We all love Biryani, crave for it, and relish it. But we probably never spent as much time as it takes us to gobble an entire plate to think once about the origins of this divine dish. Here are 12 things about everyone’s favorite food that you may or may not have known:
1. Biryani is not actually an Indian dish but it is fortunately still associated with India. It was brought to India by Mughal Emperors and it is believed that an Arab trader called Taimor Lang brought it down from Kazakhstan via Afghanistan to Northern India.
2. It is said that Nawab Asafullah used to build a wall by day & demolish it by night, so that his people could get their daily wages. In the night the workers used to cook rice mixed with meat, in big earthen pots to fill their stomachs. At one such night, Nawab Asafullah tasted this rice & was pleased with it. This was the beginning of a new dish which was then named as Biryani.
3. Another story about its origins has Mumtaz Mahal as the central character. Apparently, Mumtaz Mahal once did a surprise visit to her army barracks, and found that the army personnel were under nourished. She then asked her chef to cook a dish which had rice, meat and spices in order to give carbs, proteins etc in right quantity to the warriors and this is said to be the origin of Biryani. Needless to say what began as a nutritional dish over time became a royal dish for Nawabs and Nizams.
4. The Nizams also had a vegetarian version called Tahiri(Tehri) Biryani.
5. The Calicut Biryani is believed to be brought in by the Arab traders after crossing the Arabian sea and is served with vinegar, pickles and papads fried in coconut oil. It is a softer variety and light on the stomach has no relation in terms of taste to the other Biryanis of India.
6. In the northwest, Memoni Biryani (people who inhabited the area between Sindh Gujarat and Pakistan) got evolved which is an extremely spicy version. Another northwest variety that got famous is Sindhi Biryani which gets its unique flavour by adding “dried plums”.
7. Hyderabadi biryani is traditionally made with uncooked, marinated lamb (kacche gosht). It is layered at the bottom of a pan with rice in various stages of ‘doneness’ — the topmost is more pre-cooked than the rice nearest the meat which is only 25 percent cooked.
8. The Lucknowi biryani is made from stock, and not water. The meat is first sautéed and then cooked separately. The rice is later cooked in the same stock. This precludes the concept of Kachhe Ghosht ke biryani. While Hyderabadi version has top notes and middle notes, Lucknowi biryani owes its success to a homogeneous blend of spices, so that no single one predominates.
9. Tamil Nadu is known for the Ranipet and the Dindigul Curry Biryani (which was painstakingly prepared for President Bill Clinton during his visit to India) from the Erode and Tirupur area.
10. Calcutta Biryani evolved from the Lucknow style when Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab of Awadh was exiled in 1856 to the Kolkata suburb of Metiaburj. His personal chef introduced potatoes instead of meat during recession. It later went on to become a specialty of Calcutta, though meat is also served along with it. This combination of spices gives it a distinct flavour as compared to other styles of Biryani. The rice is flavoured with ketaki water or rose water along with saffron to give it flavour and light yellowish colour.
11. Famously known as the poor man’s Hyderabadi Biryani, the Kalyani Biryani isn’t as rich in ingredients as its Hyderabadi counterpart. Made of buffalo meat, it originated during the reign of the Kalyani Nawabs of Bidar. The meat is flavoured with all spices and then cooked in the dum style.
12. The age old test for good biryani: You may feel bad doing so, but drop a handful of it on a hard floor. If no two grains of rice stick to each other, then your dish has been cooked perfectly.
Knowing more about what you are eating just makes it even more tastier doesn’t it? Now how about heading to Simply South by Chef Chalapathi to taste the signature Jujejan and Kache Gosht ki Biryani!