India is a melting pot of flavours, with innumerable dishes merging so many cultures and uniting them together to create a myriad of colours, all the while bringing people together. There is a touch of mother India in all Indian food, a feeling of familiarity when it meets the mouth and creates an explosion of vivid flavours. While there are a variety of popular dishes in the country, biryani tops the list with its rich blend of spices.
Biryani is like the king of rice dishes, with the instant royalty it brings into the dining room. The cherry on the cake is the fact that there are so many varieties in biryani itself, that it is mind boggling where to start! Biryani recipes are readily available on apps and desktops and in various languages. Chicken biryani recipes in Marathi and other regional languages have made it possible for every amateur cook all over the country to make the delectable dish and get a taste of it.
The origin of the mighty biryani:
- The word originates from the word birinj which is the Persian word for rice. The layering technique in biryani which includes placing rice, meat and then rice on the top, is what sets it apart from regular pulavs. The ingredients such as rosewater and saffron that give the biryani its royal touch makes it different from the regular, simpler ingredients used in pulavs.
- There are different legends that bring people to the conclusion of the origin of biryani, to the point that there are books written on the scrumptious dish! One legend evolves from the time of Turk-Mongol warrior Timur. The warriors of his army were served a dish made up of meats, rice and spices in an earthen pot, which was buried in a hot ash pit and later dug up. The dish would provide the nourishment they needed for invasions.
- Another legend highlights the mesmerizing Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan’s wife, who was the esteemed beauty that inspired the Taj Mahal. She entered the army barracks one day and was disheartened to see the soldiers undernourished and weak. Quickly, she ordered the royal chefs to create an extraordinary dish which combined meat and rice. During those times, rice was fried in ghee, which provided the nutty, aromatic flavour which was enhanced by the spices and meat. This resulted in the delicious biryani that evolved over time.
Techniques for making biryani:
- The dum pukht method was a classic technique to make finger licking good biryani. Slow cooking a meticulous blend of spices, rice and meat in an earthen pot over charcoal is a characteristic of this method, and the meat cooks in the steam (dum) created inside the pot.
- Other methods include variations in the number of spices or the kind of rice used. For example, long grain brown rice graced the biryani thalis in the north, but over the years it was replaced by aromatic basmati rice, whereas in the south, varieties such as zeera samba, kaima, jeerakashala, and kala bhaat are used to add flavour to the biryani.
Biryani is a one pot meal, with rich accompaniments of raita, or onion salads.