|Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani|
Photograph by Leticia Alaniz © 2011 All Rights Reserved
When most people whom love South Indian cuisine think of one dish that by heart and sentiment stands out, without exaggeration, it is Biryani. Hyderabadi Biryani, to be more exact. It is a dish most popular in the great state of Andhra Pradesh.
Rice, the staple of indian cuisine has been dressed in gala. Nothing was overlooked in the creation of one of the most fragrant and elegant rice dishes in the world.
The dish consists of the most prized rice of them all: basmati, and it includes a meat such as mutton, lamb, or chicken, and even fish or prawns, onions, eggs, chiles, and an exotic array of spices that perfume the dish to a level of intoxicating fragrance, that will make any person that comes in contact with the dish, come back for more.
The spices may include of the highest quality nutmeg, mace, cumin, pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander, mint leaves, ginger, and garlic. And to cook it all and to add more to its richness, a drizzle of ghee (clarified butter), that makes all of the ingredients come together in heavenly perfection.
Its history is impressive and rich as it comes from a long line of royalty. Its origins can be traced back to the great kings of Andhra: the Nizams (meaning Administrator of the Realm), the title of the native sovereigns of Hyderabad State. The style of cooking is believed to have arrived to India from Persia, during the Mogul empire. The word biryani is derived from Farsi "birian" which means fried before cooking. The cooking method itself is called "dum".
In the 1700's, during the Mogul empire, Lucknow was known as Awadh, and from there people cooked biryani and called it Awadh biryani. In 1856, during the British rule, Asafa Jahi was crowned as the Nizam-ul-mulk and only ruler of Hyderabad.
Seven Nizams ruled Hyderabad for two centuries. And the Nizams (Azaf Jahi) rulers were great patrons of literature, art, architecture, culture, jewelry and Rich Food. Since then biryani spread all over Andhra and the rest of the subcontinent, with each region making its own variation.
For the most exotic and rich biryani experience, a leg of telangana goat is cut into pieces and marinated in a paste that consists of papaya, yoghurt and spices. Afterwards, the meat is cooked in ghee. The rice is also fried in ghee which brings out the addictive nutty flavor and also roasts the outside starch layer gelatinizing it. The rice is then boiled until half done in spices. In the next step, the meat and the rice are layered first with rice then meat and so forth in an earthen pot called a handi. An interlayer of onions, condiments, spices, and rose water are added which give it a flowery and herbal aroma. The handi is then sealed with a cover made of dough and then cooked slowly over coals. The seal is broken only when ready to enjoy.
For practicality, there are two types of cooking methods: Kutchi (raw) biryani, and Pukki (cooked) biryani. For kutchi biryani, raw marinated meat is layered with raw rice. For pukki biryani, cooked meat and cooked rice are layered and then finished cooking for a short while in the handi pot. Hyderabadi biryani is meticulously prepared in the kutchi style which takes a lot longer but is well worth the long wait in gold.
Lucknow and Hyderabad compete for the biryani crown. But only the Hyderabadi biryani, can walk away with the gold as it is now without dispute known all over the world. Food critics in many countries vow their testimonies and defend the Hyderabadi biryani without rest.
Due to its proximity to India, Hyderabadi biryani is exported by flight to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates among other countries. The biryani is cooked in Hyderabad and shipped overnight so that the people in those countries can satisfy their cravings of biryani.
If you are traveling to Hyderabad, there are many restaurants that specialize in biryani, but as in every city there are a few that stand out as the best. Make sure you visit the all famous Paradise in Secunderabad, Hyderabad House in Hyderabad or Sri Kanya in the Panjagutta neighborhood.
To sample dishes of a country is to appreciate and know the splendor and history of its culture. And Hyderabad has many gems of cuisine that stand out. Biryani is only one among hundreds.