Food
Hyderabadi biryani has dum in its earthly origin
  • Thursday, April 27, 2017 - 15:40
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Dheeraj K

By Pooja Bhatia

The Hyderabadi biryani needs no real introduction. It is the staple to the locals and the go-to dish for the tourists. With several different types of biryani available across the country, the Deccani Biryani Makers Association think the Hyderabadi biryani is so special that they found it worthwhile to apply for a GI tag recently. Unfortunately, their claim was rejected.

Like any other food, the biryani has been customized according to local tastes and flavors. Kolkata for example, serves biryani studded with potatoes and eggs. Chennai uses jeera sambar rice for the biryani preparation. Malabar Biryani in Kerala uses raisins and cashews in Khyma rice. Ambur Biryani in Tamil Nadu uses coriander and mint.

Hyderabadi Biryani is characteristically distinct. The aroma, taste, tender meat, the Zaffran, everything gives it a distinguished appearance.

Those who have tasted Lucknow Biryani may find Hyderabadi a bit familiar. Both biryanis belonged to the Mughal regime, yet down south the food is laced with local spices. And, that is where the real difference is. It is the flavoring and method of preparation which makes all the difference.

However, there are more than one type of Hyderabadi biryani preparation. One form of Hyderabadi preparation involves marination of the meat in yoghurt, adding lemon to spices, and garnishing it with coriander leaves and fried onions. Yoghurt makes the meat tender, lemon tangy, fried onions add a crispy sweet taste, and Hyderabadi spices make it hot.

Biryani has been a part of Hyderabadi cuisine tradition for close to 400 years. It is believed to have been served directly from Persia, having its title origin from there only. Birian means ‘fried before cooking’ and Birinj is rice in Persian language, combining to Biryani. Some believe it to be an invention of the Mughal Royal Kitchen, while others say that the DUM concept belongs originally to Bengal. The preparation of semi-cooked fish and rice steamed together was already in practice in Bengal. It was cooked in earthen pots then too.

Another interesting theory surrounding Hyderabadi Biryani is its invention by Emperor Aurangzeb appointed ruler Niza-Ul-Mulk. Deccani Biryani Makers Association seconds this version. It was only in Mulk’s Kingdom that Biryani was distinguished from chicken Pulao, they say. It was really a military dish as soldiers could consume it anytime, anywhere, as it could be prepared easily. It was cooked in earthen pots placed on charcoal wood fire, to heat the rice and meat together.  

The legend has it that there were more than 140 varieties of Hyderabadi Biryani at one point. However, some believe that Mulk’s chef created around 50 different versions of Hyderabadi Biryani. The meat ingredients used were fish, shrimp, quail, deer, and hare meat. Later, more varieties like chicken, egg, shrimp, daal and tehari (veg) versions were also recognised.

Considering the fact that recipes can be tweaked, it not hard to believe that there would have been more than 100 varieties at one time. If you fuse the regular ingredients with different flavors, fragrances, you have a whole new recipe. What Hyderabadi Biryani clearly retained was its essence of Turkish, Mughlai and Arabic influences. It became a Hyderabadi cuisine after the staple Telugu culinary spice was added to it.

Now it is classified as Kachchi gosht ki biryani and Pakki biryani.

Kacchi gosht ko Biryani (Image: Facebook/SankalpVishnu)

Both are the same, except that Kachchi gosht involves leaving the marinated meat overnight. Later, the meat is sandwiched between layers of rice in a handi (sealed with dough).

(Pakki Biryani)

Pakki biryani on the other hand, involves meat marination for a shorter time and semi-cooked before putting in a sealed vessel. Hyderabadi Biryani is served differently with mirchi ka salan, gravy, and with the standard raita.