History of Biryani – Origin and Evolution
There were many emperors who ruled the Indian subcontinent; and every invader in the Indian history, brought his cuisine and culture to the region. Particularly, the Arabs, Afghans, Turks, and Persians left behind their culture of great feasts. In the period of 15th to 19th century, Mughal emperors left a deep impact of their culinary habits on residents of subcontinents of Asia, including India. Being artistic in nature, Mughals looked upon cooking as an art. They enjoyed excellent food which had enhanced flavors using exotic spices.
It has been concluded that Mughals introduced the Biryanis and Kebabs to India and as these dishes are still special and have become household cuisine of India and Pakistan. Here, we will trace the history of biryani – especially the origin and evolution of Biryani in different forms of Biryanis we find today.
Origin of Biryani
It is said that Biryani is originated in Persia and came to Asia with the Mughals, but there are other theories and possibilities regarding the arrival of Biryani to India. It is believed that Biryani has come from Persia to North India via Afghanistan and it could have been brought by the Arab traders via Arabian Seas to Calicut. There is historical evidence saying that there were similar dishes that Mughals have introduced. The dish “Oon Soru” in Tamil was present there as early of year 2 A.D. The dish was made from rice, meat, ghee, turmeric, pepper, coriander, and bay leaves. It was used to feed the army. Al-Biruni has described in his travel tales about the rice dishes similar to Mughal Biryani that he found at the courts of Sultans.
It is also believed that the Muslim ruler Taimur Lang brought the biryani from Persia to India in 1394. Another story heard about Biryani is, once Mumtaz Mahal visited the army barracks and found that men were undernourished. So she asked her chef to make a dish with meat, rice, and spices that can become a complete meal with balanced nutrients. This is how the biryani was originated.
Still, some people say that the biryani is originated in West Asia. The wanderers were used to bury an earthen pot filled with rice, meat, and spices into a pit, and after some time the pot was dug up giving rise to the delicious biryani. Although there are many legends regarding the discovery of biryani in India, no wonder that Islamic Persians have made the biryani popular in India. In 1856, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah introduced Biryani to Kolkata which became Kolkata Biryani. This Biryani was cooked with meat and whole boiled potatoes. When Aurangzeb installed Nizam-ul-Mulk as Asfa Jahi, the ruler of Hyderabad, the Hyderabadi Biryani came into the picture. The Tipu Sultan of Carnatic brought the Biryani to Mysore. Tahiri Biryani was introduced by Hindu Vegetarian bookkeepers-hired by the Nizams and Nawabs. The tahiri biryani is made with vegetables rather than meat. So, you can see that there are many stories about the history and origin of Biryani.
Evolution of Biryani
Today there are many popular versions of Biryani found in India – such as the spicy Hyderabadi Biryani, Flavorful Lucknow or Avadh Biryani, and Kolkata Biryanis with potatoes. Let’s trace the evolution of these different varieties of Biryani in India.
The Lucknowi Biryani is also known as Awadhi Biryani, which is generally made with chicken. Instead of cooking chicken into gravy, it is marinated and cooked into chicken stock and layered with parboiled rice for further cooking.
The most popular and basic type of biryanis is Hyderabadi Biryani. There is a number of variations of this biryani with a number of ingredients. One of the most popular kinds of Hyderabadi biryani is “ Kachchi Akhni”. To make this biryani, the first mutton is marinated in all spices including raw papaya, and then prepared in dum with parboiled rice.
Kolkata biryani was made popular when it reached the poor class of Kolkata. The meat was not affordable to these people so they used potatoes in Kolkata biryani. Now potatoes are considered a side element of Kolkata biryani. The Kolkata biryani is usually mild on spices.
Bombay biryani is the most popular one in the world. It is made with chicken or mutton. Marinating mixture for the meat contains basic spices in biryani along with coriander, mint, green chilies, plums and lemon juice. The biryani also contains fried potatoes.
There are many other types of biryani including Memoni biryani, Sindhi biryani, and Delhi biryani.
The Sindhi Biryani is a complete Pakistani version of biryani. It is cooked with the basic cooking style of biryani and preferred with chicken. Sour yogurt is an important ingredient of Sindhi biryani. Later it is topped with green chilies, mint leaves, chopped coriander, fried onions, and yellow food color. The Memoni biryani is a version of Sindhi biryani in Pakistan with little difference. The lamb meat is preferred in this biryani with an extra amount of sour yogurt, fried onions, and potatoes. As this biryani has little amount of food color, it gives out its original color. Delhi biryani is another kind of biryani, which was said to be the favorite of Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. It is prepared with either chicken or mutton together with the basic spices of biryani. The meat is cooked directly in Delhi Biryani rather than marinating it and after that, it is layered and steamed with partially cooked rice.