It originated in the Mughal courts, flowering in the jagirs of Awadh, and it is in Lucknow, Delhi and the small Muslim principalities of north India that one finds the classic versions, subtle, refined, and delicately flavoured. Pratibha Karan gives us not just the definitive recipes from these regions but unearths rare and old dishes such as a biryani made with oranges, Rose Biryani and Kebab Biryani. In the south, the biryani has an equally distinguished lineage, if not more so. There are the blue-blooded biryanis of Hyderabad which include gems such as the Doodh ki Biryani, Keeme ki biryani and Bater ki biryani. Away from the royal courts, the biryani has adapted itself into a spicy local delicacy in Tamil Nadu, with many towns like Salem, Aambur, Dindigul boasting of their own signature version of the dish.
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Welcome, because it demystifies many aspects of the dish that sorely required clarification, like the difference between a pulao and a Biryani to begin with, which she clarifies in the introduction. To start with, the editing really could have been better.
My second grouse is the nearly complete lack of Hindi names of spices. Finally, the photography and styling could have been far better. Further, the sheer scope of the book is awe inspiring — so many Biryani and Pulao recipes in one place? Finally, the complexity of the recipes and the number of ingredients in the average Biryani would probably be overwhelming for the average home cook. Almost, but not there. Its a nice collection of biryanis with offbeat recipes such as the Mutanjan Pulao which is fast disappearing , Bater Biryani she should have mentioned the way to wash the bater to get rid of the offensive smell — all game birds and animals need special prep.
What seemed lacking were a few details on biryanis which are common place in Muslim households. Take the case of the Mutton Biryani Delhi on Page 29 for example, which is actually the Yakhni Pulao, which is very common in Muslim households. Yakhni is the Urdu word for stock because the rice is cooked along with the meat in the stock. Bihari Muslim cuisine has a very popular vegetarian version of a vegetarian biryani which is made in a pulao fashion called Tehri. In fact, it used to be made every Sunday at my in-laws place.
Surprised she missed out on that one or maybe the source from Bihar was not generous with recipes! One of the surprises, as I am not too familiar with southern Indian cuisine, was mutton biryani upside down from Goa.
This is what we have in the middle east more specifically Palestine and its called Maqlooba. Maqlooba in Arabic means upside down. She also seems to have repeated recipes with slight modifications — like the Gosht Biryani given on page 56 and Katchi Biryani on page The Gosht biryani recipe is essentially a Katchi biryani.
Katchi biryani is defined by the used of raw meat traditionally mutton but now chicken as well. But I would definitely say that it is a well researched book with a good collection of recipes and I, as an avid collector of rare and Muslim cookbooks would definitely go out and buy it.
Biryani By Pratibha Karan
Book Review: Biryani, by Pratibha Karan