Eid Al-Fitr 2024: A brotherhood of the biryanis - Hindustan Times
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Eid Al-Fitr 2024: A brotherhood of the biryanis

By Ismat Tahseen
Apr 10, 2024 10:55 AM IST

With the festival of Eid tomorrow, we attempt to unravel the layers of this many-splendoured dish that reflects the diversity of our country

A big part of celebrating Eid is tucking into biryani, layered with scented basmati rice, marinated and masala-ensconced meat, whole spices, fresh herbs and caramelised onions. Interestingly, the multifarious regional styles and flavours invite as many debates as it does takers. Ahead of the festival, chefs weigh in on what makes each biryani so distinct...

The rich and flavoursome biryani is enjoyed in so many flavours and cooking styles across India (Shutterstock)
The rich and flavoursome biryani is enjoyed in so many flavours and cooking styles across India (Shutterstock)

Delhi’s degi and achari biryani
— Sadaf Hussain, author, podcaster and MasterChef India 2016 finalist

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A robust Achari biryani from Delhi (Shutterstock)
A robust Achari biryani from Delhi (Shutterstock)

 

Both variants are made without dum. A longer, sturdier basmati, called sella rice, is used. Instead of saffron, orange and white colours are used, not to mention mirchiyaan for teekhapan! The achari biryani uses mirchi ka achaar. At a few places, there is a culture of eating biryani with a runny haleem, which works as a gravy or raita.
 

Lucknow’s Awadhi biryani
— Rehman Mujeebur, consultant chef

 

Flavourful Awadhi biryani is a treat (Chef Rehman Mujeebur )
Flavourful Awadhi biryani is a treat (Chef Rehman Mujeebur )


What sets it apart is the balance between rich, fragrant spices and tender meat and vegetables. It incorporates a subtle sweetness alongside the heat from spices, creating a complex yet harmonious taste profile. The flavours are a medley of spices such as cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and saffron. It features basmati rice, meat (lamb or chicken), yoghurt and milk, and might include ingredients such as nutmeg, mace, green cardamom and rose water. Awadhi biryani is served with Boorani raita and sliced onion.

Kokani biryani
— Shabana Salauddin, home chef and owner, Ammeez Kitchen

Masaledar kokani biryani(Ammeez Kitchen)
Masaledar kokani biryani(Ammeez Kitchen)

The masala, dum technique, and cutting and serving of it make this biryani different. It is more masaledar (homemade hara masala, dry spice powders and garam masala), has fried potatoes, and is not dry, so there is no need for extra gravy or salan. Kokani biryanis have one or two thars (layers), so an ‘ek thar’ will have masala layered with rice and ‘do thar’ will have masala-rice-masala-rice. It is not mixed when served. The dish is made with a double dum technique, where a thick beed tawa is placed on the flame on which the degh is kept. Burnt coconut shells are placed on the lid to ensure even cooking and a beautiful browning on the top.

Hyderabadi biryani
— Amtul Faheem, Hyderabad-based home chef and blogger at @ammi.ke.khane

Hyderabadi biryani is cooked dum style and has no potatoes and tomatoes(Ammi.ke.khane)
Hyderabadi biryani is cooked dum style and has no potatoes and tomatoes(Ammi.ke.khane)


The Hyderabadi dum biryani (also called Kacchi Yakhni Ki Biryani) involves a unique method of cooking the raw marinated mutton and basmati rice with spice powders and pastes, in addition to raw papaya, lemon juice, yoghurt, fried onions, rose petals, coriander and mint leaves, milk, saffron, pure ghee and oil. The meat is cooked on ‘dum’ and the biryani does not have other vegetables like potatoes and tomatoes.

Thalassery fish biryani
— Sandeep Sreedharan, restaurateur and founder, Chefsgate

The Thalassery fish biryani is a beautifully-made dish with fish, rice and spices (Sandeep Sreedharan)
The Thalassery fish biryani is a beautifully-made dish with fish, rice and spices (Sandeep Sreedharan)

Kaima rice, black pepper from Tellicherry and spices from the region, come together for the unique Malabar fish biryani. The Arabs are said to have brought this style to the coast. The women used fish (kingfish/surmai; called ayakura in Malayalam, or the Malabar grouper), instead of meat, and local spices, to make it — and that is how the tradition has continued. It is served with raita, spicy coconut chutney and papad.

Kolkata’s egg and potato biryani
— Kalyan Karmakar, author and food blogger at @finelychopped

The delicate Kolkata biryani is known for its distinct use of an egg (Shutterstock)
The delicate Kolkata biryani is known for its distinct use of an egg (Shutterstock)

Kolkata biryani is delicate and not very spicy. More than the meat, the main thing in the Kolkata biryani is the rice as that is where the flavour lies. The other highlight is in the potato used, which takes in the flavours of the former. The special biryani has an egg in it, which you break open to mix the yolk with the rice. Mutton works best for this dish, and it is ideally had without accompaniments.

Nagpur biryani
— Farha Ambreen, home chef and founder of @fariambycooks

Nagpuri biryani (Fariambycooks)
Nagpuri biryani (Fariambycooks)


I am native of Nagpur and have been eating a specific version of biryani all my life! Since I shifted to Hyderabad (a decade ago) and started my culinary journey, my biryani is a mix of Lucknowi/Awadhi and Hyderabadi biryani!
This dish has a layered version with 70% cooked rice and akhni (mutton yakhni) and slow-cook it. Nagpuri biryani is pakki akhni (pre-cooked meat) biryani with around 8-10 whole spices added to the marination, along with green chillies. The Nagpur biryani is enjoyed with a spiced mint raita called Burhani.

 

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