The Art of Making Biryani
Biryani is an classic food that every indian almost loves it because of the
delicioulsy complex blend of flavours, spices & aromas that emphatise the
India offers so much on its culinary platter but the one dish Indians unanimously love indulging in is the mouth-watering biryani. With local and hyperlocal variations having evolved into distinctive styles of biryanis, one is spoilt for options when it comes to experiencing this melting pot of flavours.
Before knowing more about Biryani, lets see how it was originated.
It is said that Mumtaz once visited the army barracks and found the Mughal soldiers looking weak and undernourished. She asked the chef to prepare a special dish that combined meat and rice to provide balanced nutrition to the soldiers – and the result was biryani of course! At the time, rice was fried in ghee, without washing, to give it a nutty flavour and prevent it from clumping. Meat, aromatic spices, and saffron were added to it before cooking the mix over a wood fire.
The Nizams of Hyderabad and Nawabs of Lucknow were also famous for their appreciation of the subtle nuances of biryani. Their chefs were renowned the world over for their signature dishes. These rulers too were responsible for popularising their versions of the biryani – and mouth watering accompaniments like mirchi ka salan, dhanshak and baghare baingan – in different parts of the country.
The perfect biryani calls for meticulously measured ingredients and a practised technique. Traditionally , the dum pukht method (slow breathing oven in Persian) was used to make biryani. In this method, the ingredients are loaded in a pot and slow cooked over charcoal, sometimes from the top also, to allow the dum or steam to works its magic. The pot, sealed around the edges with dough, allows the steaming meat to tenderise in its own juices while flavouring the rice.
Other than the technique, spices also play a critical role in dishing out a good biryani – some recipes call for a very limited use of spices while others use more than 15 different spices. Meat or chicken is often the main ingredient, though in some coastal varieties, fish, prawns, and crabs are also used. Use of rose water, sweet edible ittar and kewra water in biryani is also common, a practice prevalent since the medieval era.
In the north, long grain brown rice was traditionally used to make biryani. It has today been replaced by the fragrant basmati rice. On the other hand, in the south, biryanis were and are still made using local varieties of rice, like the zeera samba, kaima, jeerakashala and kala bhaat, that lend their distinct taste, texture and aroma to the dish.
In general, there are two types of Biryani – the Kutchi (raw) biryani and the Pukki (cooked) biryani.
In Kutchi biryani, the meat is layered with raw rice in a handi (a thick bottomed pot) and cooked, while in Pukki biryani cooked meat and rice are layered in the handi, where they come together in a marriage of flavours.
The evolution of biryani spans many centuries, many cultures, many
ingredients and many cooking styles. From an army dish to a dish fit for
royalty, the biryani today is a pan-India culinary favourite. Its many
varieties reflect the local tastes, traditions and gastronomic histories of
their regions of evolution. Here are some lip-smacking regional variants that
every biryani lover should know about.
There are basically 10 types of famous Biryani in India:
1. Mugalai Biryani :
This is a flavourful briyani recipe which is a typical dish from the Mughals…This is rich creamy and full of flavour which is served with Mughlai Chicken.
The tastes of Mugalai cuisine vary from extremly mild to spicy, and is often associated with a distinctive aroma and the taste of ground and whole spices.
It is a exotic biryani with richness of nuts, butter & unique aroma of freshly ground spices, where the chicken gravy and rice is cooked seperately and then both combines as layers in pot and cooked in low heat by Dhum method.
2. Hydrabadi Biryani:
Believed to have originated from the kitchen of the Hyderabad’s Nizam, there are two types of Hyderabadi Biryani – Pakki (cooked) and Kacchi (raw). The Pakki Hyderabadi Biryani involves cooking of basmatic rice and meat separately and then layering them together. While the kacchi Hyderabadi Biryani is made from the raw marinated meat (chicken or lamb) placed between the layers of basmati rice infused with saffron, onions and dried fruits, both are slow-cooked in a dough-sealed earthen pot over charcoal fire, which results in rich, aromatic and punchy biryani. If you go out for a meal with a local, more likely than not, you will have either one of the variants of Hyderabadi biryani.
3. Calcutta Biryani:
Calcutta Biryani originates from Kolkata, although it has roots tracing back to the Awadhi style biryani of Lucknow. Characterised by subtle flavours with a tinge of sweetness and more sparing use of spices, it is cooked with light yellow rice, which is layered with yogurt-based meat, soft boiled eggs and potatoes. Add to that, saffron, nutmeg and kewra, which lends a soothing aroma to the biryani.
4. Lucknow Biryani:
Also known as the ‘Awadhi biryani’, the Lucknowi Biryani stands out due to its cooking style, known as dum pukht. The meat (or chicken) infused with spices is partially cooked separately from rice, which is flavoured with saffron, star anise and cinnamon. Both the meat and rice are then layered together in a handi (deep-bottomed vessel) and cooked for hours until the flavours deeply penetrate. The end result is soft Lucknowi biryani with mild flavours.
5. Bombay Biryani:
Bombay biryani is composed of chicken (mutton or vegetables), fried and spiced potatoes,kewra water and dried plums for a distinctive taste which nakes it taste sweet, tangy & aromatic.
6. Sindhi / pakitsni Biryani:
Sindhi Biryani is a dish that originated in Sindh province (now part of Pakistan), hence the name. This biryani is made from the generous use of chopped chillies, roasted spices, mint and coriander leaves, onions, nuts, dried fruits and sour yogurt, making the flavour piquant and aromatic. Added to this biryani are plums and potatoes for good measure.
7. Kalyani Biryani :
Kalyani Biryani, the ‘Poor man’s Hyderabadi biryani’ as it is often dubbed, is said to have originated from the Bidar city (Karnataka). Consisting of buffalo meat and an array of spices, coriander and tomatoes, the Kalyani biryani is flavourful and tangy. Although it doesn’t have ingredients like the popular Hyderabadi biryani, the taste and pleasant aroma remain the same.
8. Dindigul Biryani:
Dindigul Biryani is an ever-popular dish that can be found at several outlets across Chennai. It is strong and tangy in flavour, which is derived from curd and lemon, mixed with cube-sized meat (mutton or chicken) and jeera samba rice. Also, a lot of pepper is used to give it a full-on zesty flavour.
9. Ambur Biryani:
Ambur Biryani is an unmissable travelling experience in itself when visiting Tamil Nadu. Like other variations of biryani, this one also has meat (chicken or mutton), but what makes it different is the way the meat is prepared. The meat is soaked in curd and flavoured with coriander and mint, and then added to the cooked Seeraga samba rice, along with other spices. Savouring it with brinjal curry, ennai kathirikai, is every biryani-lover’s delight.
10. Tehari Biryani:
The traditional biryani is made from meat, but Tehari biryani is served without it. Legend has it that this biryani was created for the vegetarian Hindu bookkeepers at the Mughal court, and since then, it has become one of the popular dishes among vegetarians across the North India region. This biryani consists of potatoes, carrots, several veggies and an array of spices, making the taste hearty and savoury.