A Gourmet History Of Biryani


A Gourmet History Of Biryani


Who doesn’t like Biryani? We all do. Nay, we love it. That shiny little cauldron filled with spicy, aromatic rice coupled with rich juicy chickens.Yummm. And the moment you take the first spoonful, your body explodes into an exhilarating foodgasm.

In a diverse country like India that has so much to offer on its platter, the one dish people unanimously love having is the savoury Biriyani. Admired for its mouth-watering spices and complex flavour pairings, the Indian Biriyani requires radical seasoning and extensive preparation techniques. The cooking style varies from region to region, leading to a wide assortment of this lip-smacking delicacy across the length of the nation. From Awadhian to Hyderabadi , this delightful cuisine has been wooing the masses for centuries. Improvised upon in various ways, each region has its own distinct style of cooking; blending the dish with the local flavours.


Biryani has widely been influenced by various civilizations, periods and races that have significantly contributed in its overall development. With a history as delectable as the dish itself, it is the quintessential reflection of various cultures and ages that transformed it into its present mouth watering form.

The history of Biryani dates back to as early as the fifteenth century when Mughals invaded India. The word Biryani finds its origin in the Farsi word “Birian” which means “fried before cooking”. Based on the name and the style of cookery, it is popularly concluded that Biryani originated in Persia. However, according to some experts Mumtaz Mahal (wife of Emperor Shah Jahan) was the inspiration behind this fare. The legend goes that Mumtaz once visited the army barracks where she found the soldiers under-nourished. She then asked the head chef to prepare a dish that would provide a healthy, balanced nutrition. The chef, in accordance to the queen’s instructions prepared the early version of the modern day Biryani.

Nonetheless, popular journalist and columnist Vir Sanghvi strongly disagrees to this account. According to him “Biryani was an Indian invention, deriving from pulao which Muslim traders and invaders brought to our country.” While there are multiple theories how Biryani made its way into India, it is without doubt that the Persians were responsible for popularizing the dish among locals.

The Mughal Emperors were known for their humongous wealth, lavish lifestyle and fine dining. Biriyani with all its rich taste and tang naturally stood out as a dish reserved for special occasions. Back then, the rice was fried first before boiling. The frying gave the rice a nutty flavour and caused the formation of a starch layer that ensured the rice not getting clustered. Meat and spices were added next before further preparation.

The Calcutta Biryani was introduced by nawab Wajid Ali Shah, when he was deposed to Kolkata by the British authorities. The gentry were quick in picking up the recipe brought by Shah. However due to budget constraints they couldn’t afford the meat. The cooks then came up with the quirky idea of adding a whole sized aloo (potato) instead of the meat; giving rise to the famous Calcutta Biryani.

The Hyderabadi Biryani came into being after Emperor Aurangzeb appointed Niaza-Ul-Mulk as the new ruler of Hyderabad. The new head of state introduced the recipe which later spread to other parts of the country. This was also the period during which the famous Kacchi Biryani was perfected and fine-tuned. In Kachi Akhni the mutton is first marinated in all the basic herbs and spices and then cooked with the moderately done rice.



So there you go fellas. This is the history of Biryani albeit, in a nutshell .Now, all this discussion has got me starving so I’m off to grab a plateful. Until next time, till then bye .

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Sandipan Dasgupta