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History of Hyderabadi Biryani

In a country with unbelievable regional varieties of cuisines, while Biryani developed from historical food influences that travelled into India, it also reflects local sensibilities and customs.

There are many different legends and theories related to the evolution of Biryani. An interesting story traces the origins of the dish to Mumtaz Mahal (1593-1631), Shah Jahan’s queen who inspired the Taj Mahal. It is said that she once visited army barracks and found the army personnel under-nourished. So she asked the chef to prepare a special dish that provided balanced nutrition, and thus the Biryani was created.

By many historians, it is believed that the Biryani originated in Persia (Iran) and was further developed in the Mughal royal kitchens in India between 15 th and 19 th centuries. The Hyderabadi Biryani is a blend of the Mughlai and Telangana cuisines that evolved in the vast kitchens of Nizam rulers of the historic Hyderabad State.

It is a 400 years old culmination of relentless experimentations of the Bawarchis. During the Mughal Empire, Aurangazeb installed Nizam-ul-Mulk of Hyderabad State, the premier Prince of India in 1724 and since then the dish has been an integral part of Hyderabad cuisine.

Hyderabadi Biryani is special in terms of erudition, subtle elegance, method, flamboyance of style, and richness of its spices.

The technique of mixing spices in raw meat and cooking with rice in a special vessel using the slow-cooking method was created for the Kachhi Gosht Biryani. This was the Nizam’s special dish and later moved to the Nawabs. Since it was a dish for the royals, the recipe was actually under guard and as none had the permission of entrance into the royal fort or palace, it was not possible to gather knowledge about the royal household secrets. Therefore preparation techniques were not readily available or recorded. Few people could read and none had access to the voluminous historical cookbooks written in Farsi that were preserved in the royal library.

Gradually only post Independence, recipes were passed down to Ustaads from their forefathers.

There are two types of Biryani preparations — the Kachhi and the Pakki. In the Pakki, ingredients are cooked before being layered with rice and then cooked in a dough-sealed vessel.

The Hyderabadi preparation where the Kachhi Yakhni meat marinated over night is soaked in curd before cooking. Hyderabadi Biryani uses fine and long grained Basmati rice that look like pearls, each grain separate and distinct.

The meat is sandwiched between layers of fragrant semi cooked Basmati rice and cooked "in dum" (food steam) after sealing the handi (deep metal or earthen pot) with dough. This is a challenging process, as it requires meticulous attention to time and temperature to avoid over- or under-cooking the meat.

The result is brilliant Saffron infused rice having acquired the entire flavour of spices!

And this is what we Hyderabadis take inspiration from.

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