Sunday, January 25, 2015

Evolution of Biryani

Evolution of Biryani
journey of biryani from Asia to North America ........

Biryani is derived from the Persian word 'Birian'. It is a spicy rice and meat dish which is cooked by putting layers of rice , meat , tomatoes , fried onions and spices and sprinkled with food color .It is quite popular in the sub continent and it's believed that it was first introduced in India during the Mughal reign , it could have come from Persia via Afghanistan to North India. During Mogul empire, Lucknow was known as Awadh, giving rise to Awadhi Biryani. In 1856, British deposed Nawab Wajid Ali Shah in Calcutta, giving rise to Calcutta Biryani. Aurangzeb installed Nizam-ul-mulk as the ruler of Hyderabad, as well as a 'Nawab of Arcot' to oversee Aaru Kaadu region (Six Forrests) south of Hyderabad. These moves gave rise to Hyderabadi Biryani and Arcot Biryani. The aroma of Biryani spread to Mysore by Tipu Sultan . It was a royal dish for Nawabs and Nizams. They hired vegetarian Hindus who cooked the "no meat biryani " often with eggs.
History of Biryani dates back to the 1800s yet there are many legends associated with this dish .
One legend has it that Timor, brought it down from Kazakhstan via Afghanistan to Northern  India. According to another legend, Mumtaz Mahal (the beauty who sleeps in Taj Mahal) concocted this dish as a "complete meal" to feed the army. Yet, some say the dish really originated in West Asia. The Nomads would burry an earthen pot full of meat, rice and spices in a pit, eventually the pot was dug up after some time .........the pot contained the rich aroma of spices and the well cooked layers of rice and meat .

Every culture and every civilization left it's own trade mark on "biryani".Turkish Pilaf with mild spices and nuts cooked in Turkey , Qubolie pilau in Iran ,Malaysian Biryani and Indonesian Biryani and Sindhi and Bambaiya Biryani and Kashmiri Yakhni Biryani in the subcontinent .

The year 1969 evolved another segment in Biryani Saga ......Student Biryani or Student Cafe which in due course of time turned into a popular Pakistani food chain that is best known for selling its trademark biryani dish, called "Student Biryani."
Apart from having branches in Karachi, Lahore and many other cities  throughout the country, Student Biryani has also expanded to Dubai.The first Student Biryani store was opened in the Saddar area of Karachi by Haji Mohammed Ali , the business is now run by his sons and grandsons .

Student Biryani is a variant of the Bombay Biryani. Bombay Biryani is characterized by the use of dry plums and potatoes in the recipe. The unique taste of student biryani rice remain the use of black cardamom and black cumin seed and a unique masala blend. The recipe of student biryani has never been replicated.

A less spicy version of student biryani was available in the 90`s at Naubahar fast food, saddar, Karachi.
It is highly unlikely that a " Karachi wala " has never eaten Students Biryani .

As many Pakistanis have settled in the Middle East , they took their cuisine with them . Students Biryani was introduced in Dubai in the late 80s or early 90s.

The vast immigration of Indians and Pakistanis to Europe and North America helped with the introduction of their cuisine in the suburbs of London , New York , Toronto and many other cities . There are many Desi restaurants all across the globe serving some South Indian  delicacies like Balti Gosht , Biryani ,Tandoori Chicken and chapli kebabs.

City of New York is termed as the melting pot of various cultures . It is believed that close to 400 various dialects and languages are spoken in the neighborhood of Jackson Heights, NY which is the largest " Desi Corridor " of North America .

It is in the city of New York little far from Jackson Height much closer to midtown Manhattan stands a " Biryani Khoka " . Khoka is like a small street cart where Biryani cooked in a huge iron pot or 'degh'is served and people stand or sit around the cart to eat it.It started as a small business which has expanded to few other locations in the city .
When I read about the Biryani Cart in NY near 6th ave and 46th street,I got very excited that my favorite dish Biryani has made its journey to United States and it is sold out of a Biryani Cart. Ironically Biryani Cart was started by a Bangladeshi American Meruj Kumar . Chicken,Goat and Vegetable Biryani is served here along with yogurt and chutney.Kati Rolls and Tandoori Chicken is also sold at the NY Biryani Cart.It is quite popular around town and was also nominated for the "Vendy Award" several times . Vendy Awards are NY street vendors awards .
I personally have eaten at this street side khoka once or twice . The food is pretty good , may not be exactly like the one served along the Student Biryani Khoka in Bohri Bazzar neighborhood of Karachi but Biryani and Kati rolls served at the biryani cart will definitely bring back many old memories .
On a lighter note it gives you great pleasure looking at all the " Gora Amreekis " enjoying your cuisine while standing around the cart ........only thing different is snow on the ground in Manhattan instead of the afternoon heat wave of the subcontinent ........