The Origination of BiryaniThe magnificent origination of biryani dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Although the long-standing debate leaves people arguing concerning its existence and roots. Persia, Afghanistan, and India all have their variations of biryani. The word biryani itself stems from the Persian word ‘birian,’ which translates to ‘fried before cooking.’ The popular rice dish later developed in the Indian subcontinent. It had its origins during the Mughal reign. Some stories indicate one of the Mughal emperors' wives visited the army barracks and found that the soldiers appeared to look undernourished. To compensate for that, she asked her chefs to prepare a dish consisting of meat and rice. It was then cooked over a wood fire, and seasoned with several spices and saffron. Other legendary anecdotes claim that biryani was brought to the Indian subcontinent by Taimur, the Turk-Mongol, in 1398. The nawabs of Lucknow and the Nizams of Hyderabad were also known to have appreciated this dish.
Are There Other Existing Variations to Biryani?There are several variations when it comes to this delicacy. While common differences stem from the inclusion of potatoes in biryani or not and the meat choice opted for ‘traditional’ biryani. Biryani also has cultural differences that differ from one region to another with its variations and innovations to it. Some of the common ones include:
- Bombay Biryani: where hearty flavors of dried plums and kewra brought a slight sweetness to the dish and freshly ground spices, would bring more richness to it.
- Hyderabadi Biryani: Niza-ul-Mulk, the appointed ruler of Hyderabad, had his chefs create around 50 versions of biryani that included the use of fish, quail, deer, shrimp and even hare meat (that sure is some meaty dedication). Saffron here is the key and plays the aromatic star of this version of biryani.
- Mughlai Biryani: This dish prevailed during the Mughal reign. A time where Mughals took their food as seriously as their administration. This biryani has more balance and consists of meat chunks with aromatic flavors.
PAKISTANI BIRYANI RECIPE
Indian / Main course
1 kg chicken (16 pieces)
1 ½ tsp or to taste Salt
2 tsp freshly (finely) minced ginger and garlic/ginger garlic paste
6 green cardamom pods
2 ½ tsp red chili powder
2 medium-sized sticks of cinnamon
7 whole black peppercorns
1 cup water
1 cup oil (see tips)
1 sliced onion
oil for frying
2 cups rice
1 tsp black cumin seeds
4 cups water
Salt to taste (see tips)
1 ½ cups lightly beaten yogurt
½ tsp ground cardamom/cardamom powder
1 tsp whole spice (garam masala) powder
Optional: ¼ tsp yellow food coloring
½ tsp nutmeg powder
Optional: ¼ tsp dried saffron
1 tbsp. kewra essence
Six green chilies
½ bunch of green coriander/cilantro
15-20 fresh mint leaves
For Chicken Layer
For boiled rice layer:
For the yogurt layer:
In a nonstick pan fry the sliced onions over medium heat until it reaches a medium brown color, be sure that you do not over fry the onions as it may result in a bitter taste. Set aside after frying.
In a deep cooking pan and place the chicken pieces, ginger garlic paste, water, salt, red chili powder, cinnamon sticks, cloves, green cardamom pods, and black peppercorns. Cover the pan and allow it to cook until the chicken is well done and the water has evaporated. This should take around 10-15 minutes.
Now, for the boiled rice layer, use another large pan and add the rice, water, black cumin, and salt. Continue to boil the rice until it is cooked through about 80%. Drain the rice water and set the rice aside.
For the yogurt layer, in a bowl, combine the yogurt along with the whole spice (garam masala powder), ground cardamom, nutmeg powder, saffron, kewra essence, and yellow food coloring. Mix well to ensure there are no lumps left behind.
For layering, pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken masala and spread a layer of the boiled rice. Finally, top it with the fried onion, green chilies, green coriander/cilantro, and mint along with the oil. Allow simmering over low heat for 15-20 minutes.
Serve the biryani warm with raita.
You could also use ½ cup of oil mixed with ½ cup of clarified butter (ghee) for better flavor. Bear in mind this will bring richness and flavor to the biryani but will also make it heavy as opposed to just using oil.- If you are skeptical about the salt in your rice, taste the rice water to check if it contains enough flavor and spice. Add more if desired.