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History of Meat Biryani

Discuss about the Food History of India.

Indian cuisine consists of a variety of traditional and modern dishes exclusively prepared in different local and urban areas of India. Depending on the culture, population type, climate and employment, the dishes vary with change in region (Fieldhouse 2013, p. 75). Religious choices also affect pattern in Indian cooking and the Indian cuisine is also influenced by Middle Eastern culture after the advent of Mughal rule. The history of the Indian biryani is also linked to the Mughal era. The purpose of the report is to provide the history of origin of the Indian food, meat biryani. It traces the diversity of Indian cuisine by observing the different recipes of the dish. It will help in analyzing the regional variation of the recipes and find common ingredients which are mainly used in preparing biryani in India. The main objective is to trace the history of each ingredients used while cooking the dish and the report discusses the cultural influences on the dish.

Biryani is a popular dish among the Indian subcontinent consisting of rich spices, meat and rice. Although it is regarded as a dish native to India, however the dish came to India after the Muslims invasion into India. The word ‘Biryani’ itself is derived from Persian word called ‘Birian’. The Islamic Persians have also popularized the dish and inspired Indian people to include it in their cuisine. There is great controversy and argument regarding the history of the dish. Indian biryani is mostly regarded as a Mughlai cuisine as it was first cooked in the Mughal royal kitchen. After Muslims invasion into India such as coming of Afghans, Turks, Mughal and Persians, they indulged in rich foods and brought many dishes to India. The Mughals are regarded as the one who introduced biryani in India (Narayanan, 2015). However Paddock (2015, pp. 22-40) also argues that similar type of dish was present in India before the Mughals came to India. For example a rice dish called ‘Oon Soru’ was regarded as similar to biryani as it also has similar ingredients like rice, meat, pepper and bay leaf. This dish was prepared for military warriors in the year 2 A.D.

Famous historian Al-Beruni has also mentioned in his accounts description of dishes that are similar to the biryani. The history of biryani is also traced to the time of Turk-Mongol conqueror, Timur who brought a dish similar to the biryani in 1398. The dish was prepared specially for his army preparing for war. A mixture of rice, meat and spices were cooked in earthen pot after burying it in a hot pit. After it was cooked properly, the preparation was dug up and served to the soldiers.  Historical stories also trace the origin of the dish to Shah Jahan’s queen, Mumtaz Mahal’s time during the year 1593-1631. The story goes that the queen once found the army soldiers under-nourished, and hence she ordered her chef to prepare a well-nourished dish. In this way, the biryani came into being (Ahmed 2012, pp. 95-103).

Different Recipes of the Dish

The Nawabs and Diwans were also renowned for understanding the nuances of flavours and aromas of biryani. Their chefs prepared the biryani according to the Nawab’s preference of dishes and it lead to popularization of biryani along with other delicacies like the mirchi ka salan and kawab. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was the reason behind the creation of unique style of Calcutta biryani and it happened after the Nawab was deposed by British to Kolkata. The Nawab’s ruling in small territories of Northern India also contributed to the introduction of regional style of Biryanis like Hyderabadi Biryani and the Arcot biryani (ALAM 2015).

India has a variety of dishes in its culinary list, however people mostly love to to indulge in biryani. With different states and different locations, the dish has evolved over the years and it is made in distinct styles according to food culture of different states. The strength of the biryani lies in its balance of spices and aromas to give a delicious dish which is a symbol of a strong Indian cuisine. The list of different recipes for biryani includes the following:

Hyderabadi Biryani- This Biryani available in the streets of Hyderabad has its own authentic flavour and style of cooking. Hyderabadi Biryani came into origin during the governance of Asaf Jah I who was the governor of Deccan during Aurangeb’s rule. It is made with chicken or goat’s meat where the marinated with huge spices like  and cooked with rice on slow fire to get an aromatic flavour (Anand 2012).

Kolkata biryani- This biryani is inspired by the Lucknow style of cooking biryani. When the last Nawab of Awadh, Wajid Ali Shah was in exile in Kolkata in 1856, his personal chef cooked this dish for him. The distinction between Hyderabadi and Kolkata biryani is that Kolkata’s biryani also has an additional ingredient of potatoes. Initially, poor people who could not afford meat cooked the biryani with potatoes instead of meat, however potato later became a speciality for biryani of Kolkata. The primary spices include cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom mixed in yoghurt based preparation for meat. The rice is cooked separately with saffron aromas and the meat is added later after the rice is cooked which gives it a distinct local flavor ("Ten Delicious And Different Styles Of Indian Biryani" 2016).

Awadhi biryani- Awadhi biryani is the native style of making biryani in Lucknow. The cooking style in this region is influenced by the Mughal cooking techniques and cooking pattern of Middle East and Central Asia. The cooks of this region introduced the dum style of cooking biryani which involves cooking meat and rice over a slow fire for one hour. The parboiled rice is cooked in water containing cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and other spices is layered with cooked meat curry and then cooked according to dum style of cooking to make the dish complete ("Ten Delicious And Different Styles Of Indian Biryani" 2016).

Common Ingredients in Biryani and History of Each Ingredients

Malabar Biryani- The Malabar biryani is a distinct South Indian version of biryani cooked in Kerala. It is mostly consumed by muslim community of Malabar region. The specialty of this biryani is selection of a type of rice called Khyma and other key ingredients include chicken and spices like raisin, cloves, cinnamon, tomato, ginger, garlic, tomato, shallot and onions. In this regions also, the dum style is applied for cooking the biryani (Mangalassary 2016, pp. 119-134).

Dindigul Biryani- Another specialized version of South Indian biryani came from the town of Dindigul in Tamil Nadu. It has its unique tangy taste due to the addition of curd and lemon juice in the preparation. In some regions, extra flavour is also given by adding a lot of tomatoes in the biryani (Mangalassary 2016, pp. 119-134).

The delicious biryani results after a balance of ingredients and spices are cooked according a specific cooking technique. The most traditional method is the ‘dum pukht’ style of cooking biryani and the steam works to tenderize the meat and add flavors to the rice. Apart from main ingredient of meat or chickens, a good flavored biryani is dished out after combining it with Indian spices. The list of ingredient differs according to different culture and geographical locations. The common ingredients in almost all biryani include cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and mace to add aromas and other spices for flavors like ginger, garlic, mint leaves, coriander leaves and bay leaves (Pandey 2015).

Cardamom is a spice which is used both in sweet and savory dishes and its origin is traced to India, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Finland. The cardamom seeds give a strong flavor to the dish and the flavor blends perfectly with ingredients like meats in biryani. The spice also complements well with other spices like ginger, pepper, cinnamon, saffron and cloves. Historical accounts of ancient medicines by Charaka also mentions about the spices. Kerala was the key trader of cardamom spices who sold it to merchants and exported them in foreign markets (Kodali et al. 2015, pp. 1173-1177) 

The use of cinnamon is traced back to 2000 B.C. when Egyptians used it for embalming. Arab traders also popularized its use and the use of this expensive spice was regarded as a status symbol in Europe. It was also used to preserve meat during winter months. Many traders started exploring the actual sources of the spice and the Portuguese traders claimed they discovered the spice in Ceylon around 1518. While the Cassia cinnamon has a strong flavor, the Ceylon Cinnamon has a mild flavour best for baking cakes (Jansen 2015).

The nutmeg is useful for its medicinal properties. It is evident from the writings of Pliny when the spice was used in the 1st century and Indian historical writings recommend it is useful to cure fever and headaches. In the ancient times, the spice was very expensive and not affordable by all, however now it is widely used in Indian cuisine (Queenborough et al. 2013, pp. 67-78).

Mace is crimson colored spice giving a delicate flavor to dishes. It is generally added first while cooking too develop its flavor and that is why it is added in the biryani rice while the rice is boiling to give it a flavor. Mace is derived from nutmeg and Roman author Pliny first mentions about the spice by stating it a tree bearing nuts with flavors. Arabs merchants also sold this spices to Constantinople and the spice finally came to India when the British East India Company came to India (Queenborough et al. 2013, pp. 67-78).

The clove is the spice native to the Malucca Islands and it was once a treasured possession for the Romans. The Chinese used it to avoid bad breath. The Dutch who found the spice in 1605 wanted to monopoly on clove trade by destroying all trees which sprouted in areas which were not under their rule. This practice was strongly opposed as traditionally the tree was planted on the birth of a child and destroying the tree was regarded as destruction for that child too (Kadir 2014).

The historical analysis of the history of origin of biryani reveals that although it is regarded as a culinary dish indigenous to India, however biryani came to India mainly by the Muslim invaders who entered India. Similar kind of dish was also reported to made before the Mughal rule, however it cannot be denied that the Indian biryani is inspired the specific taste and flavour of Persian and Mughal rulers.

From the detailed analysis of the history of origin of biryani in India and the diverse recipes of cooking biryani, one can interpret each region’s cooking style and choice of ingredient is dependent on the culture of that region. While Timur brought the dish to India and was inspired by Persian style of cooking, Mumtaz Mahal’s story revealed that the dish was invented in the quest of providing a balanced meal to feed under-nourished army. The history of meat biryani is also traced to West Asia when a pot full of meat, rice and spices was cooked inside a pit. After the transition of the dish from one place to another, the influence of different culture has led to the evolution of different versions of Biryani (Kumari and Jagbir 2015).

Among the vast recipes of Biryani currently available in India, this section discusses few of them to determine the influence of different culture on the dish. The Kashmiri biryani is influenced by the mixture of culture of Kashmiri pundits and the Afghan and the Persian culture. The Kashmiri biryani initially named as ‘Kashmiri Katche Gosht ki Biryani’ was cooked in Kashmir after Mughal emperors frequently visited the state. Kashmiris add a lot of asfoetida in their Biryani as this ingredient is widely available in Kashmir (Mangalassary 2016, pp. 119-134). The Awadhi Biryani was influenced by Mughal culture as when Mughal rulers ruled in Awadh between 1800 to 1900. This Biryani is most popular in North India due to its efficient blend of all flavors and spices. The use of potatoes especially in Kolkata is also influenced by geographical location and culture and potatoes were added in biryanis as poor people could not afford meat. However, the skinned potatoes in biryani became widely accepted by people and it gave a new flavour to the stock. In the same way, the Hyderabadi biryani was influenced by Nizams and Nawab and their culture reflects in the cooking style of Hyderabadi biryani too (Sinha 2015, pp. 56-70). 

Conclusion

Hence the investigation into tracing the history of meat biryani reveals that ioodzt has been included in Indian cuisine inspired by Mughal and Persian culture. The Mughal rulers and Nawab had understood the nuances and flavour of the dish and ordered their chefs to dish out biryanis in India. Analysis of different recipes of biryani reveal that the cooking style and use of ingredients is highly influenced by local cultures and culinary preference of the local residents in the area.

Reference

Ahmed, Imtiaz. "Regionalism in South Asia: A Conceptual Note." Millennial Asia 3, no. 1 (2012): 95-103.

ALAM, UZMA. "The Foodscape." PhD diss., BRAC University, 2015.

Anand, Jaisree. "Tucking into the biryani: Hyderabadi style." Available at SSRN 2045991 (2012).

Fieldhouse, Paul. Food and nutrition: customs and culture. Springer, 2013, p. 75.

Jansen, E. R. M. "The spice of life." (2015).

Kadir, Hatib Abdul. "History of the Moluccan’s Cloves as a Global Commodity." Kawalu Journal of Local Cultures 1, no. 2 (2014).

Kodali, Ravi Kishore, and Anupama Muraleedhar. "WSN in spice cultivation." In Green Computing and Internet of Things (ICGCIoT), 2015 International Conference on, pp. 1173-1177. IEEE, 2015.

Kumari, Rewa, and Jagbir Rehal. "Geographical indications: A Tool for Indian traditional food industry." Journal of Progressive Agriculture 6, no. 2 (2015): 1-4.

Mangalassary, Sunil. "Indian Cuisine—The Cultural Connection." InIndigenous Culture, Education and Globalization, pp. 119-134. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2016.

Narayanan, Divya. "Cultures of Food and Gastronomy in Mughal and post-Mughal India." (2015).

Paddock, Jessica. "Invoking simplicity:‘Alternative’food and the reinvention of distinction." Sociologia Ruralis 55, no. 1 (2015): 22-40.

Pandey, Vinita. "Changing Facets of Hyderabadi Tehzeeb: Are we missing anything?." Space and Culture, India 3, no. 1 (2015): 17-29.

Queenborough, Simon A., Pierre Michel Forget, and Sabrina Russo. "Adding spice to life: A special issue on the Myristicaceae." American Journal of Botany 94 (2013): 67-78.

Sinha, Dheeraj. "Many Indias Make One India." In India Reloaded, pp. 56-70. Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2015.

"Ten Delicious And Different Styles Of Indian Biryani". 2016. Walkthroughindia.Com. https://www.walkthroughindia.com/cuisines/ten-delicious-and-different-styles-of-indian-biryani/.

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