When a plate of Kolkata Biryani appears on a table, it evokes myriad sensations. There is nothing that a good plate of aromatic biryani cannot accomplish.
Don’t lie, this has you drooling. *Wipes drool off chin*
The which-biryani-is-better debate has almost always had casualties and continued into a full blown war. With regional biryani loyalists swearing by their delectable spiced rice and meat mixture, let me put an end to this once and for all. The winner? Kolkata biryani.
Before people start baying for my blood, I shall quickly put in my defense on the behalf of myself and other passionate Kolkata biryani lovers.
Styled after the Lucknow style biryani, Kolkata biryani with its beautiful Basmati rice exuding subtle aroma, flavoured meat, glistening egg and just a hint of sweetness encompasses within itself elements which spell sweet satiation. The king of the dish, apart from the perfectly cooked rice seasoned with rosewater and strands of saffron, is the humble spud. The love for aloo in the hearts of Bengalis has been well documented and with reason. Aloo is a staple in the Bengali household and the humble vegetable has quite the history which the indignant non-local should keep in mind when he digs up the aloo out of his biryani and stares at it incredulously.
When Awadh’s last Nawab, Wajid Ali Shah was exiled in 1856 to Kolkata, the connoisseur of good food and expensive tastes brought along his entourage of cooks. Meat could only be afforded by the affluent upper classes then, and as the recipe for the heavenly manna seeped into the other strata, they adopted it and added the filling aloo and eggs to replace meat. And there the spud has stayed due to its mass fan following. So you see its not just a yummy lunch, every mouthful is a burst of flavours, nostalgia and stories.
It’s hard to describe the golden aloo sitting atop the splendour of scented rice, tender meat and spices. Its golden crispy jacket is pierced to give way to gooey goodiness which melts in the mouth. The flavours are subtle unlike its Hyderabadi counterpart which puts your tongue on fire.
You don’t have to numb your tongue to enjoy Kolkata biryani. Keep the Hyderabadi biryani aside for the fire-breathers.
Kolkata biryani spells subtle, elegant flavours while Hyderabadi biryani is a riot of spice in the mouth. (And no biryani lover would want to pause in the middle of their meal to drink water or wipe a runny nose.)
Kolkata biryani don’t need nobody else. Unlike Hyderabadi biryani.
While Hyderabadi biryani often sits in the midst of accompaniments such as raita and salan, Bengal’s ‘beeriyani’ is a fulfilling meal in itself. Pair it with some sliced onions and you’re good to go. A request for a bowl of raita along with your biryani in a restaurant is likely to raise a lot of eyebrows.
The tempestuous relationship between Hyderabadi biryani and your innards. This does not bode well.
Health-wise as well, the Kolkata biryani trumps the Hyderabadi biryani. As Kolkata biryani is prepared with significantly less oil and spices, it remains light. Its Hyderabadi counterpart on the other hand, with its generous amount of spice and ladles of raita and fiery salan is generally a heavy meal.
The biryani when eaten, is essentially over-eaten.
So the result is that while a massive amount of Kolkata biryani settles comfortably on the digestive system, with Hyderbadi biryani the sinful gluttony inevitably leads to a visit to the bathroom and fiery bowel movement the next day.
How Hyderabadi biryani is street smart and knew it. Kolkata biryani on the other hand, is a hidden gem.
While every Indian knows about Hyderabadi biryani, relatively fewer people are informed about the magnificence of the Kolkattan biryani. Before the Hyderabadi faction rejoice, let me tell you why. Hype and marketing. The Hyderabadi biryani has been extensively marketed as the best biryani ever. Many shops put up ‘Hyderabadi biryani avelable here’ as a badge. The Kolkata biryani is relished quietly.
On this note, let’s celebrate the wonders of biryani. If anything, this should get you to try out a plate and for those left outraged by this article –
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author.