A Step-by-Step Guide to the Hyderabadi Biryani of your Dreams
Having biryani for dinner or lunch always excites me. It is rather amazing that there are several, equally delicious, variations of this classic meal. Hyderabadi biryani recently landed on my hit list and blew all other varieties out of the water. The toothsome taste, the aroma of saffron and the delightful presentation inevitably overpowered my senses. I wondered about the great minds behind the creation of this dish and paid them a silent homage by digging into serving after serving.
Intrigued by the newly discovered flavor, I ventured deeper into the world of biryani to know more about its origin. I wanted to know more about the spices and the techniques behind popular variations.
The facts about the exact origin of biryani are buried underneath a multitude of theories. Some historians speak of its Persian roots, and that it was brought to India by the Muslim ruler Taimur in the 14th century. Other versions attribute it to Mumtaz Mahal, who on finding her soldiers undernourished commanded the preparation of a well-balanced dish which turned out to be a biryani. The variations in biryani came about based on the palates of various rulers. The famous Hyderabadi biryani was introduced by the Nizam-ul-Mulk whose cooks were acknowledged as the culinary artists of that era. It was believed that they experimented with 150 versions of biryani by taking in multiple varieties of meat such as mutton, lamb, quail, beef, chicken, and deer. The present-day legendary Hyderabadi Biryani is the evolution of these experiments.
When finally done with digging around the history, I next explored the variations in the spices and the cooking methods that are the hallmark of each particular biryani. I compared Sindhi, Mughlai and Hyderabadi Biryani.
The game of spices for all these three biryanis is more or less similar. The basic difference that I found lies in the preparation method and pouring of different aromatic liquids whilst steaming rice.
The Mughlai biryani is as royal as its name. It is fully loaded with the pungent spices along with a mild tangy flavor of yogurt. What makes it unique is the slightly nutty taste which is a result of almond paste used in the marination. The rich flavors of the spices and marinated meat pleasantly transformed the plain boil rice in something we can call ambrosial. The aroma of lastly sprinkled kewra in dum is enough to permeate the entire house and act as a magnet to bring the entire family in the dining hall beforehand the dinner time.
The Sindhi biryani is a perfect pick if you look for satisfying a sudden upsurge craving for biryani in a short span of time. It takes less preparation time and comparatively can be cooked in a relaxed manner. The roots of Sindhi biryani are identified in our Sindh province. The use of potatoes and plums are the hallmark of this particular biryani. The tangy flavor of plums and yogurt, the potatoes steeped in the blend of spices, the mints and green chilies all render it a picante taste that is undoubtedly particular to Sindh.
The Hyderabadi biryani, a cuisine of Nawabs, calls for a similar protocol the way Nawabs had, while preparation. It requires ample cooking time with a meticulous cookery method. Traditionally earthen pots were used to cook it. The raw marinated meat goes straight to the pot with the layers of half cooked rice and saffron milk on the top. Rest is done by the steam. The end result is just awe-inspiring. The juicy tender steamed cooked meat along with spicy rice, and saffron aroma all makes it a perfect feast for our taste buds.
Ingredients for marination
Mutton 1 1/2 kg
Salt – as per taste
Red chilli powder 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder 1 tsp
Ginger & garlic paste 3 tbsp
Cinnamon sticks 3-4
Caraway seeds 1 tsp
Green cardamom powder 1 tsp
Black pepper powder 1 tsp
Green chillies 8-10
Papaya Paste 1tbsp
Coriander leaves 1 big bunch
Mint leaves 1 big bunch
Deep fried onions 1 cup
Oil 2 tbsp
Garam masala powder 1 tsp
Yogurt 3 cups
Lemon juice 1 tbsp
For the Rice
Rice 1.25 kg
Salt to taste
Cinnamon sticks 2
Green cardamoms 2-3
Caraway seeds 1 tsp
Black peppercorn 3-4
Water to cook rice
Lemon juice 1 tbsp
Steaming & Seasoning
Oil (to coat the base) 2-3 tbsp
Saffron flavored milk 1/4 cup
Coriander leaves 2 tbsp (chopped for garnishing)
Mint leaves 2 tbsp (chopped for garnishing)
Fried onions 2 tbsp (crushed for garnishing)
Ghee 1 tbsp
Edible oil 2 tbsp
Lemon juice 2 tbsp
Procedure for marinating mutton:
Take a bowl and add in the mutton, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, and ginger garlic paste. Subsequently add caraway seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, black pepper powder, and cardamom powder. Mix it thoroughly. Now add paste (3 tablespoons) of green chillies, coriander leaves, papaya paste (optional) and mint leaves paste and mix well. Lastly, add the garam masala powder, crushed fried onions, and oil into it and mix it well. Leave this marinated meat in the refrigerator for about 3 hours.
Right after 3 hours, take out the meat and add in the yogurt along with the lemon juice. Mix it well and put aside for 2 more hours.
Procedure for Cooking Rice:
Once the mutton is marinated for 3 hours, soak the rice in water for about 40 minutes.
In the meantime, take a large cooking pot and add water into it. Add salt along with the whole spices such as cloves, cinnamon, caraway seeds, cardamom, and black pepper. Bring the water to a boil. Now add soaked rice into it. Let them cook until they are done 70%. Now strain the rice.
Procedure for the seasoning and steaming:
Take a large cooking pot and coat the base well with the oil. Add the whole marinated mutton to the bottom. Now add the boiled rice all over it. Put some water or milk over the rice and top it with the saffron flavored milk.
For seasoning, spread the coriander and mint leaves, crushed fried onions and ghee for fragrance. Then add little oil all over the rice; it will prevent them from getting dry. Lastly, add the lemon juice all over the rice.
Now seal the lid of the cooking pot firmly with the help of wheat dough. Also, do not forget to place a skillet below the cooking pot whilst giving dum. The total duration for the dum is 1 hour; initially keep the flame high for about 15-20 minutes and then slow down it and continue the dum for more 40 minutes.