Wednesday 4 June 2014

Biryani - Lucknow or Hyderabad ?

I love biryani, it’s the best meal.

Among various Biryani the Lucknow and Hyderabad style are dominant with a friendly rivalry.

There are nearly 30 different types of Biryani served in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka today. Out of all most hyped Biryani, there are two competing Biryani in India: Lucknow, and Hyderabad.

The hype is orchestrated  to promote various restaurants. Lucknow is a grand old city once ruled by Nawabs and capital of Uttar Pradesh; while, Hyderabad is a grand old city once ruled by Nizams and joint capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. This has become a friendly food fight between North and South over Biryani. After all, all the tastes are acquired. North Indians like Lucknow Biryani, and South Indians like Hyderabad Biryani. The hype has created a natural curiosity over the differences.

People can get into arguments over which city makes the best biryani, and then over which restaurant in that city makes the best biryani.

Biryani or Pulao ?

And then there are arguments about calling our's as "Biryani" and and other's as "Pulao", depending on which one you prefer. Lucknow’s biryani is also often – unfairly I think – referred to as pulao since the meat and rice are cooked separately and then layered together at the end. That’s only semantics. Wheras Hyderabadi biryani is what Lakhnawis call pulao or tehri. Lakhnawis cook the yakhni separately and then layer it in a degchi with rice and put on dum. Whereas in Hyderabadi biryani, everything is cooked together like pulao or tehri in Lucknow.

Hyderabad Biryani

This is called Kutchi Biryani. Kutchi means raw. 

The process does not adhere to the name Biryani in Farsi meaning 'fry before cooking'. Neither the meat, nor the rice are fried before cooking.  The meat is marinated in a mixture of spices for a few hours. Meat and the meat marinate are put in Handi. The rice is mixed with spiced yogurt. The 'rice and yogurt mixture' is put on top of the meat. The Handi is sealed and cooked over low heat. Eventually, the meat and rice are Dum cooked. The result is very different than Lucknow Biryani. The Lucknow Biryani has a homogenous meat flavor throughout the Biryani; while, the Rice in Hyderabad Biryani has more of a yogurt flavor than the meat flavor. In theory, Hyderabad Biryani is simple to make, but requires a lot of experience.

Lucknow Biryani

Lucknow Biryani is also called Awadh Biryani. Lucknow Biryani is a form of Pukki Biryani.

Pukki means 'cooked'. Both the meat and rice are cooked separately and then layered and baked. The process also lives up to the name Biryani in Farsi meaning 'fry before cooking'.
It basically has three steps. First, the meat is seared in ghee and cooked in water with warm aromatic spices till meat is tender. The meat broth is drained out. Second, the rice is lightly fried in Ghee, and cooked in the meat broth from the previous step. Third, cooked meat and cooked rice are layered in a Handi. Sweet flavors are added. The Handi is sealed and cooked over low heat. The result is a perfectly cooked meat, rice, and a homogenous flavor of aromatic meat broth, aromatic spices and sweet flavors.

Kolkata biryani
There is a third kind of Biryani called Kolkata biryani, which is a version of the Lucknow one. The biryani in Kolkata is known for its subtle use of spices, fragrance and delicious potato, which is almost as tasty as the chunk of mutton in the rice. It was brought to the erstwhile Calcutta by Lucknow’s ruler, Wajid Ali Shah, the last nawab of Oudh. When he was exiled to Calcutta , he brought his personal chefs with him. Potatoes were used in the biryani instead of meat during the recession, which later became a special feature of the Kolkata style biryani.

The variables are complicated such as amounts, moisture of yogurt mixture and marinate, and cut of meats. All the variables have to be carefully balanced so everything will cook together and come out perfectly.

As for India’s best city for biryani? Well, that depends on where you come from.

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