Biriyani is one of my most favourite dish. Its a dish made of layers of Rice and normally meat or Chicken flavoured with spices. The origin of this dish is said to be from Persia but after centuries of refinement this dish is now widely available across the Indian Subcontinent. Different regions cooks it differently, for example the Biriyani from Hyderabad region is cooked with the rice and raw meat together from scratch while most other parts cooks the meat separately and then mixes it with rice. Mumbai or Bombay Biriyani is very spice heavy while Kolkata ones are much lighter. Kerela specializes in Seafood Biriyani and so on. For me having grown up in Kolkata, I am partial to the Biriyani from there and love the sweet soft potato in it.
Kolkata loves it’s Biriyani. Legend has it that the Kolkata biryani evolved from the Lucknow style, when Awadh’s last Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was exiled in 1856 in Calcutta. His chefs replaced some of the meat and added the potato to keep the cost of this royal dish down. The Calcutta Biriyani is much lighter on spices. It primarily uses nutmeg, cinnamon, mace along with cloves and cardamom in the yoghurt based marinade for the meat which is cooked separately from rice giving it a distinct flavour as compared to other styles of Biryani. A true Kolkata foodie will argue about the best Biriyani in town and many restaurants have had decades of reign on the top. Royal with its Kashmiri origin reigned supreme around the late 70’s and early 80’s. Then it was the turn of Amenia in the new market area. Currently Arsalan in the Park Circus Area is one of the most popular. Others such as Shiraz Golden Restaurant, Zeeshan, Amber and even Nizam’s (inventor of the Kathi roll ) etc are popular too. The current trend is that the big guns which were all standalone establishments are now expanding into other parts of the city and other parts of India and even beyond. (Shiraz has a branch in Dubai). It would be lovely to have one in UK.
During my recent short trip to Kolkata, I was fortunate to have tried the Mutton Biriyani from Arsalan and Amenia’s Chicken Biriyani. I have to say Arsalan’s Biriyani had a far superior depth of flavour and I really enjoyed it while Amenia’s Biriyani (my Mom’s favourite is of a more delicate and fragrant variety). During the same trip I also visited Mumbai where I tried the Veg Biriyani at the Prithvi Theatre Cafe. Biriyani is a rich and complex dish that is very difficult to replicate at home and in my opinion is best left to the experts. At home I have made many attempts to recreate as much of the flavours without most the guilt associated with this Calorie laden dish. There are good quality ready made Spice Mixtures available widely in Asian Supermarkets that produces good results. I will put up a recipe in another blog post.