When it comes to Mughlai cuisines, the first name that crosses our minds is Biryani. This aromatic meal which is made primarily with long grained rice and meat was popularised by the Mughals when they invaded India during the 16th century. It is with their hands that a different culinary trend was set on the Indian soil which became an integral part of Indian culture.
Though Biryani is popularly associated with the Mughals, according to some food historians, there were similar Tamil cuisines made of rice that date back to 2 A.D. A dish called “Oon Soru” whose chief ingredients were rice, ghee, meat, turmeric, coriander, pepper, and bay leaf was popular during that time as it was prepared for the soldiers. Even in the manuscripts of the famous traveler and historian Al Beruni, one can find references for dishes made of rice that resemble biryani in their method of preparation and the basic ingredients used. Most of those gourmet meals belong to the era prior to that of the Mughals. However, Biryani was propagated by the Islamic Persians who invaded India before the Mughals.
The word “Biryani” is derived from the Persian word “birian” which means “fry before cooking”. As the ingredients are fried before cooking in an air-tight vessel, hence the name Biryani is quite aptly suggested for this aromatic preparation.
Types of biryani
There are various types of Biryani based on the types of spices used for flavouring this classical meal viz. Hyderabadi, Lucknow, Calcutta, Thalassery, Bombay, Dindigul, Ambur, Sindhi, Kalyani and Tehari biryani.
Some of the popular types of biryani are discussed below:
Hyderabadi Biryani- This is one of the most savoured variations of biryani for its connoisseurs who love to taste the punchy and spicy taste of the dish. In this biryani, the rice mixture is prepared with fried onions, dry fruits, mint leaves and saffron milk in a double sealed earthen vessel in slow fire.
Lucknow Biryani- The Lucknow Biryani is also known as Awadhi Biryani which has a distinct taste and flavour due to its method of preparation which is known as “dum pukht” (rice mixture is cooked in a handi or a deep bottom vessel in slow fire for hours). The Awadhi biryani has a mild aroma compared to the Hyderabadi Biryani due to use of less spices- cinnamon, star anise and saffron.
Calcutta Biryani- The origin of this biryani traces back to the Awadhi style and is therefore characterised by mild flavours. Calcutta Biryani stands out due to use of potato, kewra water, nutmeg and saffron to give its distinct flavour and taste.
Thalassery Biryani-This variety of biryani is made with Jeerakasala rice to give it the characteristic essence of traditional Malabaar cuisines. It is a non-vegetarian dish which you can prepare with your preferred vegetables also. The other ingredients used are Malabar spices, fennel seeds, cashews and raisins.
Tehari biryani- Unlike most of the traditional biryanis the Tehari Biryani was prepared as a vegetarian meal for the Hindu book-keepers at the Mughal courtyard. It is traditionally made with potatoes, carrots and other veggies. Use of spices make the dish savoury.
Apart from all these varieties, you can make Biryani with your own improvisation and see how it works. Pair your platter with a bowl of boondi raita or cucumber raita to make it a gourmet meal!
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