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Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani.jpg
Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani
Alternative names Biriyani, Biriani, Buriyani
Course Main Dish
Region or state South Asia, Southeast Asia, South Africa, Mauritius, the United Kingdom and the Middle East
Main ingredients Rice, Indian spices, base (Vegetables, Meat or Egg), yoghurt, other optional ingredients (e.g. dried fruits)
Variations Many
Food energy
(per serving)
Varies according to varieties kcal
Cookbook:Biryani  Biryani

Biryani (pronounced [bɪr.jaːniː]) is a mixed rice dish from the Indian Subcontinent. It is made with spices, rice and meat or vegetables.


The origin of biryani is from Iran. In North India, it is traditionally associated with the Mughlai cuisine of Delhi and the Awadhi cuisine of Lucknow; in South India, it is traditionally associated with the Hyderabadi cuisine.[1]

The word "biryani" is derived from Persian language. One theory is that it originates from "birinj", the Persian word for rice.[1] Another theory is that it derives from "biryan" or "beriyan" (to fry or roast).[2][3]

There is a theory about the Mughals having brought biryani to India, but another theory claims that the dish was known in South Asia before Babur came to India.[4] The 16th century Mughal text Ain-i-Akbari makes no distinction between biryanis and pulao. It states that the word "biryani" is of older usage in India.[5] A similar theory - that biryani came to India with Timur's invasion - also appears to be incorrect, because there is no record of biryani having existed in his native land during that period.[4] There are references to a dish of "fried" rice, flavoured with various aromatic spices and condiments in ancient texts of India, which were enjoyed by the ruling classes. There was a traditional culinary preparation native to Bengal where semi-cooked fish was steamed with rice, letting the rice absorb its aroma, in a covered earthen pot, in a manner in which biryani is prepared. Hence this 'dum' style of cooking is not new to the Indian sub-continent.[citation needed]

According to Pratibha Karan, the biryani is of South Indian origin, derived from pulao varieties brought to India by the Muslim traders and rulers. She speculates that the pulao was an army dish in medieval India: the armies, unable to cook elaborate meals, would prepare a one-pot dish where they cooked rice with whichever meat was available. Over time, the dish became biryani due to different methods of cooking, with the distinction between "pulao" and "biryani" being arbitrary.[1][4] Lizzie Collingham states that the modern biryani was created in the Mughal kitchen, as a confluence of the Persian pilao and the spicy rice dishes of India.[6] According to Vishwanath Shenoy, the owner of a biryani restaurant chain in India, one branch of biryani comes from the Mughals, while another was brought by the Arab traders to Calicut in South India.[7]

Difference between Biryani and Pulao[edit]

Pulao is another mixed rice dish popular in Indian cuisine. Although some of its varieties are associated with Persian influence in north India, it is also mentioned in ancient Indian texts such as Yagnavalkya Smriti.[8][9] Opinions differ on the differences between pulao and biryani, and whether there is a difference between the two at all.[10]

According to the British-era author Abdul Halim Sharar, the biryani has a stronger taste of curried rice due to a higher amount of spices.[10][11] Pratibha Karan states that while the terms are often applied arbitrarily, the main distinction is that a biryani comprises two layers of rice with a layer of meat (or vegetables) in the middle; the pulao is not layered.[4] According to Holly Shaffer, based on her observations in Lucknow, in pulao, the rice and meat are cooked separately and then mixed before the dum cooking; in biryani, the soaked rice is fried and then cooked with the meat and stronger spices.[10][12]


Biryani (left) served with other Indian dishes.

Historically, the most common varieties of rice used for preparation of biryani were long-grain brown rice (in North India) and Zeera Samba rice (in South India). Today, basmati rice is the most commonly used variety. In Bangladesh, puffed rice is also used.[13]

The spices and condiments used in biryani may include, but are not limited to, ghee (clarified butter), nutmeg, mace,[14] pepper, cloves,[14] cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander, mint leaves, ginger, onions, and garlic. The premium varieties include saffron.[14] For a non-vegetarian biryani, the main ingredient that accompanies the spices is the meat, chicken and mutton are the most commonly used meat for cooking a biryani, special versions may include pork, beef, fish, or prawn. The dish may be served with dahi chutney or Raita, korma, curry, a sour dish of aubergine (brinjal), boiled egg, and salad.


There are two basic types of biryani: pakki ("cooked", also pukka) and kacchi ("raw", also kutchi). In pakki biryani, the cooked meat and cooked rice are layered. In the kacchi biryani, raw marinated meat is layered with raw rice before being cooked together.[13] It is also known as kacchi yeqni. It is cooked typically with goat meat (usually 'khasi gosht', which is meat from castrated goats and often simply referred to as mutton) or with lamb, and rarely with chicken or beef. The dish is cooked layered with the meat and the yogurt based marinade at the bottom of the cooking pot and the layer of rice (usually basmati rice) placed over it. Potatoes are often added before adding the rice layer. The pot is usually sealed (typically with wheat dough) to allow cooking in its own steam and not opened till ready to serve. A boiled egg and mixed salad often accompanies the dish. It is featured in wedding feasts in Bangladesh, usually served with borhani, a spicy drink.

The non-vegetarian biryani may include chicken, mutton and sea food among types of meat. Although originally cooked with meat, biryani is now also cooked with vegetables, especially in India, where a substantial number of people practice vegetarianism. The vegetable biryani is prepared with rice, masala and non-meat ingredients such as potatoes and cauliflowers.[15][16] Egg biryani is another type of biryani.

List of varieties by ingredient[edit]

Shrimp biryani
Soya biryani from India.


Tahari, tehri or tehari are variants on the name given to the vegetarian version of biryani. It was developed for the Hindu bookkeepers of the Muslim Nawabs.[13] It is prepared by adding the potatoes to the rice as opposed to the case of traditional biryani, where the rice is added to the meat. In Kashmir, Tehari is sold as street food. Tehri became more popular during the World War II when meat prices increased substantially and Potato became the popular substitute in Biryani.

Mutton biryani

Mutton biryani may include goat or lamb (sheep) meat.

Chicken biryani

Chicken biryani is made with fried or baked chicken.

Beef biryani[17]

Beef biryani uses beef as meat.

Egg biryani

Same preparation as chicken biryani but with a boiled egg instead of chicken. Sometimes the rice is taken from chicken biryani, and may have chicken flavour in it.

Shrimp biryani

This variety uses shrimp. It is quicker to prepare, as it does not require long hours of complex marinating procedures.

Fish biryani

Fish biryani uses different varieties of fish. It is also known as fish khichdi in Britain.

Daal biryani

Daal biryani offers the addition of daal to the ingredients of biryani. This enhances the nutritional value and fragrance.

Soya biryani

Soya biryani is a popular version of the dish, it is specially popular among the people following a vegetarian diet. In addition to the usual ingredients, this version also includes Soya chunks, which act as a source of protein.

List of varieties by region or culture[edit]

Hyderabadi vegetable biryani served in Tampa, U.S.
Bangladeshi home-made biryani
Sri Lankan Chicken Biryani
Chicken Dum Biryani
Sindhi biryani from Sindh

Hyderabadi biryani

Short-grained khyma rice and long-grained basmati rice. Khyma is used to make Thalassery biryani and basmati for Hyderabadi biryani.

The Hyderabadi biryani developed under the rule of Asaf Jah I, who had been appointed as the Governor of Deccan by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.[13] It is made with basmati rice, spices and goat. Popular variations use chicken instead of goat.

Thalassery biryani

The ingredients are chicken, spices and the specialty is the choice of rice named Khyma. Khaima rice is generally mixed with ghee. Although huge amount of spices such as mace, cashew nuts, sultana raisins, fennel-cumin seeds, tomato, onion, ginger, garlic, shallot, cloves and cinnamon are used,[18] there is only a small amount of chili (or chili powder) used in the preparation. It is made all along the Malabar area in Kerala from Kozhikode, Malappuram, Thalassery to Kasargod.

A pakki biryani, the Thalassery biryani uses a small-grained thin (not round) fragrant variety of rice known as Khyma or Jeerakasala. The dum method of preparation (sealing the lid with dough (maida) or cloth and placing red hot charcoal above the lid) is applied here.

Lucknowi biryani

The Lucknow or Awadhi dum biryani is a pakki biryani. The rice and meat are generally partially cooked separately; then layered and cooked by the dum pukht method.

Bombay biryani

Bombay biryani originated in Mumbai, India. The ingredients are meat, rice, salt, onions, ginger and garlic paste, yogurt, all spices powder, chili powder, white cumin powder, coriander, potatoes, green chillies, yellow food colour, and kewra.

Calcutta biryani

Calcutta or Kolkata biryani evolved from the Lucknow style, when Awadh's last Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was exiled in 1856 to the Kolkata suburb of Metiabruz.[7] Shah brought his personal chef with him. The poorer households of Kolkata, which could not afford meat, used potatoes instead, which went on to become a specialty of the Calcutta biryani.[13] Now meat is also served along with it. The Calcutta biryani is much lighter on spices. It primarily uses nutmeg, cinnamon, mace along with cloves and cardamom in the yoghurt based marinade for the meat which is cooked separately from rice. This combination of spices gives it a distinct flavour as compared to other styles of biryani. The rice is flavoured with ketaki water or rose water along with saffron to give it flavour and light yellowish colour.

Vaniyambadi biryani

Vaniyambadi biryani is a type of biryani cooked in the town of Vaniyambadi in the Vellore district in the north-eastern part of Tamil Nadu, which has a high Muslim population. It was introduced by the Nawabs of Arcot who once ruled the place.

The Vaniyambadi biiyani is accompanied with 'dhalcha', a sour brinjal curry and 'pachadi' or raitha, which is sliced onions mixed with plain curd, tomato, chillies and salt. It has a distinctive aroma and is considered light on stomach and the usage of spice is moderate and curd is used as a gravy base. It also has a higher ratio of meat to rice.[19]

Bhatkali biryani

Bhatkali biryani originates from the Nawayath Muslim community of Bhatkal, in coastal Karnataka. It evolved from the Bombay biryani, but has a distinct color, taste and flavour.[citation needed] Onions are used in larger proportions compared to other varieties. The meat (several types are used) is cooked with an onion-based sauce at the bottom of the cooking pot, with a layer of rice on top. The rice and meat are mixed before serving. Local spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon are used to get the distinct aroma. It is served with Bhatakali kachumber or burhani (sweet curd raita). Bhatkali biryani is one of the most common wedding meals in Bhatkal and surrounding towns like Honavar, Murdeshwar, Manki, Shiroor, Byndoor, Gangolli, Kundapur all the way till Mangalore.

Memoni biryani

Memoni biryani is an extremely spicy variety developed by the Memons of Gujarat-Sindh region.[7] It is made with lamb, yogurt, fried onions, and potatoes, and fewer tomatoes compared to Sindhi biryani. Memoni biryani also uses less food colouring compared to other biryanis, allowing the rich colours of the various meats, rice, and vegetables to blend without too much of the orange colouring.

Dindigul biryani

The Dindigul town of Tamil Nadu is noted for its biryani, which uses a little curd and lemon juice to get a tangy taste; it doesn't use coconut or tomato found in other varieties of South India.[20]

Beary biryani

This variety originates from the Beary Muslim community of Dakshina Kannada, and features in their major celebrations. The Beary biryani is light, less spicy and is easy to digest. Mutton is the most common meat used, although beef, chicken, fish and prawns are also sometimes used. The basmati rice is cooked separately and flavoured with ghee and spices like star anise, cinnamon, cardamon and cloves. The meat is cooked separately with onions, garlic, ginger, fresh coriander leaves. When the gravy thickens, the rice and the meat are layered, topped with caramelised onions, fresh mint leaves, roasted cashew nuts and sprinkled with ghee and saffron water. The biryani is then steamed. This cooking process ensures that the rice in the biryani is fluffy and light without requiring too much ghee or oils while the meaty juices are incorporated into the rice. Beary biryani is served with chicken kebabs and raita. It tastes best when left to sit for a few hours or overnight.

Palakkad Rawther biryani

The Palakkad Rawther biryani is a spicy dum biriyani prepared mainly by the Rawther Muslim community in the Palakkad district of Kerala State and some parts of Tamil Nadu. The variants include: lamb and mutton; chicken; beef and egg. This is accompanied by Kaichar, a type of gravy, thair chuttney (curd salad) and a dessert prepared from winter melon. There are lot men and women specialized in commercial cooking this Biriyani, especially in the Narikkuthi area of Palakkad. Nowadays, many small shops exclusively selling Biriyaniis (12–9 pm) have flourished in the town and its outskirts.

Sindhi biryani

Sindhi biryani, prepared by the Sindhi people, is very popular in Pakistan. It is served in nearly all the flights of Pakistan International Airlines.[citation needed]

Karachi beef biryani

Most biryani cuisines in Pakistan combine elements of Karachi biryani such as the common use of yogurt recipes.

Bohri biryani

The Bohri biryani, prepared by the Bohris is flavoured with a lot of tomatoes.[7] It is very popular in Karachi.

Kalyani biryani

Kalyani biryani is a typical biryani from Hyderabad.[21] Also known as the 'poor man's Hyderabadi biryani, the Kalyani biryani is always made from small cubes of buffalo meat. It doesn't have the same level of expensive ingredients and richness as the more famous Hyderabadi biryani, but at the same time, is quite tasty.

The meat is flavoured with ginger, garlic, turmeric, red chili, cumin, coriander powder, lots of onion and tomato. It is first cooked as a thick curry and then cooked along with rice. Then given dum (the Indian method of steaming in a covered pot).

The Kalyani biryani is supposed to have originated in the Bidar during the reign of the Kalyani Nawabs, who migrated to Hyderabad after one of the nawabs, Ghazanfur Jang married into the Asaf Jahi family. The Kalyani biryani was served by the Kalyani nawabs to all of their subjects who came from Bidar to Hyderabad and stayed or visited their devdi or noble mansion.

This was the practice for many decades. But after Operation polo in which the Indian army took over Hyderabad State, the state of the nobles went into decline. Some of their illustrious cooks set up their own stalls and introduced the Kalyani biryani.[22] to the local populace of Hyderabad.

International styles and variations[edit]

South Africa

Biryani was brought to South Africa primarily by Indian Muslim immigrants from Gujarat. The South African version of the dish features fried potatoes and black lentils. The basis of the spices are primarily the same but they, like the British immigrants toned it down quite a bit and also created a layered one pot version where all the raw ingredients are placed in one pot and then it is either steamed on the stove top or baked in an oven.


Biryani was brought in the UK by the immigrants from the South Asia, especially Pakistanis. In most places, it is served in the Hyderabadi or Lucknowi style. Spices are toned down a lot from any of the original versions, keeping in mind the food habits of the locals.


A dish of Burmese biryani (locally known as danpauk), as served at Kyet Shar

In Myanmar (Burma), biryani is known in Burmese as danpauk or danbauk, from Persian dum pukht. Featured ingredients include cashew nuts, yogurt, raisins and peas, chicken, cloves, cinnamon, saffron and bayleaf. In Burmese biryani, the chicken is cooked with the rice.[23] biryani is also eaten with a salad of sliced onions and cucumber. In Yangon, there are several restaurant chains that serve biryani exclusively. It is often served at religious ceremonies and luncheons. Biryani in Myanmar utilises a special rice grown domestically rather than basmati.

Middle East

While similar cooked meat and rice dishes (i.e.Maqluba, Kabsa) are common in the Middle East, Biryani in the region likely has roots in the longstanding merchant and cultural ties between the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq with South Asia and Persia. Thus, Biryani is more typically found in places like Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. In other parts of the Middle East, for example Palestine, Biryani was introduced and integrated into the local cuisine by Palestinian families who worked in the Persian Gulf (Kuwait in particular). For example, many Palestinian families prepare Biryani in the Iraqi or Kuwaiti style, as many thousands of Palestinians lived and worked in Kuwait (and to a lesser extent, Iraq) prior to the first Gulf War. When Palestinians left Kuwait, they brought back Biryani recipes, and it became integrated into the indigenous cuisine. Biryani has also become popular in the Gulf countries due to the large populations of South Asian expatriates, especially Pakistanis, who work in the region.

One popular form of Middle Eastern Biryani is the Iraqi preparation (برياني: "Biryani"), where the rice is usually saffron-based with chicken usually being the meat or poultry of choice. Most variations also include vermicelli, fried onions, fried potato cubes, almonds and raisins spread liberally over the rice.[7][13] Sometimes, a sour/spicy tomato sauce is served on the side (maraq).

Thai Biryani

Khao mok nuea ("beef biryani") at a Muslim-Thai restaurant in Chiang Mai

Called khao mok (lit. "covered with rice"; Thai: ข้าวหมก) in Thai cuisine, along with Thai massaman curry (Musulman Curry) and satay it is one of the most notable Muslim-Thai dishes. In Thailand a goat version is eaten almost exclusively by the Muslim population.

Sri Lankan Biryani (Buryani)

Biryani was brought into Sri Lanka by the South Indian Muslims who were trading in the Northern part of Sri Lanka and in Colombo in the early 1900s. Hotel De Buhari in Mardana, Colombo which was run by Haji.Muthuwappa and A.M.Buhari of India, was a historic eatout to commercialize biryani in Sri Lanka in the 1930s and it was popularly called 'Buhari' Rice by the native Singhalese. As the founders of the food joint returned to India in the 1970s, the restaurant was taken over by the Sri Lankan Government and still serves the famous Buryanis. In Sri Lanka they call it Buryani, a colloquial word which generated from Buhari Biryani. In many cases, Sri Lankan biryani is much spicier than most Indian varieties. Side dishes may include Acchar, Malay Pickle, cashew curry and Ground Mint Sambol. One form of biryani uses string hoppers as a substitute for rice and is sometimes served with scrambled eggs or vegetables.

Iranian Biryani

Biryani of Isfahan

During the Safavid dynasty, a dish called Berian (Nastaliq script: بریان پلو) was made with lamb or chicken, marinated overnight – with yogurt, herbs, spices, dried fruits like raisins, prunes or pomegranate seeds – and later cooked in a tannour oven. It was then served with steamed rice.[24]

In its more original form, in some cities the dish is known as dam pokht/dam-pokhtak. The compound in Persian means "steam-cooked"—a reference to the steamed rice that forms the basis of the dish. This name is still in common use in Iran alongside "beriani". In Southeast Asian countries such as Burma/Myanmar, this older, general Persian term is in common use, as danpauk.

In the central Iranian city of Isfahan, Berian is made with cooked mutton or lamb, which is stewed and minced separately, and then grilled in special small round shallow pans in an oven or over a fire. The meat is generally served with powdered cinnamon in a local bread, usually "nan-e taftoun", but also occasionally "nan-e sangak".

Malaysia and Singapore

Biryani dishes were introduced to Malaysia and Singapore by the Indian Muslim as well as the Arab diaspora. Biryani Bukhara is a local adaptation of Buhari biryani, originating from Tamil Nadu, India. Another biryani variation called Nasi Beriani Gam is an adaptation of the Indian Dum Biryani. Nasi Minyak, a dish commonly served at Malay weddings in Malaysia, Singapore and Sumatra, is also sometimes referred to as Nasi Beriani. However, this is actually a variation of the Indian ghee rice. Just as with the Indian version, the rice in Nasi Minyak is cooked separately from the meat. As such, Nasi Minyak is generally not considered a Biryani by the Indian diaspora in Malaysia or Singapore. However, as with Biryani, Nasi Minyak is usually served with acar as condiment. Malaysian/Singaporean Nasi Minyak is typically served with chicken or beef Rendang, a decidedly Malay take on dry spicy Indian meat curries.

Filipino dish

There's a version of biryani in the Philippines Pampanga region on the northern island of Luzon and in the predominantly Muslim areas of the southern island of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago. The Kapampangan Nasing Biringyi is related to the Malay Nasi Beriani, see Kapampangan cuisine. In the southern island of Mindanao, biryani style rice dishes are served during big celebrations.

Mauritian biryani

The Mauritian biryani is a version of the Hyderabadi Dum (Kachii) biryani and strictly conforms to the recipe requirement such as using a sealed copper degg, gravy will consist of chicken or meat mixed with garlic/ginger, yogurt, mint, cilantro, fenugreek, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves etc. The difference with the Dum biryani is that the Mauritians add fried potatoes and roasted cumin to the gravy in. This replaces the Kashmiri chilli generally used in the Hyderabadi version. The rice is flavoured with saffron, cardamom, cinnamon and whole cumin. Cooking is slow and meticulous as with the Hyderabadi recipe.

Nasi kebuli

Nasi kebuli is an Indonesian spicy steamed rice dish cooked in goat broth, milk and ghee. Nasi kebuli is descended from Kabuli Palaw which is an Afghani rice dish, similar to biryani served in South Asia.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Pratibha Karan (2009). Biryani. Random House India. pp. 1–12. ISBN 978-81-8400-254-6. 
  2. ^ Garland Hampton Cannon; Alan S. Kaye (2001). The Persian Contributions to the English Language: An Historical Dictionary. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 71. ISBN 978-3-447-04503-2. 
  3. ^ Anoothi Vishal (2011-05-14). "When rice met meat". Business Standard. 
  4. ^ a b c d Vir Sanghvi. "Biryani is an Indian invention". Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  5. ^ Mukund Padmanabhan, Subash Jeyan, Subajayanthi Wilson (2012-05-26). "Food Safari : In search of Ambur Biryani". The Hindu. Retrieved 2014-08-24. 
  6. ^ Lizzie Collingham (6 February 2006). Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors. Oxford University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-19-988381-3. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Of biryani, history and entrepreneurship". 2004-04-09. Retrieved 2014-08-27. 
  8. ^ K. T. Achaya (1994). Indian food: a historical companion. Oxford University Press. p. 11. 
  9. ^ Priti Narain (14 October 2000). The Essential Delhi Cookbook. Penguin Books Limited. p. 116. ISBN 978-93-5118-114-9. 
  10. ^ a b c Holly Shaffer (2012). "6: Dum Pukht". Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food, and South Asia. Edited by Krishnendu Ray and Tulasi Srinivas. University of California Press. pp. 124–. ISBN 978-0-520-27011-4. 
  11. ^ ʻAbdulḥalīm Sharar (1989) [1913]. Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture (Hindustan Men Mashriqi Tamaddun ka Akhri Namuna). Translated by ES Harcourt and Fakhir Hussain. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-562364-2. 
  12. ^ Sangeeta Bhatnagar; R. K. Saxena (1 January 1997). Dastarkhwan-e-Awadh. HarperCollins Publishers, India. ISBN 978-81-7223-230-6. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f Yogi Gupta. "History of biryani". Retrieved 2014-08-27. 
  14. ^ a b c Brown, Ruth. (17 August 2011) "The Melting Pot – A Local Prep Kitchen Incubates Portland's Next Generation of Food Businesses." Willamette Week. Volume 37, #41.
  15. ^ "Spiced vegetable biryani". BBC ( British Broadcasting Company). 
  16. ^ "Vegetarian biryani". 
  17. ^
  18. ^ Abdulla, Ummi (1993). Malabar Muslim Cookery. Orient Blackswan. p. 2. ISBN 8125013490. 
  19. ^ Mukund Padmanabhan, Subash Jeyan and Subajayanthi Wilson (26 May 2012). Food Safari : In search of Vaniyambadi biryani. The Hindu.
  20. ^ Biryani bistro. The Hindu (11 March 2010). Retrieved on 2012-12-28.
  21. ^ "Stuff of memories". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 10 February 2008. 
  22. ^ History of the Kalyani biryani.
  23. ^ Pham, Mai. "The Burmese Way / A visit to the land of pagodas and enchanting cuisine". The San Francisco Chronicle. Burmese chicken biryani differs from its Indian counterpart: the chicken is cooked with the rice. 
  24. ^ Farhang-e Iranzamin by Iraj Afshar
  25. ^ pt. kompas cyber media (2014-07-06). "Sajian Kebuli, Mandi, dan Biryani". Retrieved 2014-08-24.