Food & Drink

Evolution of Biryani, a culinary masterpiece which transformed with India’s history

For many of us, biryani is an emotion. If you have biryani that day, it means that you have had a good time. However, this most loved dish in India, has its own story of origin, and was shaped by different cultures over time. Muslim invaders like Turks, Arabs, Persians, and Afghans introduced feasts to India, giving birth to Mughlai cuisine from the 15th to the 19th century. The Mughals turned cooking into an art form, bringing us famous dishes like biryani. A culinary masterpiece shaped by India’s history, biryani blends diverse cultural influences. From Mughlai roots to regional variations, explore how the evolution of biryani in India happened from royal extravagance to a cherished part of India’s culinary tapestry.

Even though biryani is linked to the Mughals, there were similar rice dishes before them. A Tamil dish called “Oon Soru” from 2 A.D. had rice, ghee, meat, turmeric, coriander, pepper, and bay leaf for warriors. Al-Biruni, a traveller and historian, explored some rice dishes before the Mughals. But biryani became popular through Islamic Persians. The word “biryani” comes from the Persian “birian,” meaning “fried before cooking.”

Some say biryani started in Iran. Another story connects it to Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan’s queen who inspired the Taj Mahal. She wanted a special dish for nutrition, leading to biryani. When the British moved Nawab Wajid Ali Shah to Kolkata, Calcutta biryani was born. Nizams in Northern India added their touch with Hyderabadi biryani and Arcot Nawab biryani. Mughal biryani recipes are still found where their empire reached. From a royal treat, the evolution of biryani in India became a common dish, reflecting local tastes.

Despite the many names and variations, biryani is one food which we can never get bored of. From Hyderabadi biryani to Calcutta Biryani, India’s rich and diverse food culture always takes us in awe.

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