They say, “The journey to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” And, what’s better than using Biryani to reach your destination? With most of my friends, Biryani can be used as a secret weapon in many ways:
- You can bribe them with Biryani to get your work done.
- You can apologize by cooking it and end a long-standing argument.
- You can make them jealous by claiming that you had homemade Biryani for lunch or dinner.
(All the above tricks have been tried and tested. They worked for me every single time. Results may vary. Terms and conditions apply)
Origin of Biryani
The term ‘Biryani’ is said to have originated from two Persian words – ‘Birian’ meaning ‘fried before cooking’ and ‘Birinj’ meaning ‘rice.’ Though widely savored today in India, it is believed to have been born in West Asia.
The origin of this dish is associated with several theories.
Some believe that the Turk-Mongol ruler, Taimur- The Lame, introduced this Heavenly dish in India in 1398. However, it was not a dish for the members of the Royal family. It was a dish for the members of his army. The cooks would take an earthen pot and fill it with rice, spices, and meat and buried it in a hot pit. The dish thus formed was none other than the Biryani.
The Mughal dish as a gift
The second theory claims that the Mughals gifted the Biryani to India. Here, there are two different beliefs.
Some say that the beauty that now lies deep below the Taj Mahal was the brain behind this dish. Mumtaz once found the Mughal soldiers looking malnourished. She instructed the Royal chefs to fry the rice in ghee, add meat, spices, and saffron, and cook over a wood fire. Thus, the Biryani was born to serve as a balanced diet for the soldiers. (In that case, we should have it every day!)
The second idea goes like this –
The Ain-i-Akbari mentions the modification of Persian dishes to incorporate Indian flavors. During Akbar’s rule, the chefs marinated the meat with curd and then added spices, almonds, garlic and onions to it. Then they added partially cooked rice to this mutton, along with saffron soaked in milk. Thus, the spicier and scented Biryani was produced.
There is a great belief that the Biryani arrived in the Indian subcontinent much before the Mughals. The Takht-al-Hind, written by the 11th-century traveler, Al-Biruni, describes Indian dishes that are similar to the Biryani.
Some say that the Arab merchants brought the Biryani to the Malabar Coast. There are Tamil texts that mention a dish called ‘Oon Soru’ made in 2AD, which is very much like the Biryani.
Then, of course, the Nizams of Hyderabad introduced a spicier version of the dish during their rule.
For those who wonder why Kolkatans use potatoes in our Biryani, here is the reason –
Wajid Ali Shah was the tenth and the last Nawab of Awadh (Lucknow). On being deposed by the British, he went to Metiabruz on the outskirts of Kolkata. Accompanying him were his dancers, entertainers, and khansamahs (chefs).
The Nawab received a stipend of Rs. 1 lakh per month. It was too little to meet his expensive tastes. So, to replace the expensive meat in the Biryani of the Nawab, the chefs introduced potatoes into the dish. (In this case, the budget was the mother of invention!) Everyone loved the resulting recipe! Potatoes became a staple in Bengali cuisine after this, for both the rich and poor. Even today, the Kolkata Biryani uses potatoes along with meat (and, it’s loved just the same).