Apart from wheat and millets, rice is quite popular in India and occupies a significant place in a typical Indian meal. It is amazing to see how a staple food like rice is cooked in so many varied ways all over the country.
If there is one rice dish that can be found all over the country, albeit in different avatars, it definitely has to be the Biryani. Made of rice and meat combined with a variety of spices, and cooked on ‘dum’ (a slow cooking style that enhances flavours), the biryani is a one-pot dish that is a complete meal in itself. There are several vegetarian versions of the biryani too, but when you say biryani it is generally the meat based one that comes to the mind first!
The word biryani probably originated from 'birinj', the Persian word for rice. It could also have originated from the Persian word 'beriyan' which means 'to fry or roast'. In all likelihood, biryani came to India from Persia with the Persian invaders who came to India and ruled it for a long time. It could also be the result of the marriage of the Persian Pilaf and Indian spicy rice recipes, rustled up by some cook of the Persian rulers. It was once the preferred dish of royalty and has come to rule the Indian food platter, loved by one and all.
Ask any Indian foodie, and biryani has to be there on the list of their favourite dishes! In fact, foodies all over the country attach a great deal of sentimental value to the biryanis of their regions and they will be ready to wager anything to prove that it is their region's biryani that is the best in India!
And why not?
Biryani is a dish that can be had at any time of the year, and is the most versatile dish one can think of.
So What Makes Biryani So Special? Here are five reasons.
1. Several avatars of the ubiquitous dish
From the Lucknowi biryani fit for nawabs to the aromatic Hyderabadi biryani, dry fruits loaded Sindhi biryani to extremely spicy Memoni biryani, the fiery Ambur biryani to mildly sweet Kolkata biryani, the regal Muhglai biryani to fragrant Bombay biryani, the distinct Thalassery biryani to the widely popular Malabar biryani, every region of India boasts of its own version of biryani. There would hardly be a restaurant worth its salt where you cannot find a biryani on the menu!
2. Delicious and Nutritious
High on proteins and rich in flavour, biryani has a universal appeal and suits every palate. The addition of spices like cloves, cinnamon, green and black cardamoms, ginger and garlic add a great deal of warmth and distinct aroma to a biryani. The smoky flavour that is the result of slow cooking adds to the intensity of flavours which makes biryani the king of Indian rice dishes!
3. Use Ingredients as Per your Choice
Biryani can be made with chicken, mutton, beef, prawns and what have you! The permutations and combinations are endless and every variant will be more delicious than the last one you tried. It is a hearty meal on its own since it has rice, meat and spices which make for the holy triad of fragrance, flavour and texture. So a plateful of biryani, without any accompaniments, is all you need to satiate your stomach as well as taste buds.
4. It is a Work of Art
Much to the chagrin of biryani lovers, it is also sometimes confused with pulao.
A pulao, also made with rice and meat, is cooked in a different way, and is no match for the regal biryani flavour. In the case of pulao, meat or vegetables are first marinated and sautéed and cooked along with rice with a specified quantity of water. On the other hand, biryani is cooked by alternately layering parboiled rice and meat that has been marinated and cooked separately and then cooking them on low heat with ghee and some more aromatic spices like bay leaves and saffron. Biryanis are loaded with spices and dry fruits while pulaos use them sparingly. Making a real good pot of biryani is considered nothing short of an art.
5. Each Variant is Different
Every variant of biryani has some or the other unique quality. The Ambur biryani makes generous use of curds while Thalassery biryani is made with a different kind of rice, the khyma, and not the regular basmati variety. The Kutchi biryani, a speciality of the Memons of Gujrat-Sindh region in India and Pakistan, is loaded with spices while the Sindhi biryani incorporates onions, tomatoes and potatoes with meat and rice. The Kashmiri biryani has a unique exotic fragrance while the Kampuri biryani of Assam has a hint of nutmeg in it, and has vegetables like beans, peas and carrots. The Navayathi biryani of Bhatkal, the coastal town of Karnataka, is cooked in an onion and green chilli based masala while the Lucknow biryani is more than a dish- it is a legacy; and the Kolakata biryani gets its distinct flavour from rose water and saffron. Some of the rare and unheard-of biryanis are doodh ki biryani, seviyon ki biryani and Muthanjan biryani.
When you cannot decide what to eat, when it is a special occasion, or a dull day that needs some zing bang, all you have to do is dig into a nice biryani- cook it yourself if you wish, or there is always some eatery close by serving it hot and fresh, and if you are feeling too lazy to go out, just order one!
This article is contributed by external columnist Siddhi Panchal and all views and content belong to the author and India News Bulletin is not responsible for copyright issues.
Siddhi Panchal is a food blogger at CookingwithSiddhi and food aficionado who loves to cook. Her cooking skills cover a range of Indian and international cuisines. Her vision is to enable other food enthusiasts explore their love for food by helping them cook delectable dishes from India and around the world. Follow her on her YouTube channel.
On India News Bulletin, Siddhi will write recipes, give top tips and even share the history and cultural significance of some popular dishes.
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