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Hyderabadi Biryani - An Autobiography

Well, the Hyderabadis know me well and I feel indebted with the honour they have bestowed on me by keeping me on the main menu - be it a marriage ceremony or festival. So I thought that it was time you knew more about me!

Long grain brown rice in North India, zeera samba rice (short grain) in South India while puffed rice in Bangladesh is used for preparing biryani. However, white basmati rice is being commonly used today. The mark of a well made Hyderabadi biryani (also known as Ghosth Dum biryani or Kutche Ghosth ki biryani) is that grains of rice do not stick to each other.

My Historical Saga

My name comes from the Farsi word 'Birian' which means fried prior to cooking. Originally from Persia, I reached North India via Afghanistan. The Arab traders fetched me to Calicut via Arabian sea.

 It is also believed that nomads buried earthen pots with rice, spices, meat and later dug up to enjoy biryani which was prepared of coriander, turmeric, bay leaf, rice and ghee.

Hyderabadi Biryani in Handi

Homecoming to Hyderabad

Oh, there are unending legends! Let me mention to you my favourites - Taimur Lang or Timur, the lame, got me all the way from Kazakhstan via Afghanistan to North India. Well, I think I relish the other one which says that Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan's queen, suggested me as a nutritious meal for the army.

Much before Mughal invasion, Oon Soru - a rice dish already existed. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (1618-1707) brought biryani here in Hyderabad when he invaded the Southern region.

Magical Tips for Biryani Lovers!

When you stir-fry the rice (do not wash it) in clarified butter or 'ghee', the rice turns crispy and devoid of any starch (making it less sticky). Shahi Lucknowi biryani has a homogenous mix of different spices. Half cooked rice and cooked mutton are layered in the handi (earthen pot) and this is why it is called 'pukki biryani' or cooked biryani.

Fascinating Facts from the World of Biryani

Did you know that Calicut biryani is placed on embers made from coconut shells to give it an elegant taste? or that Kashmiri biryani has a tinge of heeng in it?

 Potatoes are also added to biryani in Kolkata as is jack fruit in some places. Pilaf is different from biryani in that it is prepared using 'shorba', that is, meat broth instead of water.

Some khansas (chefs) also use the 'kutchi biryani method' in which you layer raw marinated meat with raw rice in a handi - the way Nawabi Hyderabadi biryani is cooked.

Preparing Biryani

Prepare Hyderabadi Biryani in Five Simple Steps!

Preparation Time: 1 1/2 hrs.

Serves: 4

Cooking Style: Dum-Pukht. 'Dum' means steam and 'pukht' refers to choking off the steam.


Basmati rice, 500 gms. mutton pieces (chops, shoulder and leg pieces and marrow bone), salt to taste, 5 onions sliced, bay leaves (tej patta), 4 green (hari elaichi) and black cardamons (bari elaichi), black peppers, cinnamon (dal chini), oil for frying, 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds (shahi zeera), 2 mace strands (javitri), 1 tablespoon each of ginger and garlic paste, 10 cloves (laung), 1 tablespoon red chilli powder and yogurt, 1 cup torn green coriander leaves, 2 tablespoons torn mint leaves, 2 tablespoons ghee and few saffron (kesar) strands mixed in 1/4 cup milk.

Recipe of Hyderabadi Biryani

1. In a deep pan or handi containing 5-6 cups of hot water, add rice, salt, bay leaves, cardamons, black pepper, cinnamon. Heat it till 3/4 rice is cooked.

2. Drain the rice and keep it aside. Now in another pan, deep fry onions till golden brown. Coat onions in dry corn powder and then fry to make them crispy. Keep powdered caraway seeds, pepper corns, cloves, cardamoms, cinnamon  aside.

Marinated Meat

3. We have already marinated mutton pieces in ginger-garlic paste, salt, raw papaya mash, red chilli powder for a couple of hours in the refrigerator. Now mix the above mentioned spice powder, fried onions, yogurt, mint and coriander leaves and mix.

4. Add cardamoms, cinnamon and stir onions till golden brown. Now mix marinated mutton and cook it till mutton becomes soft. Now add vegetables like cauliflower (phool gobi), carrot (gajar), french beans, peas (matar). Also add cashewnuts, raisins, blanched and peeled almonds.

5. Heat oil in handi or deep bottomed earthen pot and spread the rice and mutton in alternate layers such that the top and bottom layers are always that of rice. Cover lid with wheat flour and cook under dum till finally prepared!

Hyderabadi Biryani

Your dining table is a sacred place where all members meet and talk to each other during meals. Enjoy the Hyderabadi biryani together as a family that eats together, stays together. Enjoy the aroma of love and happiness pervade your life with Hyderabadi biryani!

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