The Historic Rise of Biryani in India
Here we will get to know about the historic rise of biryani in India. Biryani is an evergreen classic that really needs no introduction. The word Biryani is derived from the Persian word Birian, which means ‘fried before cooking’ and Birinj, the Persian word for rice.
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 flavors.
There are various theories related to the origin of this scrumptious dish such as:
- Many historians believe that biryani originated from Persia and was brought to India by the Mughals. Biryani was further developed in the Mughal royal kitchen
- One legend has it that the Turk-Mongol conqueror, Timur, brought the precursor to the biryani with him when he arrived at the frontiers of India in 1398. Believed to be the war campaign diet of Timur’s army, an earthen pot full of rice, spices, and whatever meats were available would be buried in a hot pit, before being eventually dug up and served to the warriors.
- Another legend has it that the dish was brought to the southern Malabar coast of India by Arab traders who were frequent visitors there. There are records of a rice dish known as Oon Soru in Tamil literature as early as the year 2 A.D. Oon Soru was said to be made of rice, ghee, meat, turmeric, coriander, pepper, and bay leaf, and was used to feed military warriors.
- The most popular story traces the origins of the dish to Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan’s beautiful queen who inspired the Taj Mahal. 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!
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- The Nizams of Hyderabad and Nawabs of Lucknow were also famous for their appreciation of the subtle nuances of biryani. These rulers too were responsible for popularizing their versions of the biryani – and mouthwatering accompaniments like mirchi ka salan, dhanshak and baghare baingan – in different parts of the country.
The evolution of biriyani went through a complete metamorphosis, from army barracks to royal dining hall, Biriyani made its relevance felt like no other dish before! The historic rise of biryani reflects the evolution of the local tastes, traditions, and gastronomic history of the region. There are more than 20 varieties of the modern-day Biryani in India.
Few of the most popular ones Biriyani all over India are:
The world-famous Hyderabadi Biryani came into being after Emperor Aurangzeb appointed Niza-Ul-Mulk as the new ruler of Hyderabad. While most other biryanis are dominated by their flavored meat, in the layered Hyderabadi biryani, the aromatic saffron-flavored rice is the star of the dish. Hyderabad was also the place where the Kacchi Akhni Biryani was fine-tuned and perfected.
Banished by the British, the Nawab Wajid Ali Shah tried to recreate his beloved dish in the city of Calcutta. Unable to afford meat due to budget constraints, the local cooks gave the recipe a tweak, replacing meat with perfectly cooked golden brown potatoes–the signature of the Calcutta biryani.
Much lighter on spices, this biryani primarily uses a yogurt-based marinade for the meat, which is cooked separately from the light yellow rice. Also, just like most Bengali dishes, the Calcutta biryani has a hint of sweetness hidden in it.
Cooked in the royal Awadhi style, the textures of Lucknowi biryani are softer and the spices milder. The first step involves making a yakhni stock from meat that is slowly boiled in water infused with spices for about two hours or more. This is the reason why this biryani is more moist, tender, and delicately flavored than other biryanis.
It was introduced by the Nawabs of Arcot in the towns of Ambur and Vaniyambadi in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu. The biryani is generally accompanied by dalcha (a sour brinjal curry) and pachadi (a type of raita). The best-known sub-variety of the Arcot biryani is the Ambur biryani.
One of India’s most loved biryanis, is both sweet and savory. The main ingredients are soft chicken wings, mild Malabar spices, and a type of rice known as kaima. Lots of sauteed cashew nuts, sultana raisins, and fennel seeds are used generously in preparing this biryani. The rice is cooked separately from the gravy and mixed only at the time of serving.
This is one such dish that suits all occasions – whether it is a lazy Sunday lunch, a college get-together or a formal dinner with the in-laws. Eaten with love by the rich as well as poor, biryani is indeed a marvel of India’s culinary heritage.