Up until relatively recently, the human race was a nomadic species that roamed in search of food, shelter and the next conquest. Once country lines had been drawn into the sand, armies of the world began invading distant lands, trying to gain as much ground as possible for their tribes.
Various groups have historically occupied the Indian subcontinent and each one has left an indelible mark on the cuisine. Satrangi Biriyani is the perfect example of a dish that has evolved over the years. A delectable adaptation of the recipe has spurned to suit pretty much every regional palate.
The History of the Biriyani
Persia, now known as Iran, was supposedly responsible for bringing the biriyani to the masses. It is a celebratory dish in India, which most people think is the home of this beloved plate of food. For many years it was a decadent dish saved only for the wealthiest corners of society, but now the meal is enjoyed all around the world.
The word birian means fried before cooking in Persian, while birinj is the word for rice, referring to the partial cooking of the rice before topping off the biriyani pot. This etymological clue is almost proof enough of the origins of the beloved food.
That said, India still has its compelling fable about how biriyani came to be. The queen who inspired the Taj Mahal, Mumtaz Mahal, is said to have accidentally invented the dish. She is said to have visited an army barracks and saw underfed soldiers. Being a compassionate and noble queen, she asked the royal chef to prepare them a nutritionally balanced meal. With that, the biriyani was born.
Variations of the One Pot Wonder
Each region in India has a different specialty cuisine based on the locally available produce. Not only that, but ingredients have been introduced by various invaders — from Turks, Persians and Arabs to the Portuguese and English. Each has left behind a morsel of cuisine that has made an impact on the local culture.
The Europeans introduced tomatoes and potatoes, which are used in the Kolkata biriyani. In this iteration, the meat is marinated in yogurt and cooked separately from the rice. The mopla biriyani uses fish or prawns and is pungently spiced. The recipe has even traveled to Mauritius, Bangladesh and Bengal, where local people have given this worldwide favorite their own twist.
Recipe and Preparation
20g french beans
20g bell pepper
15g desi ghee
5g cashew paste
1g cardamom powder
1g green chili powder
1g red chili powder
1g yellow chili powder
1g turmeric powder
125g long grain rice
3ml saffron water
Two green chilis
- Gently fry the rice until it’s 75% cooked. While the rice is boiling, chop the vegetables and parboil them.
- Traditionally a clay pot would be used for cooking, but this can be substituted with a casserole dish if necessary. Add the vegetables, spices and liquid then top with the rice, garam masala and caramelized onion.
- Top with a thin roti and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
The biriyani is a versatile dish with hotly contested roots. Some say it is from Persia; some say it was royalty of India that invented the now-ubiquitous recipe. What can be said for sure is that it is exquisite in flavor yet hearty and satisfying by nature. With the Satrangi, Pakistan has developed this vegetable-packed delicacy into an aromatic superfood that ticks almost every nutritional box.