Of Persian origin, the Biryani flourished in the Mughal times at its various centres in Delhi as Mughlai cuisine, and in Lucknow as Awadhi cuisine. Down South, this aromatic mixed rice dish packed with spices, meat and vegetables, acquired its own characteristics with the change in uses of condiments and veggies. The Nizami-style Biryani typical to Hyderabad flourished for its light rose petal fragrance and the punch from the masalas and an equally spicy meat.
While we continue loving and relishing our Biryani, there are certain spices, extremely necessary, that mar the taste of the dish when accidentally chewed upon. These condiments are what give Biryani its fragrance and texture, so do not disrespect them.
Here they are, so you know the next time to cast them aside while gorging on that plate of hot Biryani.
1. Star Anise’s not so starry ways
Star Anise is actually a fruit native to South China. Usually plucked before harvest, the Star Anise acquires an intense liquorice taste with an aroma similar to a typical fennel seed. The essential oil in the Star Anise gives flavour to meat, rice, and hence commonly used in cooking the Biryani.
2. Cardamom is medicinal, but tastes yuck in the Biryani
Cardamom (elaichi)belongs to the ginger family and was introduced to India in the 1214 AD. Since then it has been growing in a number of Asian countries including Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Thailand, and in some parts of Central America. Cardamom takes over the dish’s flavour profile very quickly, and little wonder they are added to Biryanis and Kormas for that subtle fragrance.
3. Cinnamon magic can turn nightmarish
Cinnamon (elaichi) actually comes from the inner bark of several trees and is very common in desserts and even savoury dishes. The essential aromatic oil that makes up about a per cent of its total composition, infuses meats and rice dishes with a very rich flavour. Don’t pull a face the next time you extract a lonely cinnamon stick from the bottom of a Biryani pot.
4. Clove makes my Biryani bitter
These dried flower buds are one of the most versatile spices used in everyday cooking. On frying the clove in oil it gives out a scent which enhances the taste of Biryani manifold. Clove is used across desserts and drinks too.
5. Bay leaves are a total nuisance
You think there is still a lot of Biryani left in that bowl. You scrape up the last bit, and up pops a largish brown hardened leaf covered with rice. Added to Biryani for its aromatic properties, heaven help you, if you end up chewing on one accidentally.
Agreed it is Biryani and there is no room for thought, but eat with care still!