What is Biryani?

Learn About This Indian Food

You may have heard the word biryani floating around when it comes to Indian food. What is biryani?

A world-renowned Indian dish, biryani takes time and practice to make but is worth every bit of the effort. Long-grained rice (like basmati) flavored with exotic spices such as saffron is layered with lamb, chicken, fish, or vegetables cooked in a thick gravy. The dish is then covered, its lid sealed on with dough and the biryani is cooked on a low flame. This is definitely a special occasion dish.

What is Biryani? Types of Biryani

There are several main types of biryani, and they are also specific to a certain community. Here are just a few of them:

  • Sindhi biryani: The exotic and aromatic type of biryani is popular in Pakistan and known for its spicy taste, fragrant rice, and delicate meat. It is made with meat and Basmati rice, vegetables and various types of spices. 
  • Hyderabadi biryani: This biryani is one of India's most popular types of biryani. It incorporates goat meat that is marinated and cooked along with the rice and has coconut/saffron seasonings. 
  • Malabar Biriyani: this is the only version of Biryani in Kerala, an Indian state. It is a popular dish eaten by the Malabar Muslim community and incorporates Khyma rice, which is mixed with ghee.
  • Calcutta/Kolkata biryani: This biryani mostly uses potatoes and eggs. It is much lighter spice wise, and only sometimes contains meat. The marinade is made of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and other spices, and the rice is flavored with ketaki or rose water and yellow in color.
  • Ambur biryani: This leather tanning city in Tamil Nadu makes one of the most famous types of biryani, and the town has more biryani shops than any other city in the world.
  • Lucknowi biryani: This type of biryani is based on a Persian cooking style so it uses the dum pukht method where the meat and gravy are only cooked partially and are then layered and served in a sealed handi. The spice profile is not as intense.
  • Mughlai biryani: This biryani is cooked with curd, chicken, almond paste, ghee, dry fruits, and green chilies, and has a rich flavor.
  • Kalyani biryani: Small chunks of buffalo meat go into this form of biryani, which is known as the "poor man's Hyderabadi biryani." It is rich and flavorful but does not include more expensive ingredients.