A discussion on biryani at a party or with a group of people will get you to more trouble than discussing about demonitisation in the current scenario. There is no other dish in India, like biryani, which has been debated on its origin, authenticity and quality. The top contenders in this list are the Lucknowi biryani, the Hyderabadi biryani and the famous Kolkata biryani. Self-pronounced biryani aficionados wouldn’t even dream about tasting biryani from other regions, than their own favourite.
The etymology of biryani itself is not clear. Some believe that it originates from ‘Birinj’, the Persian word for rice. Another theory is that it derives from ‘Biryan’ or ‘Beriyan’ (to fry or roast). Then there is another debate on what is biryani or pulao, which we will conveniently ignore now.
In this interesting and prolonged contest, many other biryanis have faded away from the restaurant menus and home kitchens (thanks to the take away culture). But is that so? The answer is a big no. Live and kicking are the strains of Bohri biryani and Memoni biryani, which are probably better than their popular cousins and as many or maybe more from the southern belt of India – Malabar biryani, Bhatkali biryani, the Ambur biryani, Chettinadu biryani and Dindigul biryani, to name a few.
For example, the biryani served in Kayees Rahmathulla Hotel in Mattancherry, Kochi, has no semblance to its spicy cousin from Hyderabad. The Kayees biryani, vastly influenced by the Arabic traders and their culture, will surprisingly taste a little sweet because of the pineapple pieces and is served with a date chutney. Our own painting maestro M.F. Husain was so impressed with this version of biryani, that he made two sketches and presented it to the restaurant owner, which they proudly display even now. The biryani from Ambura and Vaniyambadi towns of north-eastern Tamil Nadu was introduced by the Nawabs of Arcot and is light on the stomach and yet has a higher meat to rice ratio. And Kolkata biryani, is of course, famous for its fried whole potatoes, which is relished equally as the meat itself!
The fact is that is that, all these biryanis (or pulao as one may like to call it) are reflection of various regional cuisines found in the subcontinent and having amalgamated the ingredients and methods from these culinary cultures have become the true ambassadors or flagship cuisine of the respective regions.
I personally think, biryani is the ultimate ode to rice (paella comes a distant second). I cannot imagine or know of any other single-pot dish, which use as many ingredients and brings about an explosion of flavours on your palate like biryani.
Coming to the review. Couple of days back, when I had this urge to eat biryani, I decided to order from Biryani by kilo. From their choice of biryanis, I decided to order a kilo of Kolkata Chicken Biryani (I myself was surprised at my impulsive choice), a portion of Mutton Korma and couple of Ulte Tawa Ka Paranthas. Though the order took about 90 minutes, it was packed and delivered hot.
The biryani came in a sealed earthen pot and the long grained rice was cooked to perfection and flavoured with fried onions, saffron and other condiments and poultry. The lightly fried and cooked potatoes were tasty and along with the boiled eggs gave another dimension to the fragrant rice. There was a good portion of raita with the biryani.Mutton Korma was perfectly spiced and slow cooked. The portion, which was enough for two to three people tasted great with the parantha..
I do not claim that the food which Biryani by Kilo served was authentic. But it was certainly super tasty and worth every penny.