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The perfect biryani!
Marryam H Reshii |
February 01, 2005
hat's the big deal about rice and meat together in the same dish?
Plenty, if you come from Hyderabad, Lucknow or Kolkata; not much if you live elsewhere.
Some of the best biryani I have eaten has been prepared by a Hyderabadi royal called Begum Kulsum.
She is married in Lucknow, but fiercely retains pride in the cooking of her childhood home.
Her Sufiana biryani is a deceptively simple dish, with none of the bright colouring that distinguishes most biryanis.
There was no meat, but the fragrance still remains with me.
The Hyderabadi biryani
Hyderabadi biryani is the ultimate test of a good cook.
It is traditionally made with uncooked, marinated lamb or beef.
It is layered at the bottom of a pan with rice in various stages of 'doneness' -- the topmost is more pre-cooked than the rice nearest the meat which is only 25 percent cooked.
The point is to have perfectly cooked meat with flavourful rice, preferably in the same dish, although there are some versions of biryani in which the two ingredients are browned and cooked separately.
That, to me, is cheating.
Biryani aficionados can tell whether both have been cooked together or separately.
How? I'd love to know that. But I can't.
The Lucknowi biryani
Lucknowi biryani is made from stock, and not water.
The meat is first sautéed and then cooked separately. The rice is later cooked in the same stock.
This precludes the concept of Kachhe Ghosht ke biryani.
I have noticed that while Hyderabadi biryani has top notes and middle notes, Lucknowi biryani owes its success to a homogenous blend of spices, so that no single one predominates.
When cooks from the Nawab's kitchen fled to Kolkata post 1857, they set up an extension of their home style of cooking in a Lucknow-meets-Bengal school.
Metia Burj is now too grimy for words, and it is hard to believe that it is the place where Kolkata's own style of biryani sprang from.
Kolkata biryani is far spicier than its other country cousins, and distinguishes itself (if that is the right word) by its use of potatoes.
Purists wince at whole, skinned potatoes in biryani, but there is no denying that the humble spud takes on all the nuances of flavour in the stock.
I see little point in the rice. Why not just have meat and potatoes?
Surely, two forms of starch in the same dish is overdoing it?
Haji Ghulam Dastgir in Metia Burj makes biryani on order.
Though his ancestors were from Lucknow, robustness rather than delicacy defines his product.
His advantage is that he does the Kolkata variety, too.
Sonargaon at Taj Bengal does an authentic Kachhe Ghosht ke biryani, as do most ITC Welcomgroup properties.
There's no doubt, though, that the best biryani is served at a Muslim wedding.
Phone: Haji Ghulam Dastgir: (033) 2469 8243