The word ‘biryani’ is derived from a Persian word, birian, which means ‘fried before cooking. One theory states that it originated from birinj the Persian word for rice. Another theory states that it is derived from biryan or beriyan which means “to fry” or “to roast” However the exact origin of the dish is uncertain…
There are various assumptions related to the origin of this dish.
Few historians stated that biryani originated from Persia and was brought to India by the Mughals. It was further developed by the Mughal royal kitchen. According to historian Lizzie Collingham, the modern biryani developed in the royal kitchens of the Mughal Empire (1526–1857) and is a mix of the native spicy rice dishes of India and the Persian pilaf.
There are many legends associated with the evolution of Biryani. One of the popular is the story related to Mumtaz Mahal, wife of Shah Jahan. It is said that when Mumtaz found that the Mughal soldiers looked undernourished. In order to provide a balanced nourished diet to the soldiers, chefs prepare dishes with meat and rice with spices and saffron and cook over a wood fire.
Another legend states that Biryani was brought to India by the Turk-Mongol conqueror, Taimur, in the year 1398. Even, Nizams of Hyderabad and Nawabs of Lucknow were known for their appreciation of this delicacy.
According to Pratibha Karan, author of the book Biryani, biryani is of South Indian origin, derived from pilaf varieties brought to the Indian subcontinent by Arab traders. She speculates that the pulao was an army dish in medieval India. Armies would prepare a one-pot dish of rice with whichever meat was available. Over time, the dish became biryani due to different methods of cooking, with the distinction between “pulao” and “biryani” being arbitrary.
According to Vishwanath Shenoy, the owner of a biryani restaurant chain in India, one branch of biryani comes from the Mughals, while another was brought by the Arab traders to Malabar in South India.
There are various apocryphal stories dating the invention of Shah Jahan’s time but Rana Safvi, the historian, says she could only find a recipe from the later Mughal period, from Bahadur Shah Zafar’s time.
In North India and South India different varieties of biryani developed in the Muslim centers. Such as Kacchae gosht ki biryani, Lucknowi Biryani, Kutchi biryani, or Kolkata biryani. Each of the different regions of biryani has its distinct taste, flavor, and method of cooking.
How can I even begin to explain what a biryani means to India? The singular rice dish gets the nation into a culinary and cultural frenzy. The debates are endless…and democracy gets chucked out of the window! Is our biryani better or yours?
Let’s stop this discussion enjoy the BIRYANI……