Biryani is a universally loved dish that has stood the test of time, change and wars. Theories vary as to how this fragrant, exotic dish first came into existence with some believing that it has Persian origins while others argue that it was an Indian invention. Not that it matters; biryani is delicious all the same! The warm, soft rice coupled with the succulent texture of meat and the tang of spices – biryani is a celebration in itself.
There are 2 main types of biryanis: Pakki-wherein the cooked meat and rice are layered- and kacchi, wherein the raw marinated meat is layered with raw rice before being cooked together. All this talk of meat might put off a vegetarian and that leads me to tell you about the Tehri biryani which makes no use of meat and is no less delectable.
India is home to numerous varieties of biryani that are usually named after the places they originated from. Born during the Nizam’s rule, the Hyderabadi biryani is a cultural fusion between Mughlai and Andhra cuisine and traditionally involves basmati rice and mutton. Another variety from Hyderabad is Kalyani biryani also called ‘the poor man’s Hyderabadi biryani’ on account of the relatively inexpensive ingredients used.
Doubtless you’ve tried the less spicier Lucknowi/Awadhi biryani but did you know it actually inspired the Calcutta biryani? Turns out, when Awadh’s last Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was exiled in 1856 to the Kolkata suburb of Metiabruz, he brought his personal chef with him. Because you can live in a strange land with strange faces and dialects but you cannot compromise on food. Human psyche, eh? Thus, biryani was introduced to the poorer households of Kolkata, which could not afford meat and used potatoes instead. This went on to become a specialty of the Calcutta biryani. Now of course, meat is also served with it.
Coming to the west coast we have the extremely spicy Memoni from the Memons of Gujarat-Sindh region and uses fewer tomatoes than the Sindhi variety. Then we have the Mumbaikars who prefer a little extra grease and onions and thus developed the Bombay biryani .This led to the evolution of the Bhatkali biryani of coastal Karnataka. Biryani is quite rich and might get a bit much for your digestive system to handle. Karnataka offers a solution to this with its light Beary biryani which is kinder and does not constipate you.
Further south, God’s own country offers a spicy dum version prepared mainly by the Rawther Muslim community of Palakkad and the highly popular Thalassery biriyani which makes exclusive use of a unique, fragrant, small-grained, thin rice variety named Kaima or Jeerakasala. Neighbouring Tamil Nadu is the birthplace of the tangy Dindigul, the Vaniyambadi and the famous Ambur varieties.
So you see, different cultures have modified the beloved biryani to suit their palates. What’s your personal twist to it?