The Story of Biryani

When people move, their food moves with them. Then a cuisine that was at one time foreign, becomes of the land.  But a cuisine is more than culture. It’s sustenance. It’s celebration too. But at one time in India, it meant war.

Let us explain. India has seen many invaders, many wars. Each time a new race invaded the country, along with them they brought their food, their cuisine.

It’s hard to say with complete certainty where Biryani came from. The word itself has its origins in Persian, so Iran, modern-day Persia has so far the most genuine claim to it. We can say for sure though that it was Muslim invaders that made it the food of feasts. Between the early 16th century and the 19th, was when Mughlai food evolved into what we know it be today. As one story goes, it was Mumtaz Mahal, the beloved queen, who instructed the palace cooks to to feed her hungry soldiers one day, and lo and behold, the Biryani!

Another story has it that it was Timur the Turkish conqueror, during his sojourn in India, who had his men bury earthen pots filled with rice, meat and spices into heated pits before being dug up and served.

But even before the Mughals and Timur, a lot earlier in the timeline, in Ancient India, there seems to have existed a similar dish of rice cooked with meat and and spices in ghee, but we can never say for sure. It was said to be called Oon Suru in Tamil.

Then we have the stories we all know well. The Hyderabadi Nizams and Lucknowi Nawabs employed their chefs to craft their signature biryanis. We say craft, because that’s exactly what it was, an art and a science. The perfect biryani required precise measurements and honed skills practiced over years.

In fact, such expert chefs were handed down from generation to generation as something akin to heirlooms. These family chefs were very well taken care of, and were afforded a life with great opulence.

So, how far will you go for your biryani?

If history has anything to tell us, it’s that whatever you do, don’t take your biryani lightly. We don’t 🙂




·           Oil : 1 cup

·           Green chilli : 5(slit)

·           Onion : 4 (thinly sliced)

·           Ginger paste: 2 tbsp.

·           Garlic paste: 2 tbsp.

·           Tomato : 2 (diced)

·           Fresh coriander leaves : 5 tbsp. (finely chopped)

·           Mint leaves : 20 (chopped)

·           Red chilli powder: 1 tbsp.

·           Garam masala powder: ½ tsp.

·           Lemon juice extracted out of 2 whole lemons

·           Curd : ½ cup

·           Salt to taste

·           Mutton : 750g

·           Rice: 2 ½ cups (Small grain, Zeera Samba) washed and soaked for 5 minutes.


1)     In a deep pot heat the oil. Add the green chillies and onions.

2)     Fry till onions turn golden brown.

3)     Now, add the ginger and garlic pastes. Fry for a minute.

4)     Add mutton pieces and fry for 6-8 minutes.

5)     Add the tomatoes, coriander, mint leaves, chilli powder, garam masala powder, lemon juice, curd and salt.

6)     Cook on a medium flame till the mutton is ¾ done.

7)     In a large pot, boil the water, add a few mint leaves. Add the rice and salt.

8)     Cook till the rice is 3/4th done. Strain and keep aside.

9)     Layer the rice on the prepared mutton khorma.

10)Cover and cook on a low flame, till the rice is done.

11)Serve with raita.


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