Did you know? These are the different types of biryani in Hyderabad

Allama Aijaz Farruq, the author of the book ‘Matbakh-e-Asifia’ (The Asif Jahi Kitchens), says “Biryani is biryani only if it is Hyderabadi, and all other variations without the actual Hyderabadi flavour are pulao.”

By Syed Khaled Shahbaaz  Published on  28 Jan 2023 4:30 AM GMT
Did you know? These are the different types of biryani in Hyderabad

Hyderabad: “Hyderabadi biryani aur Gandipet ka paani” goes a popular saying in Hyderabad. The mere mention of biryani sets the taste buds flowing and the mind is filled with images of the long-grained rice mixed with pieces of meat and aromatic spices. But did you know that most ingredients used in biryani—the rice, the many different spices, curd—did not originate in India? Or that it isn’t biryani but pulao if it’s not made the Hyderabadi way? Nonetheless, this world-famous delicacy has a strong influence of Irani and Moghal spices but has acquired a distinct Hyderabadi flavor.

The origins of biryani may well be traced to Persia, but it was during the reign of the fourth Nizam of Hyderabad, Nasir ud Dowlah Asif Jah IV, that biryani found its way to Hyderabad. Nasir ud Dowlah saw it as an easy mix of rice and meat to fulfill the nutritional requirements of his army on the move. Over the years, the scrumptious dish attained maturity and popularity, particularly during the times of the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Mehboob Ali Khan. Since then, biryani grew in variety and popularity in Hyderabad Deccan and is now one of the most loved dishes in India.

Allama Aijaz Farruq, the author of the book ‘Matbakh-e-Asifia’ (The Asif Jahi Kitchens), says “Biryani is biryani only if it is Hyderabadi, and all other variations without the actual Hyderabadi flavour are pulao.” No wedding or get-together is complete without biryani on the menu. The Old City of Hyderabad is a hub of eateries that dish out at least a dozen different types of biryanis. While a lot depends on the cooking process, the proportions of spices, meat, and rice, their chronology, and the type of gosht selected, the authentic Hyderabadi biryani uses Amritsari rice and nearly 300 grams of pure ghee for a kilo of rice, siyah zeera (shah jeera), cloves, cardamom, yogurt, and the choicest selection of saffron and meat. Once cooked, it is served with two accompaniments—Mirch ka Salan and Dahi ki Chutney.

From a small roadside booth to a five-star hotel, from dine-in and take-aways to online orders, biryani is one of the most sought-after foods. In fact, biryani was the most-ordered dish in India according to the Swiggy 2022 report. Let’s take a look at the different types of biryanis, as we know them.

Kachchi Biryani: Originally known as ‘Kham Biryani’, the Kacchi biryani or Kacchi Akhni ki biryani is one of Hyderabad’s most popular biryani type. It is cooked with tender meat marinated in yogurt for a few hours and mixed with spices, fried onion, and lemon juice added as a garnish. The rice is semi-cooked and arranged in layers with the marinated mixture. When the dish is almost ready, it is garnished with mint leaves and fried onion. According to Aijaz Farruq, the Kachchi Akhni ki biryani originated in the kitchens of the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Nawab Mir Mehboob Ali Khan. Today, it is the most popular type of briyani.

Pakki Akhni Ki Biryani: This biryani is the same as Kachchi biryani, except that the marinated mutton is cooked separately and layered with Basmati rice. Fried onions and mint leaves are added as a garnish.

Rumi Biryani: Known popularly these days as ‘Sufiyani Biryani,’ this type of biryani gets its name from its achromatic appearance. The Sufiyani biryani is comparatively less spicy and whitish due to the use of milk and khoya. It doesn’t use colours or saffron. Since recently, this is seen in Hyderabadi weddings as an alternate type of biryani and is particularly popular with people who love biryani sans the usual spice.

Dulhan Biryani: Another type of biryani that was popular in Hyderabad of yesteryears was Dulhan biryani. It is seldom heard or seen in any Hyderabadi weddings and almost never heard of in any restaurant now. It is otherwise popular as the smoke-coal flavor of biryani and uses the strong fragrance of edible Musk.

Murgh Biryani: Known popularly as ‘Chicken Biryani,’ its original recipe was made using desi murgh of uniform age and size to maintain coherence in texture and taste and uniformity while cooking. The process of making chicken biryani is similar to Kachchi Mutton biryani except that mutton is replaced by chicken and cooked according to its tenderness. Today, chicken biryani is a huge favorite among people of all age groups, particularly those who prefer tender-cooked chicken over mutton. It is available at almost every other biryani store in Old City as well as in the new city of Hyderabad and beyond.

Fish Biryani: As the name suggests, ‘Machli Biryani,’ known popularly as fish biryani, replaces chicken or mutton with, well, fish. The cooking process is quite similar. While the rice and spices used mostly remain the same, the fish is separately fried and added to the biryani rice. Caramelised onion and cashew nuts are added as a garnish.

Chane Ki Biryani: Otherwise known as ‘Qubooli,’ Chane ki Biryani is incredibly popular in the Old City of Hyderabad and is particularly cooked in most households during Moharram. One of the dominating ingredients in this type of biryani is chana daal. Some food joints near Darul Shifa in the Old City of Hyderabad make this biryani around the year.

Do Pyaza Biryani: Also known as Patli (juicy) biryani, this biryani gets its name from the two different types of onions used in the making process. It is rich in gravy, has more cooked (not fried) onion, and is rare to find these days. The recipe dates back to the times of the sixth Nizam, once again.

Mehboobi Biryani: This particular type of biryani was a particular favorite of the sixth Nizam Mir Mehboob Ali Khan, hence the moniker.

Zafraani Biryani: Known for its dominating fragrance of Zafraan (saffron), this type of biryani more or less forms the base for all types of biryanis with Saffron as an ingredient. According to Farruq, the asli Zafraan used for such dishes cost nearly Rs. 10,000 per tola. Most restaurateurs and party chefs use saffron which is available for one-tenth of this price in most restaurants today.

Dhepe Ki Biryani: This is not an entirely different type of biryani, it’s just served differently. Some connoisseurs love a particular serving of biryani where the serving is dominated by a mix of meat and cooked meat, often extensively draped in cooked spices. Seasoned connoisseurs and old timers especially ask for this type of biryani. If you ask for it, the ‘ustaad’ (the cook) will happily dish it out for you at most biryani joints and even Hyderabadi weddings.

Double Gosht Ki Biryani: This type of biryani uses two parts of meat with one part of rice, hence the name. Similarly, with the varying proportions of meat used, Teen Goshta Biryani and Char Goshta Biryani, corresponding to three and four parts of meat respectively, were also prepared in the old times.

Kalyani Biryani: This is Beef biryani usually made with regular rice and available for nearly half the price of mutton or chicken biryani. It is available in the Old City of Hyderabad in particular and is also known to be available in parts of Maharashtra or Karnataka states. Some food joints also serve this dish cooked with Basmati rice.

Veg Biryani: This type of biryani originated in Hyderabad relatively recently, but it is incredibly popular among the southern states of India and the Telugu diaspora across the world. It has all the ingredients of a mutton biryani except that fried vegetables are used instead of mutton. It is available at different South Indian restaurants and also as an inflight meal in most airlines.

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