Biryani: The Dish that Devours Boundaries
There are two must-dos for any visitor who comes to Hyderabad – eat biryani and buy pearls. The funny thing is both these items don’t originate here. Hyderabad is not on the sea coast and pearls are not natively found here and despite a 400 year old association with Hyderabad, biryani did not originate here.
If you were to plot a route for biryani, you will need the map of Asia, for that is what it is – an Asian dish popular in its varied forms. It is probably the only single pot dish that has travelled from region to region devouring boundaries on its way and picking up the flavours of the places it passed.
Biryani is known to have been brought to India by Taimur-e Lang, the lame but fierce Mongol ruler who invaded India towards the end of the Tughlaq dynasty. It is very interesting to track the spread of biryani in India. The dish took on the flavours and and aromas peculiar to each region and evolved into a variety of region specific biryanis – the Kashmiri, the Awadhi or Lucknowi, the Malabari, the Arcot biryani, Calicut biryani and the Hyderabadi biryani, each unique and delicious in its own way.
Dig into history: People say biryani was the Nizam’s gift of love to Hyderabad, but the history of the Hyderabadi biryani predates the Nizams. Legend has it that Mumtaz Mahal, wife of Shah Jahan and mother of Aurangzeb, cooked up the recipe of this meat and rice dish to quell the hunger pangs of marching soldiers who had to walk long distances.
It is possible that Aurangzeb brought the biryani to Hyderabad along with him when he came down to conquer the Deccan and his army laid siege for nine months camping in the Fateh Maidan to conquer the Golconda Fort.
Yet another piece of history says that the nomads of West Asia came up with this dish. They would mix rice, meat and spices in a pot and bury it in the sand. Cooked by the heat of the sun, the biryani would be ready when the pot was dug up after a few hours. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it!
We talked about pot cooking in our last post. We take it forward here with this recipe for a chicken pot biryani. Try it out one evening and look out for the compliments!
You don’t need basmati rice for this recipe. Use Organic Sona masuri Rice and Cold Pressed Groundnut Oil for the best taste.
You can find these ingredients on Amazon here