A magic of culinary art, the zenith of Indian cuisine, a mouth-watering platter and an all-time favourite of everyone, is the Biryani. A perfect blend of homegrown spices mixed with the flavours of the region, it has a smell that awakens the taste buds and the warmth that reminds one of ghar ka khaana.
Coming from the Persian word Birian, Biryani has many legends of its journey to the Indian land. But irrespective of its path, it has managed to become one of the most indulging and savouring dishes that can satisfy the Indian palette.
India being a land of great diversity, every state has its own uniqueness, from food, language, people to festivals, clothes and culture. Biryani has also undergone various alterations as it has travelled through every state, moulding itself according to the availability of ingredients and to suit the local taste. Every region has its own version of this delicacy, but also maintaining its core of rice, meat and certain spices. Various combinations are being done to this dish, starting from the different kinds of rice being used, to steaming and mixing it in different ways, variety of spices added, array of cooking methods, etc. Today, each state has its peculiar version of this Biryani to offer.
So here’s a list dedicated to all the Biryanis from India, covering stories of its origin, the changes made to it and also the best places around to grab the delicious authentic taste!
I. Arcot or Ambur Biryani
The epicentre of this biryani is Ambur in Tamil Nadu. Straight from the nawab’s kitchen, this biryani is made using seeraga samba (thicker variety of rice) and meat, which are cooked together, with dakhani spices and raw papaya tenderiser adding flavour to it and is served with sour brinjal curry.
Where to find it: Ambur Star Biryani (a chain spread over various states of India)
II. Dindigul Biryani
Belonging to the Athoor region of Tamil Nadu, the water used from the Kamarajar Lake in the preparation of this biryani adds a very distinguishing and a special flavour to it. A splash of a little curd and lemon juice enhances the taste by giving it a tangy tinge.
Where to find it: Thalappakatti - Tamil Nadu, and Ponram Biriyani, Venu Biriyani - Dindigul
III. Lucknowi or Awadhi Biryani
Tender chicken with soft rice slowly cooked on char-grilling and dum pukht (slow cooking over a low flame), and the balanced fusion of aromatic but fiery spices developed the special flavour of this biryani. Low on spices, this biryani is cooked in chicken stock infused with ground spices. The biryani holds a very important place in the Indian history of biryanis and has developed a very intricate way of preparing and presenting it, a skill enhanced through meticulous practice.
Where to find it: Wahid Mia’s Biryani - Lucknow, Idris - Lucknow.
IV. Kolkata Biryani
Addition of deep fried potatoes with meat had become the signature style of Kolkata biryani. With yogurt as its main ingredient for marination, the rice used is half cooked separately and later blended in the biryani. Low on spices, the meat is marinated in a mixture of nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, cloves and cardamom with the yogurt. Rose water is a special ingredient added to the rice to give it a particular taste, along with saffron, which gives it a light yellow shade.
Where to find it: Arsalan, Aminia, Shiraz, Zeeshan, Rahmania (all these restaurants have branches all over the country.)
V. Hyderabadi Biryani
This crown dish of Hyderabadi Muslims is cooked using a very unique method, called the Kachhi method. In this, the rice and the meat are cooked separately and then infused together. The meat is marinated in yogurt, papaya and lemon juice, giving it a very specific flavour. The fried onions, mint and coriander leaves added, amplify the taste to another level.
Where to find it: The Green Park Hotel and Hotel Shadab - Hyderabad
VI. Mughlai Biryani
Mughlai biryani still uses the same ingredients, spices and cooking methods as used during the Mughal era. Hence, making Mughlai biryani is an art in today’s time. The meat chunks are tender, succulent and are spiced to perfection. The aroma of these spices is so alluring, that one is tempted to have it. Sometimes, it is garnished with fresh dry fruits, especially the vegetarian biryani.
Where to find it: Matka Peer Biryani - New Delhi
VII. Memoni / Kutchi Biryani
Developed by the Memons of the Gujurat-Sindh regions, this biryani is one of the spiciest varieties of biryanis in India. Browned onions and potatoes are added to the mixture of soft, fresh lamb chunks and yogurt. The speciality of this biryani is, that unlike other variants of biryani, artificial colour is not added to the food. The natural colours and flavours of the meat, rice, vegetables and spices is allowed to seep in and add the glaze.
Where to find it: Aqni - Bengaluru
VIII. Kalyani Biryani
Known as the ‘poor man’s biryani’, this biryani belongs to the old state of Hyderabad. This biryani uses buffalo meat, which is diced and flavoured with cumin, red chilli, turmeric, ginger, garlic, tomato and onion. A thick curry made of this meat is then mixed and is steamed in a covered pot (dum) along with the rice, allowing the flavour to seep into every grain of rice.
Where to find it: Hyderabad Kalyani Biryani House and Hotel Alshafa Kalyani Biryani - Hyderabad, Shabnam Kalyani Biryani - Secunderabad
IX. Thalassery or Kozhikode Biryani
Indigenous recipe of the Malabar cuisine, this biryani is an exotic Muslim variant. Unlike the other biryanis which use Basmati rice, this biryani uses the Khyma or Jeerakasala rice, which is mixed in lots of ghee. Even though handful of spices like mace, fennel-cumin seeds, shallot, cloves, cinnamon and chilli powder are used, the biryani has a mouth-watering taste, with soft chicken and other elements like tomato, ginger, garlic and onion adding an appetizing flavour to it. This biryani is garnished with fresh and firm cashew nuts and sultana raisins.
Where to find it: Parsi presidency Hotel - Kerala
X. Kampori Biryani
Originating from Kampur, this Assamese treat is distinctive as it fuses the fresh flavours of locally grown vegetables to the meat. The chicken is first cooked with peas, carrots, beans, potatoes, yellow bell peppers and then mixed with rice, but only after mildly-spicing it with nutmeg and cardamom.
Where to find it: Mast Biryani - Guwahati
XI. Tahari Biryani
Developed by the Hindu housekeepers of Tipu Sultan, in Mysuru, this biryani has become one of the main street foods of Kashmir. What makes this dish special, is that it uses only vegetables and no meat, unlike all other biryanis. The rice is typically cooked in a handi of vegetables, with carrots and potatoes in majority.
Where to find it: Tahari House - Pune
XII. Beary Biryani
Coming from the Muslim community of Dakshin Kannada, this biryani is light, fluffy and easy to digest. Even though mutton is the first choice, other meats like fish, beef, prawn and chicken are also used. The basmati rice is cooked separately with lots of ghee and flavoured with spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise and nutmeg. The meat is cooked till juicy with onion, garlic, ginger and coriander leaves. This thick curry is then layered with the rice and topped with caramelized onions, fresh mint leaves and roasted cashew nuts. To enrich the flavour, it is sprinkled with saffron water and ghee. The biryani tastes best when kept overnight, allowing the meaty juices to incorporate into the rice.
Where to find it: Dumaadum Biryani and kebabs - Pune
XIII. Bhatkali Biryani
If you are calorie conscious, then Bhatkali biryani is the thing for you! Belonging to the Navyathi cuisine of coastal Karnataka, this biryani is made without a single drop of oil or ghee. The rice and chicken are infused with spicy masalas giving it the distinct flavour. The meat is cooked in generous amount of onions, tomatoes and spices, giving it no need to be marinated. Uniquely flavoured with chillies and spices littered with curry leaves, it leaves a lingering taste of mashed onions laced with garlic.
Where to find it: The Royal Olive Restaurant - Karnataka
XIV. Bombay Biryani
In this biryani the meat and the rice are cooked together along with various vegetables. Fried and spiced potatoes added to this biryani give it a spicy and a zesty taste. But the most special elements are the screw pine water and dried plums which make the biryani sweet, tangy and aromatic.
Where to find it: Super Bombay Biryani - Gujurat
XV. Doodh ki Biryani
A unique Hyderabadi speciality, Doodh ki biryani is known for its light flavours. The delicate flavours are achieved with blending the creamy milk with roasted nuts and aromatic spices. The milk is allowed to seep into the rice and the meat, giving it a sweet taste and a subtle, but a delicious flavour.
Where to find it: Café Bahar - Hyderabad
XVI. Sindhi Biryani
The aromatic Sindhi biryani is known for its spiciness, fragrant rice and soft meat. It has an array of flavours from the scented spices, sliced chillies and garnished dry fruits. The aloo Bukhara added, gives it an inviting aroma. Tanginess is added to this biryani by mixing a considerable amount of yoghurt in it.
Where to find it: Kailash Parbat - Ahmedabad
A cuisine in itself, a biryani is suitable for every occasion. And our country provides variety of it in every nook and corner. The exchange of culture has helped all these variations to reach all around the nation, from the farthest areas to the household kitchens. So do savour on these all-time-favourite biryanis!
Research done by Swati Nair.
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