- Cinema fans might consider trying the Aamir Khan Mutton Dum Biryani at SP’s Biryani in Pune, marking the actor’s visit to the restaurant in 2019
- The staple rice and meat dish is enjoyed beyond India in Afghanistan, Thailand and Myanmar, and some scholars trace it back to the royal kitchens of the Mughals
A video of Bollywood’s Shah Rukh Khan making biryani during lockdown last year went viral; and he swears by fellow actor Salman Khan’s recipe. Shah Rukh’s wife, Gauri Khan, said: “During this lockdown, we were initially scared to even order any food from outside. So ghar ka khana(home-cooked food), as we say, is made by Shah Rukh Khan himself and we are enjoying. He loves to cook and I enjoy eating.”
If you too want your biryani Bollywood style but don’t happen to live next to an actor-cum-chef, then there’s always the Aamir Khan Mutton Dum Biryani at SP’s Biryani in Pune, introduced to mark that actor’s visit to the famous restaurant in 2019.
Biryani borrows its name from the Turkish word birian, meaning roasted, and the Persian word birinj, meaning rice. Originating from the nomadic Turkic tribes of Central Asia, this dish was an amalgamation of rice, meat and spices that was slow cooked (a method known as dum) over a fire. Biryani has mainly two types – kacchi (raw marinated meat and rice are layered together and cooked) and pukki (cooked meat and parboiled rice are layered together and cooked).
Historian Lizzie Collingham states that the modern biryani developed in the royal kitchens of the Mughal Empire (1526-1857) and is a mix of native spices and local recipes. The 16th-century Mughal text Ain-i-Akbari states that the dish is even older; an Indian rice dish known as oon soru in Tamil was made as early as the year 2 A.D. from rice, ghee, meat and spices to feed hungry soldiers.
Biryani spread across India at the time of the Mughals, with the Nabobs of Awadh and the Nizams of Hyderabad giving rise to the various styles we see today. Different communities brought different influences to the dish: the Lucknowi biryani has a Persian influence because the Nabobs were from Iran, while and the Muradabadi biryani has a more Afghan influence due to the Rohilla Pathans from Afghanistan who settled in western Uttar Pradesh.
According to historian Mohsina Mukadam, “While biryan may not have originated here, I believe biryani, with its spices and flavours, is a completely Indian innovation.”
The northern and eastern regions lean towards aromatic biryanis like the Metiabruz biryani, Awadhi biryani and serai ki biryani, while the west has bohri gosht biryani from the Bohra community that’s laden with prunes, baby potatoes and cashews that mellow the flavour. As you go south, the dish tends to get spicier, particularly around Kerala.
Chef Soni Rana, sous chef at ITC Royal Bengal, believes the secret is simple: “A good biryani boasts fluffy rice, distinct aroma and mild pungency.”
While India alone has over 25 different types of biryanis, its neighbouring countries are equally enthusiastic and have their own takes on the dish, imparting local flavours and flair.
In Myanmar, it is known as dan pauk and is eaten with sides like cabbage, onions, fried dry chillies and fermented lemons. In Iran, the biryani is saffron based and the meat of choice is chicken, replete with vermicelli, fried onions, fried potato cubes, almonds and raisins.
The Afghani biryani uses more dry fruits such as raisins and lesser amounts of meat cut into tiny pieces, while in Karachi, one can find the bohri biryani laden with tomatoes. Malaysia and Singapore call it nasi briyani, and Philippines boasts of nasing biringyi (chicken saffron rice) that is similar to the Malay style. In Thailand, it is called khao mhok and is made with chicken or beef, and topped with fried garlic and a green sour sauce.
Across South and East Asia, the recipe and spices may have changed to suit local preferences, but what has remained constant is the dish’s ability to bring people together to share in hearty, flavourful food.
By : Kamalika Mukherjee – SCMP