If you’re thinking that the biryani figures prominently within the Hyderabadi’s culinary outings, you would not be mistaken. It’s the most cost-effective source of protein you’ll be able to find within the city – succulent pieces of meat and lots of flavoured rice, all available for the value of Rs 150  (or sometimes even lesser) at a median restaurant. If you continue to think that this can be an excessive amount to procure a one-time meal, then there’s the “other” biryani, popularly called the Kalyani biryani.

Often served at hole-in-the-wall style set-ups, not many from outside Hyderabad are aware of this biryani variant available within the city. Kalyani is taken into account to be the poorer cousin of the Hyderabadi dum biryani. It’s available at outlets for as cheap as Rs 80 because these aren’t your typical chicken or mutton varietIes, but are fabricated from buffalo meat. It is sometimes called ‘buff biryani’ at the outlets, to underline the same fact.

Plate of Kalyani Biryani
Kalyani Biryani

One has to do their research before starting on a probe for the Kalyani. Hardly do the restaurants serving the dish put up boards advertising the very fact on the road, and neither does this item figure within the must-to-eat tourist lists.

If one asks a cashier sitting inside a restaurant about the origin of the name of this dish, he or she might check with you about the politics of food, and tell you in an exceedingly hushed voice that “Kalyani” is the code word used rather than beef (though it refers to buffalo meat and not cow meat).

A Royal Lineage Of A Royal Dish 

 Kalyani Biryani on table
Bucket of Kalyani Biryani

Biryani is commonly treated as a royal dish, belonging to the elite, given its diverse ingredients and rich flavours. However, we believe that there’s a biryani for everybody and well, that’s how we stumbled upon this poor man’s biryani from Hyderabad. The Kalyani biryani hides its association with the Nawabs of Bidar in its aromatic infusion of rice and protein. Legend has it that the biryani derived its name from the Kalyani Nawabs who travelled from Bidar to Hyderabad within the 18th century. 

The fitting of the Kalyani Nawab ki Deori (haveli) by the Nawabs, who belonged to the Basavakalyan region, which was part of the old Hyderabad State, played a significant role in the invention of this interesting biryani variety. While the haveli was known for extending remarkable courtesy and generosity towards the travellers who stopped by, especially from Bidar, it was the acquisition of Hyderabad by the Indian government under Operation Polo in 1948 that the Kalyani Nawabs lost all control. 

The Deori that earlier served chicken and mutton Kalyani biryani to its guests twice every day in large quantities started trying to find cheaper ways of providing identical hospitality. Since the visitors continued to flock to the ‘Deori’ and therefore the finances were dwindling, one of the cooks of the royal kitchen decided to exchange the chicken/mutton with buffalo meat. That’s how the buff biryani, also referred to as Kalyani biryani, rose to fame as a cheaper alternative to the otherwise rich and expensive dum biryanis. Although the protein was substituted with buffalo meat, it had been often considered to be beef biryani and euphemisms like Kalyani started being employed for relating beef-based dishes. It is important to note that beef is cow meat and not buffalo meat. 

Pan of  Kalyani Biryani
Kalyani Biryani being cooked

Today, you’ll find hole-in-the-wall eateries with no clear signage or directions on the maps, serving Kalyani biryani at an inexpensive price of INR 80 in Hyderabad. The foremost famous is the one started by Dawood, one of every one of the cooks from the age of Nawabs of Kalyan, who founded a shop under the name of Original Kalyani Biryani within the Murgi Chowk behind Charminar. This happened within the late 1940s when cooks displayed to open their outlets to serve this buffalo meat, onions, tomatoes and rice combination for reasonable stakes as critical the close cousin, Hyderabadi dum biryani. 

You may not find expensive spices like saffron and therefore the rich chicken and meat proteins, but the shack-like tiny eateries have managed to stay the legacy of this other biryani alive within the heart of its birthplace, in the face of the recognition of Hyderabadi dum biryani.

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