The classic Kolkata biryani packs a punch with subtle flavours and the quintessential aloo and egg combination
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If there is a royal treat to your senses laid out on a platter, it will undoubtedly be the finger-licking Kolkata biryani that is the perfect blend of taste, flavour and story. Some legends say that it was the diminished fortunes of the deposed ruler of Awadh, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah—who made Kolkata his home in 1856—that gave rise to the Kolkata biryani, a more economic version of the original Awadhi biryani. 

What else could explain the (gasp!) inclusion of potatoes to replace (some) of the meat? In sharp contrast, another version says the potatoes were actually rare at the time and the Nawab saab naturally had to include the most exotic partners in his biryani. Whatever the truth, Arsalan in Kolkata serves you a yummy, to-die-for version of the Kolkata biryani. Robust, hearty and studded with golden potatoes and a hard-boiled egg along with the meat, this is just what you need to lift you out of the blues. With 5 outlets in the city and more in the pipeline, this restaurant owned and run by Akhtar Parwez and his family, attributes its success to fresh ingredients and simplicity. “Robust and honest is what defines us best,” says Mohammed Hamza, one of the family members. Reasonably priced at Rs 330 for a plate of mutton biryani, the dish is a sell-out day after day.

Also Read: Make chicken biryani with this easy chicken biryani recipe. Don't forget to check out the 7 types of biryani you can make at home!

What further distinguishes the Kolkata biryani from its parent—the Lucknowi or Awadhi biryani—is the moderate use of spices. “We can debate endlessly as to whether it was cost-cutting or the natural ability of potatoes to take the flavour of the biryani a few notches higher, but the fact is that Kolkata biryani is part of the proud food history of the city,” says academician Abhradita Nahvi. Meaning you can take the Kolkatan out of Kolkata, but never the biryani. From Arsalan, which a relatively new entrant on the biryani scene in Kolkata, to the Royal Indian Hotel (the oldest in the city) at Rabindra Sarani, Kolkata biryani is at once Bengali and Mughlai in character. ‘The average Bengali is a potato lover. Add to that a dash of egg, and you have a recipe to die for,” she grins. “You can make the Kolkata biryani with the meat of your choice: mutton, chicken or even fish.”

Homemaker Mumtaz Khan, a native of Kolkata, married into a Hyderabad family proudly holds onto her own 30-year-old family recipe even in the face of stiff competition from the Hyderabad biryani. ‘Unlike other biryanis, the spices are way less, and refreshing too, even as you use nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom in the curd marinade. The meat is cooked separately from the rice which I like to flavour with rose water. A generous dose of saffron or zaffran gives it both flavour and a delightful yellow tinge, as do the aloos. Don’t they really partner the gosht like a dream?” After all, the city of joy is all about stories, food and nostalgia that strike a chord in more ways than just one on your plate.

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(Inputs from Kalyan Karmarkar, The Travelling Belly)

More Biryani Stories
We are big fans of biryani at Living Foodz. Don't forget to check out our other biryani stories:

Kalyani Biryani
You may have heard about Hyderabadi biryani but have you heard about Kalyani biryani? This biryani, which comes loaded with pieces of beef, is from the kitchens of the nawabs who settled in Hyderabad in the 18th century. Read the full story of Kalyani Biryani.

Awadhi Biryani
The best Awadhi Biryani can still be found in the streets of Lucknow. Wahid Mia’s is one such biryani outlet which was set up in the 1950’s. Check out this story to know more about the biryani that belonged to the nawabs.

Kayees Biryani
The Kayees Biryani belongs to a cafe in Kochi which introduced this biryani in the 1940s. It is so popular that the mutton biryani and chicken biryani get over just a few hours after the cafe opens. Read the full story of Kayees Biryani.

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Chettinad Biryani
Biryani is a popular non-vegetarian dish in Chettinad, Tamil Nadu. But this biryani from Chettinad has its own distinct flavours setting it apart from the other biryanis you may have tried. Read the full story of Chettinad Biryani.

Malabar Biryani
Kerala boasts two types of Biryani named after two districts: Thalassery biryani and Kozikhode biryani. Made with the local short-grained rice, both Malabar biryani types feature the same ingredients but cooked differently. Find out what sets the two biryani types apart.

Hyderabadi Biryani
Think Hyderabad and the first thing to come to mind is the flavourful biryani that the city is famous for. But did you know there are two popular types of Hyderabadi biryani? Find out what's different about these two types of Hyderabadi biryani.

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