A handi of biryani, with rice, meat (or vegetables), and spices, could be a complete meal in itself. Be it a proper gathering or a casual meeting among friends, a handi of biryani suffices. Each spoonful of this traditional dish is infused with aromatic spices and rich flavours. However, what most biryani lovers don’t know is that the dish did not originate in India.
The Indian subcontinent encompasses a history of foreign rulers, with each ruler introducing the country to varied cultures and traditions additionally as cuisines. The Turks, Afghans, Persians, and Arabs have left behind a fashionable culture of foods and feasts, while the Europeans have introduced the country to popular vegetables like potatoes and tomatoes. Even the tea we swear by had been growing wild within the northeast until the Britishers started its commercial production. Customarily made as mutton and chicken biryani, the dish was initiated into the region by Arabs and Persians.
How the Biryani acquired the regional flavours of India
Biryani was brought to India by Arabs
During the Mughal reign, Awadh(now Lucknow) was the capital of their kingdom, which is how the Awadhi biryani with its delicate flavours got its name. When Aurangzeb ascended to the throne, he sent his Nizams to Hyderabad and Arcot and their chefs created the Hyderabadi and Arcot biryanis by infusing the local flavours.
With the Nawab Wajid Ali Shah deposed to Kolkata, his chef created the standard Kolkata biryani by adding potatoes, which are now integral to the biryani of that region. Tehri biryani, a vegetarian version of the dish, is believed to have been created during this time as food for bookkeepers of the court who wouldn’t eat mutton biryani.
The secret behind the recognition of the Indian Biryani
The primary distinction between a biryani cooked in India et al. within the world, is the choice of spices and flavours. While India, the land of spices, has contributed immensely to the varied flavours of the biryani, the normal Persian or Arabian biryanis are quite subtle.
It is one of the variants of many types of Biryanis in India
Since there’s an unlimited variation within the flavours of various regions of the country, the spices employed in the biryanis are unique. Biryanis from the south of India have the distinctive coconut and tamarind flavour and will have an additional dash of chilis, but those in North India use curd as a marinade and delicate whole spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and herb.
Some biryanis also are flavoured with jasmine, rose, kewra, and saffron, using screw-pine and other dry fruits for the added nutty flavour. This flavour also can be created by frying the rice in ghee before it’s cooked with meat or vegetables.
Biryani vs Pilaf
Lovers of chicken and mutton biryanis are known to playfully call the biryani a ‘pulao’. The excellence between pilaf (pulao) and biryani has long been a bone of contention for many biryani lovers. Preparing a pilaf dish may be a much simpler task than the authentic biryani. For the pulao, you wish to delicately fry the meat or vegetables together with the rice then cook it in a very measured quantity of water until done. However, for a biryani, partially cooked rice and meat/vegetables are layered in an exceedingly “Handi” and cooked on “Dum”.
The historian Lizzie Collingham is of the view that the fashionable biryani may be a marriage between the Persian pilaf and therefore the delicate Indian spices and flavours. On the contrary, a Mughal text of the 16th century refers to the biryani as an archaic term, being replaced by the fashionable pilaf. Yet, one more view is that the biryani originated within the south of India and has been derived from pilaf varieties delivered to the Indian subcontinent by the Arab traders.
Characteristics of a decent Biryani
While practice makes a biryani perfect, the importance of the key ingredients can not be ruled out by true biryani lovers.
- Fresh vegetables/finest meat cuts and poultry also as fresh seafood, adding to the flavour of biryani.
- The finest long-grained rice for an honest north Indian biryani and short-grained rice for a South Indian biryani.
- A well-balanced marinade comprising curd, herbs, and spices is integral to an honest biryani.
- Delicate, aromatic spices, typical of the region, give each kind of biryani its distinctive taste.
It might surprise the general public that versions of biryani aren’t limited to the Indian subcontinent. Various countries around the world have created their version of the dish, with some popular ones being Malaysian, Filipino, Mauritian, and African.