The biryani bites back

Apr 20, 2014, 07:38 IST | Waleed Hussain

The high-calorie rice delicacy may not be the first preference on the menu for many, but when it comes to enjoying a feast, nothing can replace the Mughal delicacy

When the Mughals made India their home, they brought about many changes to the country. While many trends did not go down well with the populace, an introduction to a certain dish was lapped up by all and sundry. The biryani — a rich preparation of rice cooked with spices and meat — became the toast of the empire.

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Preparing biryani can take up the better part of the day

The Mughal kitchen modified the traditional biryani to suit Indian conditions, and soon, many variations of the biryani were being cooked across the country. In fact, in present-day India there are at least 20 different styles and variations of the dish, with the most famous being the Hyderabadi dum biryani and the Mughlai biryani.

And it takes a good day’s preparation to get the dish ready. The meat has to be marinated for a few hours, the onions chopped and fried to perfection, the rice cooked just right. Once sealed with flour, the dish needs to be cooked on a low flame for 3-4 hours.

However, over the past few years the entry of various cuisines has taken a toll on the sale and demand of the biryani, inform restaurateurs. “The demand for biryani has taken a 10-20 per cent dip in recent times,” shares Omair Shaikh, MD, Shalimar restaurants. “However, that dip is miniscule. I agree that there are more options for customers to choose from but the biryani has no replacement,” adds Shaikh. “We still sell around 500-800 biryanis over the weekend from each outlet.” “We are a world-class city and have many types of cuisines and dishes to offer. The traditional Mughlai dishes will always be in demand,” says Shaikh.

Maqsood Shaikh, assistant manager at Delhi Darbar, shares the view. “Chinese and Thai cuisines are relatively new on the circuit as compared to Mughlai food. Customers ask for the biryani but prefer to be served with less masala.”
The Delhi Darbar prepares a special biryani for its Arab clientele but only during the May-July season. “The Arabs prefer a less spicy version of the biryani and we make it only during the season. Rest of the year we serve our special biryani and reduce the spices as per the customer’s preference,” says Shaikh.

Fit for kings
The richness of the Biryani is displayed from the fact that till date no wedding party is complete without a biryani on the menu. “We still prepare the biryani in the traditional manner. It is cooked on coal. The flavour, spices and aroma are preserved in a four-hour cooking procedure,” says Shaikh.

And getting the right mix is crucial. “There is a very thin line between perfection and disaster. The right proportion of spices, and more importantly the right spices are to be used in the preparation. And that is what makes our biryani such a sought after dish,” adds Shaikh.

From Persia, with love
The origin of the biryani can be traced back to Persia and Turkey where it was cooked and served in earthen clay pots. When Persians and Turks migrated to India, they brought with them the flavours of the rich Biryani. Since then the dish has been served and devoured across the country in its various avatars.


Shabana Aziz, Housewife
Our family would always go out for dinner to feast on biryani on Sunday but that was before home delivery service was introduced. Now, we prefer to order Chinese food at home as the kids don’t like the greasy biryani.

Shabista Shaikh, Teacher
The children like to eat burgers and pizza, and gradually that has become our routine when we dine out. Our parents would often take us to Mughlai restaurants and we really enjoyed the Biryani treat. But now we rarely ever get to order it.


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