Saturday, October 31, 2015

Biryani is considered to be a dish of Indian origin, with different versions found in the subcontinent. In India there are many forms of biryani such as Hyderabadi Biryani, Lucknawi Biryani, Dum Biryani, Kachi Biryani etc. In Hyderabad , Biryani reached its zenith in the courts of the Nizam (Ruler of the state of Deccan).

South India has more varieties of biryani than any other part of the subcontinent, rice being a staple food in South India than in the rest of India. Hyderabadi biryani is an amalgamation of Mughlai and Iranian cuisine in the kitchens of the Nizam, rulers of the historic Hyderabad State. The word ‘biryani’ is derived from the Persian language. One theory is that it originates from ‘birinj’, the Persian word for rice. Another theory is that it derives from ‘biryan’ or ‘beriyan’ (to fry or roast).

Many food historians have conjectured that the pulao was an army dish in medieval India. Unable to cook elaborate meals, the armies would prepare a one-pot dish where they cooked rice with whichever meat was available. Over time, the dish became biryani due to different methods of cooking, with the distinction between ‘pulao’ and ‘biryani’ being arbitrary. Being a rice lover myself, veg pulao was the first dish I ever learnt to cook as a young teenager and perfected very soon. However Biryani is one dish I could never really master. I have made some feeble attempts at times, but never found it nearing perfection of any kind. It always ended up overcooked or undercooked, too spicy or too bland, raw in parts or burnt! Biryani at the end of the day is a subtle balance of flavours, texture, aroma, spice, colour and richness in one whopper of a dish. It may seem easy but the precision comes with years of practice. I may pat my back at being more or less a good cook. It is only biryani that keeps my ego in check and forces me to take my culinary skills…..with a pinch of salt!

Somewhere along the line I gave up trying to cook biryani. Frankly speaking, in this day and age one doesn’t even need to. There is so much biryani available all around. Almost every restaurant serving Indian food does rustle up a biryani of some kind but it is important to do a quick survey online. I searched on Food Panda App for biryani around. And ‘Biryani Special’ popped up. The menu seemed interesting. Quickly I ordered a Pakistani Dum Mutton Biryani and a Chicken Dum Biryani. While the mood was still meatilicious, threw in some shammi kebabs for good measure. The 30% off with code PANDA actually worked and for a neat Rs 577, we had this veritable feast!

The mutton biryani was a more reddish and robust biryani, served with Burani Raita. While the chicken one had a yellow tinge and subtle green cardamom flavour. Unlike the dry texture of Hyderabadi or Awadhi Biryani, this Mughlai style Biryani is moist and rich. The good thing about biryani is that it always leaves you very happy and satisfied. It is the perfect wholesome meal to usher in the weekend and the winter season!

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