If there was a food equivalent of cricket in India, just in terms of how it unites the entire nation, inarguably it would be biryani. Prepared in many different ways in various parts of the country, each with a unique flavour, style and origin story, biryani is unanimously the one true love of almost every individual (forgive our sweeping generalisations). If you are curious to see what all the fuss is about, we take you on a virtual biryani tour in India.
Originating from present-day Lucknow, which was home to the Mughals for more than 300 years, this biryani is the perfect blend of aromatic spices. Made by first infusing the meat with spices then layering it on to the rice cooked in yakhni (the meat stock with the spices) in a closed vessel on low heat, the Awadhi Biryani is cooked slowly and patiently. Good things do come to those who wait.
Brought to Kolkata by Awadh’s royal family in 1856, the Kolkata biryani is, in fact, inspired by the Mughlai style. Generally characterised by its subtle sweetness, it is cooked with light yellow rice and meat marinated in yoghurt. With the surprise element of potatoes, introduced by the poorer people when the recipe penetrated into the heart of the city, the Kolkata Biryani gives you a completely unique savour.
Lesser known in other parts of the country, this is a style evolved in north-eastern India, especially in Assam. Cooked with fresh vegetables like peas, carrots, potatoes and bell peppers along with cardamom and nutmeg, the usual meat and rice have an unusual twist of flavours. Even though not very easily available, this dish, too, is a must try if you're serious about your commitment to biryani.
Ambur Biryani and Dindigul Biryani
Originating in the 1890s, the Ambur Biryani was first served to the nawabs of Arcot, who were then ruling the Tamil Nadu region. The meat here is soaked in curd and flavoured with coriander and mint, which is then added to the cooked Seeraga samba rice, making it a distinct delicacy. Savoured with ennai kathirikai (brinjal curry), it is an unmissable travel experience.
Dindigul Biryani, from the same region, has its own twist of a tangy flavour that comes from adding lemon and pepper to the special recipe.
A part of one of the most famous cuisines of India, the food from the Malabar Coast, the Thalassery Biryani is of Arab origin. Cooked with flavoured Jeerakasala rice instead of traditional Basmati and topped with fried onion, sauteed cashews along with raisins, this biryani from Kerala is quite heavy for both your stomach and your taste-buds.
Donne Biryani, Bhatkali Biryani and Beary Biryani
Born in the state of Karnataka, both these biryanis are exceptionally different from the usual ones. Made with an intoxicating blend of spices, coriander and mint leaves and ghee, the Donne Biryani is served in big cups made from Palm leaves by the vendors.
On the other hand, Bhatkali biryani which is an integral part of the Navayath cuisine is layered just before serving and cooked with relatively much less ghee or oil. The style is very popular in the Konkan region too.
Unlike most other cooking styles of this dish, the Beary Biryani is made by mixing of spices and leaving it overnight for the flavours percolate throughout the rice and the meat. Popular in South Karnataka, this one is sometimes even eaten with prawns.
You've probably been waiting for this one. Originating in the royal kitchen of the Nizams, one of the most famous dishes of the country is the Hyderabadi Biryani. It was originally made with goat meat marinated and placed between the layers of basmati rice flavoured with saffron, sauteed onions and dry fruits. Even though it is often cooked with other meats now, it follows the same recipe and is slow-cooked in a dough-sealed earthen pot, generally on a charcoal fire.
A food trail can never be complete without a stop in Mumbai. The Maharashtrian style Biryani, tracing its roots in Gujarati and Mangalorean cousins, the Biryani is infused with kewra and dried plums, which lend it a sweet yet tangy taste. The classic fried potatoes on top of the Basmati rice, lets the city make the dish its own.
Actually evolved in the Sindh region of Pakistan (a part of which is now in Gujarat), the Sindhi biryani is another popular form. Enriched with finely chopped chillis, coriander leaves, mint leaves, saffron and classic spices while enhanced by the excellent use of yoghurt, potatoes, tomatoes, dry fruits and onion seasoning, this is a speciality of the north-west region. Spicier than other Biryanis, it is one of the oldest and most delicious delicacies.