What Is a Biryani?
A biryani curry (better known as “a biryani”) is a dish where the curry and rice parts are layered together during cooking.
Like most types of curry, a biryani can be vegetarian or non-vegetarian.
The main biryani curry spices are cloves, cardamoms, onions, ginger, garlic, saffron, nutmeg and pepper.
Chutneys and raitas are common accompaniments to a biryani.
How to Make a Biryani
There are 2 distinct styles of biryani – pukka and kachcha.
What Is a Pukka Biryani?
Pukka means “cooked”.
A pukka biryani is usually made in 3 separate steps.
Step 1 is making the curry which involves frying the onions and spices, adding the main ingredient (whether it is vegetables or meat) and partially cooking the curry.
Step 2 is partially cooking the rice (this rice cooking does not need to happen after cooking the curry – the curry and rice can be cooked at the same time).
Step 3 is layering the curry and rice in a casserole (or a sealed container of some type) and putting the casserole in a preheated oven and cooking the final biryani.
What is a Kachcha Biryani?
Kachcha means “raw”.
A kachcha biryani is made by layering the raw ingredients and then cooking them in one step.
What Is The Origin of the Biryani?
Where was the first place in the subcontinent to make a biryani? Nobody really knows.
There is a group of people who say that biryani was introduced to the subcontinent by the Mughals. The Mughals first invaded northern India (called Hindustan) in 1526. Opponents of this theory say that biryani was already being made in India prior to this date.
Another theory is that Timur (Tamarlane) brought the biryani when he invaded way back in the 14th century. Opponents to this theory say that this could not have happened because biryani was unknown where Tamarlane came from (Uzbekistan).
Other theories have Arab traders bringing biryani by sea and others have biryanis being created for armies so that cooking could happen quickly in one pot while the army was on the march.
It is claimed that the word “biryani” is derived from the Farsi word ‘birian’. So it is no real stretch of the imagination to think that biryani originally came from Persia, especially as biryani is a popular dish in Iran.
The fact that most biryanis contain meat points to the biryani being a muslim creation.
But we will never know for sure how and when biryani reached the subcontinent.
The one thing that is certain is that biryani is a very popular dish all over the subcontinent. There are distinct biryani styles in Hyderabad, Lucknow, Sri Lanka, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangladesh, Gujarat and more.
In fact, biryani is a popular dish all over southeast Asia, not to mention the UK. You will find biryani in most parts of the world that makes curry.
What Meats Can Be in a Biryani?
The first meat to be used in a biryani was probably goat where the meat from the leg was used. Today, almost any meat could be used in a biryani but the most popular (and common) are chicken, lamb, beef, mutton, fish and prawns.
What Vegetables Can Be in a Biryani?
The most common vegetables to go into a biryani are cauliflower, peas, carrots, potatoes, green beans and bell peppers (capsicum).
Biryani vs Pulao
Over the years there has been a fair amount of disagreement about the difference between a biryani and a pulao (sometimes you will see the words pilau or pilaf used instead of pulao).
The general consensus is that a biryani has ingredients and rice that are put into layers before the final cooking step whereas a pulao has the ingredients and rice mixed up during the final cooking. So, typically, a pulao is cooked with all of the ingredients in a single saucepan whereas a biryani has the 2 main ingredients (the curry part and rice part) put into the final cooking saucepan in layers.
Different Types of Biryani
Biryani is eaten almost everywhere on the Indian subcontinent and there are several styles of biryani that are popular in parts of the subcontinent.
The most well-known biryani variations are found in Hyderabad, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Sindhi, Bangladesh, Kolkata, Mumbai, Gujarati and Lucknow.
One of the reasons that there are different types of biryani is that basmati rice is widely eaten in northern India whereas lots of different types of rice are eaten in southern India. The different types of rice used in southern India give rise to different types of biryani.
Where to Find Biryani Curry Recipes
There is a wide range of easy biryani curry recipes on the Curry Focus website. If you have a favourite biryani curry recipe then you can share it with us from the new biryani curry recipe page or you can just email the recipe to us. We will format the recipe and publish it for everyone to see. Don’t forget to give us your name so that we can publish it with the recipe.