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The Legends of Biryani: Tracing the Origins of Biryani

The Legends of Biryani: Tracing the Origins of Biryani
Biryani is a heart favorite rice dish among people. Did you ever think how Biryani came to us? Discover origins of Biryani with this article. Hope you will enjoy.
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Source:  Zehra Farhan
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  • The beautifully tempting hues and the rich and irresistible aroma of this historical cuisine still work their magic and engulf ones senses.

  • Cuisines change and develop over time always leaving an imprint on the chapters of history. The subcontinent in the past has been subject to many invasions; and with every invasion came the culture and cuisines of its invaders. The Turks, Arabs, Persians and Afghans in particular left behind the culture of great feasts. However, the reign of the Mughals from 15th to 19th century left the deepest impact on the culinary habits of the subcontinents residents. Being artistic as that they were, the Mughals looked upon cooking as a form of art. They enjoyed the finest of foods and enhanced their flavors with the use of exotic spices. It is largely concluded that the Mughals introduced to the region specialties such as Biryani and Kebabs which although still special, became household cuisines in Indian and Pakistan.

  • While it is largely believed Biryani originated in Persia and came this way through the Mughals, other possibilities and theories about the arrival of Biryani in Indian also exist. It could have come from Persia via Afghanistan to North India and it could have also been brought by the Arab traders via the Arabian Sea to Calicut, Kerala. There is also historical evidence to support that there were similar rice dishes prior to the Moghual invasion. There is mention about a rice dish known as ‘Oon Soru’ in Tamil as early as the year 2 A.D. Oon Soru was composed of rice, ghee, meat, turmeric, coriander, pepper, and bay leaf, and was used to feed military warriors. Al-Biruni, described detailed accounts of meals at the courts of sultans who ruled parts of India before the Moghuls took over. There is mention of rice dishes similar to Mughal Biryanis in tales of his travel.

  • Some believe that the Muslim ruler Taimor brought the dish to India from Persia in 1394. Another interesting Biryani story from the Mughal era is when Mumtaz Mahal once made a surprise visit to the army barracks and discovered the men were undernourished. She asked her chef to cook a dish with rice, meat and spices which would be a complete meal providing balanced nutrition to the warriors. This became the origin of Biryani. This story in timeline can also be considered factually correct after Taimor’s invasion.

  • Yet, some say the dish originated in west Asia. The nomads would bury an earthen pot full of meat, rice and spices in a pit and eventually the pot was dug up revealing Biryani. While there are many legends as to how Biryani made its way into India, there is no doubt that Islamic Persians are responsible for popularizing the dish amongst the locals of the subcontinent.

  • Nawab Wafid Ali shah was deposed in Calcutta in 1856, the Nawab people introduced Biryani to Calcutta which became Calcutta Biryani cooked with whole boiled potatoes and meat. The Hyderabadi Biryani came into being when Aurangzeb appointed Niaza-ul-mulk as the Asfa Jahi ruler of Hyderabad. Biryani spread to other cities of india including Maysore where it was brought by Tipu sultan of Carnatic. The Nawabs and Nizams hired Hindu vegetarian bookkeepers who developed a new style of the royal dish, Tahiri Biryani which makes use of vegetables instead of meat. As the dish evolved and travelled to more parts of the Subcontinent people of different regions adapted it as per their preferences. The northwest Memoni Biryani is extremely spicy. With plenty of green chilies the Sindhi Biryani is also a very spicy one with an addition of dried plums and potatoes. Potatoes are also an essential ingredient of the widely eaten Bombay Biryani.

  • With tender meat, fluffy rice, aromatic spices such as cardamom and cinnamon, vitality added by leaves such as bay leaves, fresh coriander and mint, the regality of Biryani never seems to fade regardless of how frequently one dines on it. Once a dish for royalty, Biryani, today, reflects the tastes and traditions of the different people and regions within South East Asia.

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Comments posted by users for The Legends of Biryani: Tracing the Origins of Biryani

  1. It's nice to have the knowledge of Biriyani, especially the History.

    on Oct 24 2014 10:17AM Report Abuse SABYASACHI ROYCHOWDHURY

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