Known as the Queen of Nawabi cuisine, the author of ‘Biryani’ and ‘A Princely Legacy Hyderabadi Cuisine’, Pratibha Karan said what every biryani-lover thinks, “If there is such a thing as food of the Gods, it is undoubtedly the biryani.”
The evergreen ambrosial biryani hardly requires an introduction. There is still much debate about where it originated from—some believe it’s a gift from the Persians to our Mughal invaders, while others think it was actually invented in South India. Whatever the origin might be, the fact is that today, there are many different types of biryani made across India. Differentiating between them is not as easy as it would seem.
Kacchi Pakki Difference
Perhaps the very first thing you should know about biryanis is that there are two basic types –kacchi or raw biryani wherein raw rice is layered with raw marinated meat and cooked together, and pakki or cooked biryani wherein the cooked components are layered later. Beyond this, there are a number of sub-types that owe their existence to the heavy-handed use of one ingredient over the other. Here’s how you can become a biryani connoisseur and baffle your friends with your intimate knowledge of what makes each type of biryani unique.
Though Hyderabad has kacchi and pakki versions of the dish, this biryani Mecca is most famous for its authentic kacchi biryani. In fact, Hyderabad alone makes about 40 different versions of this spectacular dish. The iconic Hyderabadi biryani is very much like the Mughal one. A generous use of spices and the overall richness of this dish sets it apart from the rest.
The City of Nawabs is known more for a pakki type of biryani. Many people call the Lucknowi biryani a pulao, simply because the dish is assembled after cooking the meat and rice separately. However, the truth is that the rice is actually cooked with the stock that comes from the meat, and this makes the rice highly flavourful and delicately balanced.
As compared to the Hyderabadi and Mughlai versions, the Lucknowi biryani is very subtly spiced, and goes much easier on the palate. Look out for the tell-tale yellow grains of coloured rice that helps differentiate this one from the others.
They say too many cooks spoil the dish, but this adage is not true when it comes to the delectable Kashmiri biryani. With influences from the Kashmiri Pandits, central Asian, Afghan, and Persian cultures, this biryani has only become better with each addition. While this ensures that the taste is quite unique, it is the addition of a generous amount of asafoetida or hing that gives the Kashmiri biryani away.
Kolkata’s effervescent biryani is very similar to the Lucknowi one. How do you tell one from the other? The Kolkata biryani includes boiled eggs and potatoes which are absent in its Lucknowi counterpart. Legend has it that many people from Lucknow including some Nawabs were sent in exile to Kolkata after the Sepoy Mutiny. Meat was not as easy to come by for the deportees, and the result was the addition of easily available ingredients like potatoes and eggs.
If you’re looking for authentic Kolkata biryani in Bangalore, we know just the place for you!
South Indian Biryanis
Ambur is a small Tamil Nadu city that relies on a leather-tanning industry to run its economy. However, it has the honour of having a biryani to its name! The Ambur biryani can be outed by its tell-tale brown colouring wherein the rice and the mutton are almost indistinguishable.
Another variation of the biryani found in South India, specifically on the Kerala coast, is the Malabar biryani. This one is really low on the spice quotient, and can be distinguished by the fact that the meat is deep fried before adding it to the rice.
A take on biryanis from Iran, the Mumbai biryani is less spicy, quite moist, and topped with more birishta/fried onions than any other kind of biryani – yum! You can even get butter chicken along with your biryani here!
When it comes to biryani, I am firmly in Shakespeare’s corner when he says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose would, with any other name, smell just as sweet!” So does biryani, my hungry friend.