Our existence requires three quintessential things. Water, Air and FOOD.
The first in the list is meted out by Mother Nature in abundance. Second is freely available( hopefully!). The third is the reason for all the craze on this planet.
Talking about food, today we have Biryani on our platter for the conversation session. Personally, I would like to go live in a Wonderland where they serve me Biryani for all three meals, the Carbs burn out on their own. The only way I can pay them is by eating more biryani. Over the years, the fascination has grown and still growing.
Q. It took some time but I am seeing you on my plate. The smell, the flavours, the feel of your rice is sensational. Let’s talk about your roots. where did you actually come from?
The Biryani: Seeing that lust for me, I am scared (Laughs loud). Moving to my ancestral history, we will have to trace routes back to Persia (Modern Day Iran). The story has come down so many generations that how much of it is true is also a big question. Its old and I don’t remember very distinctly. I think I might be able to recollect some pieces. The most probable route would be from Persia via Afghanistan to North India. The traders coming to the Mughal region brought it with them. The Mughal Empire embraced the dish for their court. The first version popped up in Awadh ( Now Lucknow) as Awadhi Biryani. In mid 18th Century, British deposed Nawab Wajid Ali Shah in Calcutta, giving rise to Calcutta Biryani.
When Aurangzeb invaded South, he installed Nizam-ul-Mulk as his representative who later embraced the title of Nizam of Hyderabad. Hyderabadi Biryani is the blend of Mughlai and Andhra cuisine. There are a lot of other modified breeds of me which later came into existence. Biryani overall was a royal dish of the Mughal and Nawab courts.
Quite a historical life but the only thing that has made me survive through generations are the awesome cooks/chefs who have kept my soul alive by keeping the flavours intact.
Q According to my knowledge there are different ways of cooking Biryani. I want details.
The Biryani: Nowadays there are varieties and varieties. People experiment and call everything Biryani. Authentically there are 2 styles of preparing this variety. The Katchi Biryani is prepared with the Kachi Akhni method (with raw gravy). The raw meat is marinated in curd and cooked only by the dum, or the baking process, which is done with rice. This is a challenging process as it requires meticulously measured time and heat to avoid overcooking or undercooking the meat. In Pakki Biryani, where the meat is cooked with all the accompanying spices and then the rice is simmered with the resultant gravy redolent of mace, ittar and kewra in a sealed vessel with saffron and cardamom.
I am orthodox in my thinking. I personally don’t like experimentation. If people want to experiment they should just call their dishes something else (my stomach grumbles).
Q The high one gets after finishing a plate of Biryani is an incomparable high. What’s a good Biryani high for you or maybe a bad one?
The Biryani: It a secret one gains with eating more and more biryani. Eat more and you will discover secrets of a good biryani. Ha Ha. Usually, well cooked long grain of Basmati Rice adds to a good Biryani.The rice should always be cooked to the right amount.
Q Who do you like sharing your cooking “pot” with?
The Biryani: People have experimented me with the variety of meat. I have even heard they sell prawn biryani in Goa but my personal favourite is lamb meat. It’s tender and soft. Chicken has been a good replacement over the years.
Q Any Pieces of Advice for the Biryani Cooks? They are like our priest who we’d worship on a Biryani high.
The Biryani: Cooks are crooks. ( Laughs out loud and I choke). They do anything and make biryani these days. There are experts and people who cook meticulously. As far I think rice needs to be half cooked in its place with the meat. The cooks should take care of the rice. Once the rice is placed with the meat, the timing for the rice to be fully cooked should coincide with the cooking of the meat placed. Timing is a very important game in cooking Biryani. Every grain should stand out with an individuality. That is the beauty of Biryani.
Q. A serious query, You are always accompanied by a side dish Mirch ka salan or raita. Who’s your favourite partner in crime?
The Biryani: Both are equally important. It’s difficult to pick one. Raita especially Boorani raita is a famous form of yoghurt which is accompanied. Onion Raita is also a good add-on. Raita balances the spices in Biryani. It helps digestion also.
People who wish to enhance the spice usually accompany their Biryani with Mirch ka Salan. Both are a favourite. If I say either name the other one will get pissed. So really can’t afford to single out.
Q Your favourite ingredient?
The Biryani: My RICE. I prefer my rice to be good long grains of Basmati rice. A person who faulters there doesn’t know how to cook. I am really really specific about the rice.
Q There is a variety of Biryani in the market. Every region has their own speciality. Which would be your favourite?
The Biryani: My personal favourite would be Hyderabadi Biryani and Awadhi Biryani. They bang on attack your taste buds for the kick
Q Something for your followers
The Biryani: This is for all the pseudo-sophisticated people “Dig in the Biryani with your fingers not fork and spoons. ”
Ha Ha. I throw my fork aside and dig in the biryani. My hands are messy but they are worth it. A plate full of Biryani in my tummy, makes me want to sleep on the table. Adios till we meet next.
(If you are in Singapore, eating Biryani at Bismillah or Swadisht.
If in Bangalore, Nandini would be the place.
If in Hyderabad, Paradise would be the place.
If in Lucknow, Shekhawat is a must.)
As I explore more cities and their Biryani, I will add more here)
(Disclaimer: The facts in the above write up are mixed with fiction to weave a story)