice mixture in Samin oil.

Thailand – Khao Mok Nuea

An incredibly popular Southern Thai dish, Khao mok nuea uses beef for its preparation. It consists of yellow aromatic rice sprinkled with crispy fried shallots and served with a piece beef. In recent years, cooks have started using chicken instead of beef owing to the poor quality of the latter in Thailand. 

Malaysia – Nasi Bukhari

Rich in spices and heavy on chilles, nasi bukhari is a widely enjoyed dish among the Johor community. Kerisik (toasted cocnut) is an important part of its preparation. It is served along rendang kuah (malaysion gravy).

Top 3 Traits of a Well Cooked Biryani 

1) Aromatic A well cooked dish should entail the highest aromatic flavours – sweet, tangy and herbal.

2) Savory It should be savory and not just spicy, to be well cooked

3) Non-Sticky Finally, it should meet the age old test. On dropping a handful of biryani on a hard floor, no two grains of rice should stick to each other.

Ideal Rice

Ideally,  brown rice with long grains was used in North India. They have now been replaced by basmati rice.

In the south, Zeera Samba rice with short grains is used. 

For outside India, puffed rice is used. 

Ideal Meat 

Historically, goat leg was used to make biryani.

These days depending on the region and restaurant, one can find biryani made with mutton, lamb, beef, chicken, fish, and prawns.

Ideal Vegetables

Traditionally, only potatoes and fried onions were used in biryani preparation.

Over time, with increasing popularity in newer regions many new vegetables have been included – Cauliflower, carrots, peas, sweet bell peppers, green, jack fruit, bottle gourd, and garbanzo beans.

Biryani is one of the best rice, meat and vegetable preparations that the world has seen. It is savoury, sumptuous and an absolute delight to the senses. With changing times, the flavours might have modified a bit but the essence remains the same. Head out today to the nearest eatery and enjoy a plateful of delicious biryani.

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