What is Eid without its biryani? That aromatic and flavoursome, layered meat and long grained-rice dish that is believed to have come from royal kitchens of the Mughals and Nizams, is a must-have at this time. Post the morning prayer, you will find a large vessel or degh of biryani being prepared on traditional firewood or on a gas stove in almost every home, for lunch that day. With special spices that require elaborate preparation, making the biryani is considered an art in itself. And the diversity in India lends itself beautifully to the meat-laden dish. Read on…
Delicious regional variants
Biryani imbibes several styles of preparation, that require distinct ingredients and give it a unique taste. Food experts reveal more. In Mumbai, potatoes and even tomatoes, find their way into it.
Manzilat Fatima, from Kolkata talks about how potatoes are integral to the ‘Kalkatta Biryani’. “Kolkata biryani is known for its potatoes. When Wajid Ali Shah came to Kolkata, he brought with him the Avadhi cuisine, known for its pulaos. Once potato was added to the biryani here, it took over all the pulaos. The biryani is minimalistic in terms of spices, but full of flavours. Kewra is used, but not sweet attar. Of late my family has been cooking it in mustard oil, which could be a Bengali influence,” she says.
In Bihar, you will enjoy the dish differently. Says food blogger Rachna Prasad, “The Bihari-style biryani is made in the batlohi — a heavy copper vessel. Bihari cuisine is
generally spicy, so the biryani follows that. Whole spices are used plus tomato, instead of curd.”
Bhopal enjoys biryani in a pulao-style version. Says food blogger Rida Khan, “The Bhopali Biryani is also known as ‘Mutton Pulao’. The biryani is a treasured recipe and passed down from generation to generation. It is had with zarda, a dessert.”
Food expert from Mumbai, Munaf Kapadia, talks about the Bohri-style biryani. “This is a biryani where we take the marinated meat, rice and flavours, put all of it in a tapela (vessel) and layer it, like the dum-style. The particular thing about this biryani, is that we use a lot of curd as well as potatoes, just like a Bengali biryani. If you sit in a Bohri thaal, people would fight over the potatoes more than the meat,” he grins.
Food blogger Saher Khanzada reveals how Kokani Muslims love making a ‘Mhavryachi biryani’ or fish biryani for special occasions. “The Kokani Muslims are an ethnic clan, native to coastal belts of Maharashtra and have seafood at the heart of their cuisine. So, it’s no surprise that we have incorporated seafood in our biryani recipes,” she says.
The Hyderabadi biryani, prized for its preparation is made dum-style, and had with a mirchi ka salan. Says food stylist Farrukh Aziz Ansari, “‘Hyderabadi Murgh Dum Biryani’, is a kachchi-style biryani, where meat and rice are taken in equal quantity, for marination. To make it, a large copper handi is sealed with dough while keeping it on dum, so that the steam inside does not escape. This helps in cooking the biryani to perfection. A good quality saffron soaked in warm milk is added to give it a natural colour.”
In South India, the biryani follows its own distinct style, which has Arabic influences. Says chef Sandeep Sreedharan, “The Thalassery biryani from North Kerala (Malabar), is made Moplah-style, and is delicious! You use the fragrant kaima rice for it. The biryani is milder in terms of flavour. We also put raisins and cashew nuts in it. Fish biryani is usually made using surmai as it’s a chunky fish.” The Kochi style biryani is also interesting, where pineapple is added to it. It is served with tomato chutney.