Barring the Indo-Pak rivalry, there are many things which unite the desi community in both India and Pakistan. One of the top two is cricket (of course). The other is biryani: the ‘Queen’ of all desi dishes, featuring meat or vegetables cooked in a subtle combination of spices. The dish has many historical, cultural and even social aspects attached to it in the context of the Subcontinent and Central Asia.
If you like Biryani with Allo you’re mentaly disturbed
There is much debate regarding the origins of this dish. The majority opine that it originated in Persia and was brought to the land then known as the subcontinent by the Mughals. Here it was further developed into the dish we all love today. The famous traveller and historian Al-Biruni has precise descriptions of meals at the court of the Sultans who ruled parts of India prior to the Mughals. These also contain mention of rice dishes similar to the Mughal biryani.
Different types of Biryani
Different types of biryani include Bombay Biryani, Dum Pukht Biryani and Hyderabadi Biryani. Gone are the days when biryani required hours if not a couple of days to prepare. Now ready-made packet spices with complete instructions have reduced the cooking time of this dish to a mere thirty minutes. One can walk into any desi store in any part of the world and find shelves filled with all varieties of the dish ranging from Sindhi Biryani and Bombay Biryani to Vegetable Biryani and even Fish Biryani.
- Biryani has deep social and cultural connotations attached to it as well. Marriage ceremonies centre around biryani, and it is as much a poor man’s dish as it is a rich man’s.
- Generally, with biryani, spicy green chutney or raita (mint yoghurt) is looked upon favourably.
- Biryani is what ties desis living abroad to their home country. Students pay exorbitant prices for a single plate of biryani, just to have a taste of home.
In Pakistan, when mothers are searching for the perfect wife for their sons, one of the top criteria for many is that ‘biryani banani ani chahiyeh’ (she should know how to cook biryani). It is indeed one of the first dishes the new bride is expected to make in her new household. In fact, for any girl or boy, the level of their cooking expertise is not judged by the number of international varieties of cuisine they can make. In the end, it all boils down to how well the biryani rice grains stand out!
With the advent of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Shan Masala – one of the biggest food brands in Pakistan – made a TV commercial about a Chinese woman making biryani for her Lahori neighbours. The importance of biryani can be seen by such a renowned brand cashing in on the dish to increase its sales. Of course, the aim was to highlight the growing friendship between China and Pakistan, but the fact that biryani was used to bring people from different cultures together cannot be disregarded.
This is not restricted political rallies either: even on election day, voters are attracted towards voting for a particular party by promises of free biryani afterwards. Moreover, a majority of the voters do not distinguish politicians from each other and rope them all together in their minds. Hence, ‘we might as well enjoy the free food’ is a mantra for many.