A journey of a rice dish that began from Persia (modern day Iran) and ended in your plate. Wondering what we are talking about? We are talking about the evergreen classic rice dish that literally needs no introduction. Still wondering? We are talking about Biryani. The exact origin of biryani is uncertain. Though it may appear to be a dish associated to India, in reality the dish originated quite far away. There are many theories about how biryani made its way to India, Indian restaurateur Kris Dhillon believes that the dish originated in Persia, and was brought to India by the Mughals.

Today, biryani is a culinary marvel that Indians unanimously love talking about and indulging in is just another thing. The mouth-watering biryani is one dish which needs no accompaniments or side dishes. It is a delicious blend of complex flavors, spices and aromas that together epitomize the zenith of Indian cuisine.

Biryani is often associated with Indian cuisine and to rest for rest of the world it is an Indian cuisine. However, the origin of Biryani is as fascinating as its taste and aroma. In fact, Biryani is a dish that wraps the very essence of its rich and long history within its layers of pleasure.

There is no doubt that Biryani has its roots firmly entrenched in the Muslim cuisine in India. However, there are various theories and myths of the actual origin of Biryani.

What is Biryani?

Biryani is a popular rice dish preparation that is savored across India. Prepared in 100s of styles that vary from region to region. For biryani, special quality basmati rice or a long grain rice is used with rich spices and aromas. If you ask me to explain what biryani looks and smells like, I would describe it as a rice preparation that consists of long grain aromatic rice colored with saffron, with a burst of aromas glistening in the luxury of ghee (clarified butter) prepared with fine quality spices that takes a generous amount of time and hard work to prepare and takes just a few minutes to finish it.

Biryani has all the right reasons to be a favorite of many across India. Known for its fine quality of rice it is relished in most parts of the country and prepared in only slightly varying styles in different cities, and with all its richness in place.

How did Biryani Come to India?

There are many stories on the origin of Biryani. Biryani is surely a popular food dish in India as there are 26 different types of ‘Biryanis’ in India. Many have been fascinated by its taste and the sheer brilliance of its preparation.’Biryani’, however has originated from Persia.

The name Biryani is derived from the Persian word ‘Birian’, which means ‘roasted before cooking’, biryani is a mixture of rice(basmati), meat/vegetables, yogurt and spices.

In the North of India, Biryani is presumed to have developed as part of the Mughlai and Awadhi cuisines with its roots in Delhi and Lucknow respectively. In southern India as well, places which have had Muslim communities settling down, for example, Hyderabad, Kerala, and Karnataka are the places where Biryani casts its magic.

Some historians opine that about 4,000 years ago Central Asia saw the emergence of a rice based dish which was garnished with beef and mutton which came to be known as Pulao. Pulao, a dish which is popular even today, is supposed to be the ancestor of Biryani as we know it today.

The kitchens of the Mughals transformed the somewhat bland Pulao into Biryani by blending it with the exotic spices of India, thereby catalyzing a confluence of the cuisines of Persia and India. Some historians are of the view that Biryani existed in India even before the advent of the Mughals.

Popular Varieties of Biryani

  • Hyderabadi Biryani
  • Malabar Biryani
  • Tehri Biryani (Vegetable Biryani)
  • Kolkata Biryani
  • Awadhi Biryani
  • Mughlai Biryani
  • Kashmiri Biryani
  • Dum Biryani
  • Ambur Biryani
  • Sindhi Biryani

Whatever be the origin of the wonderful dish – Biryani, the fact remains that today Biryani is a favorite across the world and has swayed both vegetarians and non-vegetarians with its tantalizing taste and aroma.

Today, Biryani can be had at most of the restaurants in the country. It can be experienced in the most luxurious of settings and can also be savored within ones’ homes. The range and variety of Biryanis are mind-boggling and each region or place seems to have its own variant.