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 birian. Bery means roasted and Birian means fried before cooking.
The best biryanis are cooked in an earthen pot called handi. Inside it , the 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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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