From the land of Nizam comes the biryani with the salan

The fiery flavours of the Hyderabadi biryani and the art of cooking need no introduction

Kalyani Sardesai

From the kitchens of the Nizam comes a biryani so opulent and unabashed in celebrating its myriad flavours that there’s no missing its distinctive identity, despite the fact that it has several variations. Do dig right in, but not without a side dish of mirchi ka salan, a green chilly curry and baghare baingan or roasted eggplant.

According to Khaja Yousufuddin, noted chef and winner of the award-winning restaurant Spice 6:, “Hyderabadi biryani has two types: Sufiyani, which is a biryani made without red chillies, and Zaffrani, which is liberally flavoured with the yellow-orange tinge and flavour of saffron. The Zaffrani can be made in two ways—kacchi gosht ki biryani is raw meat pressure cooked with half-boiled rice—and pakki biryani which has the meat cooked for a short while before being layered with rice. The Sufiyani, however, is only prepared with raw meat or kachcha gosht.

Between the two, the Zaffrani biryani with its uber luxurious taste finds more takers, says Khaja Yousufuddin. “No visit to the Nizam’s city is complete without partaking of this preparation. We are known for kachche gosht ki biryani which is then sealed and steamed. The secret of Hyderabadi biryani is the judicious use of saffron and basmati rice which are the two most distinctive and aromatic ingredients,” he says.

Speaking about the elaborate style of cooking he says, “We marinate the meat, usually mutton or chicken, with spices and then soak them in yoghurt before cooking. The meat is sandwiched between layers of basmati, the vessel sealed with wet flour and cooked on coals. This is not as simple as it sounds as the temperature has to be perfect to avoid either the over or under-cooking of the meat.’

Syed Asim Hussain, president of the Hyderabad Foodies Club, will have you know that the original, true-blue biryani is not something most people can take, let alone digest. “It is a humungous task, what with the (hold your breath!) 78 masalas jostling for space,” he says. “Honestly it’s too fiery, too in your face, so the popular recipe uses fewer masalas but is just as delicious. The thing with Hyderbad biryani is that it is redolent of the unique culture of the erstwhile Hyderabad state.” Just look at the distinctive accompaniments of mirchi ka salan and roasted brinjal and you get the drift.

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