Shades of the humble biryani

Shades of the humble biryani

With more than 50 varieties of biryani available, here are some of the all-time favourite ones. A quick guide into the world of biryani

There’s something about being a biryani lover that you can’t just put in words. After all, those who love biryani know that it’s not just any other dish, it’s an emotion.

And here’s the interesting thing. You can’t just be happy with one type of biryani. Thanks to our country’s diversity, there are more than 50 types available.

Each region prepares it differently. The amalgamation of bold spices, meat and rice mixed together sings on a plate. The major difference though are the two styles of cooking. One of marinated meat added to the uncooked rice and prepared on a dum, a slow cooking process over fire or coal) and the other involves cooking of the meat beforehand and layering it on the rice before it goes for baking on a dum.

Hyderabadi Biryani

It’s one of the most popular biryanis available. But did you know that there are two types of them – Pakki (cooked) and Kacchi (raw). Pakki is prepared by cooking basmati rice and meat separately and then layered. Kacchi is made with raw marinated meat placed between layers of rice and infused in saffron, onion and dried fruits, and finally dough-sealed on a dum.

Ambur Biryani

Down South, Tamil Nadu to be precise, a road trip is incomplete if you haven’t stopped for some Ambur biryani. Chicken or mutton biryani is the most prefered one. Soaked in curd, the meat takes on the flavour of coriander and mint and then added to the seeraga samba rice and other spices. Complete the biryani experience with some brinjal curry.

Thalassery Biryani

The aroma when you open a bowl of Thalassery biryani is out of this world. The sweet and spicy dish hails from Kerala. While you’ve probably always had biryani made with basmati rice, this one uses khyma or jeerakasala rice. Cooked using Malabar spices, meat and fried onions, the generous bowl is topped of with fennel seeds, sauteed cashews and raisins.

Sindhi Biryani

Originating from the Sindh province of Pakistan, it’s known for having the most intense flavours when talked about biryanis. Made with a generous amount of chopped chillies, roasted spices, mint and coriander leaves, the flavours come together as more onions, nuts, dried fruits and sour yoghurt are added to it. That’s not all! A Sindhi biryani is never complete with plums and potatoes added to it.

Lucknowi Biryani

You may know this as Awadhi biryani for its dum punkht style of cooking. The meat is infused with spices and then added to the rice. It’s then completed with flavoured saffron, star anise and cinnamon. This one is takes a long time to make as the cooking process takes a long time. It’s the only way for the flavours to deeply penetrate.

Calcutta Biryani

Originating from Kolkata, unlike the other biryanis you are probably used to, this one falls on the sweeter side of taste. Its cooked with light yellow rice and layered with meat that’s yoghurt based. They also add soft boiled eggs and a generous seasoning of rosewater and strands of saffron. And a Bengali meal isn’t complete without the addition of potatoes, which is exactly what makes Calcutta biryani special.


Are pulao and biryani the same?

The simple answer is, no. Here’s what the historians have to say:

According to Delhi-based historian Sohail Nakhvi, pulao is plainer than biryani even though it contains meat or vegetables. Biryani is made more gravy-like and is often cooked longer with additional condiments.

Pulao is not layers of rice and meat, whereas biryani is, according to Pratibha Karan.

Colleen Taylor Sen says that biryani is considered a dish on its own, whereas pulao is a secondary accompaniment to a larger meal.

British-era author Abdul Halim Sharar says that the primary difference is that biryani has a stronger taste of curried rice due to a great number of spices used.


Is veg biryani actually biryani?

While we understand that non-vegetarians can’t accept that there is something called veg biryani, it does exist. Yes, a vegetarian might not understand what the real emotion behind non-veg one but it’s actually the technique of making it that makes it a biryani. The layering, use of spices and most importantly, the technique on how it’s made gives it the title of ‘veg biryani’.



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