South India has gifted some of the unique varieties of biryani to the world of gastric indulgence. This fragrant, spicy rice dish is one of the most searched Indian dishes in the Internet. Besides, biryani is the most ordered dish on the various online food delivery apps in India as well.
From the classic Thalassery biryani, the decadent Hyderabadi biryani and the Kachi Memen biryani to the royal Awadhi biryani of Lucknow and the delicious Calcutta biryani, there are hundreds of iconic biryani varieties in India. The famous Sambalpur Hyder biryani in Orissa, the Arcod biryani of Tamil Nadu, the Dindigul Talappakatti biryani and the Ambur biryani claim the rich Muslim, Persian and Mughal culinary heritage.
It is widely believed that the modern birayni was created by the legendary Mughal queen Mumtaz Mahal in her royal kitchen. Her culinary experiments, aimed to create a delicious, nutritious and wholesome dish for the soldiers in her husband emperor Shahjahan’s army had led to the birth of the modern biryani. It is assumed that rice, meat and spices were cooked together to easily make a nutritious dish for the soldiers.
The word biryani originates from the Persian word ‘biryan’ which means to fry or roast. Meanwhile, the word ‘dum’ which is commonly associated with biryani comes from Arabic. This word reached the Malabar coasts through the Arab merchants. Meanwhile, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Awadhi biryani by the Mughals, the Hyderabdi biryani by the Nizam and the Mysore biryani by Tipu Sultan gained extreme popularity. The people of the Middle East claim that Kazakhstan is the place of birth of biryani.
The Karachi biryani, Bombay biryani, Salem biryani, Kacha ghost biryani and the Manjali biryani at Ernakulam are some of the unique varieties of biryani in India.
Meanwhile, the biryani that is mostly made in Kerala is quite different from the ones that are popular elsewhere. While basmati rice is the popular choice for biryani in most parts of India, the tiny kaima rice is used for making biryani in Kerala. Besides, experts say that it’s only in Kerala that spicy pickle is served with biryani.
(The author is an assistant professor at the Center for South Asian Studies in Puducherry.)