Thursday, April 12, 2007
There is an Indian dish that has been lauded through the ages,
one that each Indian gourmet will swear is unattainable except
in a certain part of a certain city in India. The cities most often
mentioned in this context are varied - Bombay, Hyderabad and
Kashmir, etc. with an occasional mention of Poona/Pune by
those seasoned travelers who claim to be 'in the know'.
Just as there are those who swear by their New York, Neapolitan,
Sicilian or Chicago Pizza, so it is with Biryani. Opinions about
this dish and its worldwide incarnations are varied and frequently
Wikipedia, if it is to be trusted, says the Hyderabadi version
is the most popular in Southern Asia but also mentions Iraqi, Thai,
Burmese and Pakistani variations. Naturally no one particular version
can claim to be the best since the whole experience is tied to the
individual palate; if there is one thing that all the gourmets seem to agree
on, it's that this is a dish to be served only on very special occasions.
So the headliner on the menu at South Asian weddings, Birthdays,
VIP receptions, etc., is almost always Biryani or a variation of it.
Nothing else seems to fit the bill (speaking in a non-veg context here).
The same dish respectfully offered to satisfy the palates of the Mughals
also thrived under the British Raj and beyond.
There are thousands of Food Blogs that will describe meals like this
in glowing terms while providing the recipe, so I will refrain from using
terms like 'succulent', 'slow-roasted' or 'intensely aromatic' and I will
only say one thing about the ingredients : there are the standard Asian
spices, with Saffron showing up more often than not, and either
Chicken, Mutton, Shrimp or Vegetables all layered with long-grain Rice
( preferably Basmati).
My favorite Biryani is the Irani version which includes Potatoes
and Yogurt, the kind I grew up on from Dorabjees in Pune.
I set out with this post to offer a review about Dorabjees' Biryani but
a little research led me to this excellent page by different authors about
Pune Restaurants at Virtual Tourist.com. Someone had written a rave
review as I might have written it years ago ! Just goes to show how the
traditional method of preparation remains virtually unchanged through
the ages. End of post, except I'd like to leave you with a few
Biryani Links :
The Cooks Cottage
My favorite Blogger from Pune who writes, photographs and cooks
all in her own unique style.
Once Upon a Feast
Features a Mughlai Lamb Biryani recipe by world-renowned Chef,
Author and Actress Madhur Jaffrey
Gits Vegetable Biryani Mix
Marketed by Mukhtar Tejani, a classmate from my old school and
college days, this is for those folks who are in a hurry or intrigued
enough to attempt this somewhat non-traditional approach. I like to
think of Gits as the leader in worldwide distribution of Pune in a packet.