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Many flavours of biryani

Biryani could easily fit the description of a national dish, given that every state has its own variant, with a history to go with it. Here are a few iconic gems of this legendary dish
Types of biryani in India
Biryani is a dish with pan-Indian appeal. Image: Shutterstock

22 Types of biryani in India

Kashmiri Biryani

Characterised by its no-onion-no-garlic use, the Kashmiri Biryani is perhaps the brightest gem of the Kashmiri Hindu cuisine that finds a common resemblance to the biryani that arrived with Taimur. The Bhuna Ghost Ki Biryani, of course, is the more popular version these days. 

Gulezar biryani, Himachal Pradesh

One of the brilliant creations from Jahangir’s royal kitchen, it was an ode to Mehrunissa, who loved flowers and introduced the sherbet. Much like the Peshawari Biryani, which was high on dry fruits and not meat, Gulezar biryani was a recreation of the Valley of Flowers on the plate, and was slightly sweet in taste.

Shikampuri pilaf, Punjab

The gem from the House of Patiala, the Shikampuri pilaf is characterised by its succulent, dry fruit stuffed breast pieces.  

Sindhi biryani, Punjab

Sindhi biryani
The Sindhi biryani uses curd for sourness. Image: Shutterstock

The only biryani that uses curd for sourness, the Sindhi biryani was developed under the Abbasid Caliphs of Baghdad. Spicier than most regional brethren, the Sindhi biryani is the oldest member of this lexicon. 

Shahjahanabad biryani, Delhi

old delhi biryani
Old Delhi home-style biryani. Image courtesy: Osama Jalali

Often referred to as Dilli-6 Biryani, it was the variant popularised by Shah Jahan while building the city of Shahjahanabad, now Old Delhi. The biryani which would come from the kitchens of Agra was slow-cooked on the way in large brass and earthen pots before being finished on the grounds with a spice mix of turmeric, chillies, cumin, fresh coriander and rose water and served hot with fried onions.   

Qubooli, Delhi

Qubooli biryani
The vegetarian qubooli biryani, a favourite of Aurangzeb’s. Image: Shutterstock

Popular among the old settlers of Delhi, Qubooli was refined during the rule of Aurangzeb. A staunch vegetarian, Aurangzeb preferred biryani made with rice, Bengal gram, dried apricot, basil, almond and curd, made pukki style.  

Moradabadi biryani

Moradabadi biryani
The Moradabadi biryani is popular all over North India. Image: Shutterstock

Prepared with rich yakhni (mutton broth) in thick brassware, Moradabadi biryani still follows the rustic style of frying the rice before making the biryani.   

Doodhiya biryani, Rampur, Uttar Pradesh

Doodhiya biryani
Doodhiya biryani as imagined by Chef Vijay Thapliyal of The Lodhi, New Delhi

One of the champion dishes in Rampur cuisine, the Doodhiya biryani was the star dish at the first royal host table of Nawab Faizullah Khan. Known for its subtle flavour, it’s a fragrant dish made of lamb shanks and long-grained rice slow cooked over hours. 

Lucknowi biryani

Lucknowi dum pukht biryani. Image courtesy: Lucknowee/Impresario Restaurants

Based on the Persian style of cooking, the Lucknowi biryani is considered to be the original dum pukht style, subtly spiced and redolent of ittar, where the meat and rice are kept al dente. 

Kampuri biryani, Assam

Originating from the town of Kampur, this variant is cooked like pilaf where the meat is first cooked with peas, carrot, wild mushroom and other vegetables before the rice is mixed into this potpourri with cardamom and nutmeg. 

Memoni biryani, Gujarat

Similar to Sindhi Biryani, the Memoni biryani is usually prepared with lamb and less food colouring, and uses tomatoes to give it that extra tanginess. A House of Kathiawar speciality. 

Bhopali biryani

Less spicy than the Hyderabadi biryani, the Bhopal variation uses kewra or rose water to give this simply cooked biryani its flavour. 

Calcutta biryani

Kolkata biryani
Eggs and potatoes are a must in the Calcutta biryanis of today. Image: Shutterstock

Developed under Wajid Ali Shah during his exile, this variant is recognised for its subtle use of spices and the quintessential presence of egg. It also uses a combination of nutmeg, saffron and kewra to give it its signature aroma.  

Bombay biryani

What makes this biryani unique is the use of potatoes and the Ottoman pilaf style of cooking, which leaves the rice slightly sticky and moist. 

Hyderabadi biryani

The best example of blending Mughlai and Andhra culinary style, the Hyderabadi biryani is known for its unique blend of spices and the use of kaccha gosht. The vegetarian version here is called ‘Tahari’.

Kalyani biryani, Andhra Pradesh

The original beef biryani is made in typical Hyderabadi style from the Kalyani Nawabs of Bidar. The second biryani to use tomatoes. 

Malabar biryani, Kerala

Kozhikode biryani
A biryani in Kozhikode. Image: Shutterstock

Famous in Kozhikode, Thalassery and Malappuram regions of Kerala, this biryani is defined by the use of a unique variety of rice called khyma rice, cashew nuts and raisins.

Bhatkali biryani, coastal Karnataka

Low on spice, the Bhatkali biryani originated from the Nawayath Muslim community of Bhatkal. Made in the layer style, the biryani has meat cooked in curd and uses a lot of onions and green chillies.

Ambur biryani, Tamil Nadu

This is a biryani where the meat is soaked in curd before adding it to the rice, which imparts a unique taste to the dish, and is served with a sweet-sour eggplant gravy.

Beary biryani 

A speciality from the Muslim Community of Dakshina Kannada, it’s high on southern flavours and yet light to digest. 

Dindigul biryani, Tamil Nadu

Dindigul biryani
Spicy Dindigul biryani in Chennai. Image: Shutterstock

A favourite in Chennai, the highlight of this biryani is the use of jeera samba rice instead of basmati and cube-sized mutton pieces and a generous amount of pepper!

Sohitos, Rajasthan

Technically, this dish may not qualify as a biryani as it does not use rice in its preparation, but much like the popular haleem-biryani, this variant is made with mutton/pork and bajra. It’s a game cuisine speciality. 

Madhulika Dash

Known for her columns on food anthropology, Chefs’ Retreat and wellness-based experiential tables, Madhulika Dash has also been on the food panel of Masterchef India Season 4, a guest lecturer at IHM, and is currently part of the Odisha government’s culinary council.

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