The Calcutta Biryani has touched the hearts of not only Calcuttans but people all across the world. Find out how, what and when…
By Somashis Gupta
The two ‘Bs’ that is, Bengalis and Biryani is a fascinating love story. Bengalis eat Biryani when they are happy and even when they are sad. When Bengalis are hungry they find a Biryani outlet and just eat it. When a Bengali have had a full course meal and suddenly spots a Biryani outlet they feel hungry again, and you know what they do? They eat again. For a Bengali, Biryani is not just a food it is a passion. But just as Rome was not built in a day, similarly The Calcutta Biryani too evolved with time.
It all began on the 13th of May 1856 when Nawab Wajid Ali Shah landed in Calcutta from Awadh, after losing his Kingdom. The British did take the Nawab out of Lucknow, but never could take Lucknow out from the Nawab. Shah rebuilt a replica of his beloved Lucknow on the outskirts of Calcutta, which included, a zoo, kite flying, Kabutar bazi and of course the royal food.
Those were the time when Potato was just brought to India by the Portuguese. It was a rare vegetable to find and was considered exotic. The Nawab being a connoisseur of food encouraged his chefs to experiment. In one such experiment the Chefs added potato to the Biryani which gave a new dimension to the Biryani, and thus a new dish was born – The Calcutta Biryani.
For me growing up in the cocooned city of Calcutta, comprising of Victoria Memorial’s buggy rides, the restaurants and nightlife of Park Street and the club culture of Tolly and Royal Calcutta Golf Club, Biryani was always something that was to be relished and had at the slightest of opportunity. In fact I remember I bunked off early every Saturday from college and come all the way to Nizams in New Market from Salt Lake. All the effort was only for the Grand Biryani.
Talking of Biryani reminds me of an incident which occurred sometime in 2007. A rendezvous with Sid my childhood friend whom I met after 10 longs years resulted in consumptions of 2 full plates of Biryani each. I remember none of us spoke a word until the last grain of rice disappeared from our plates. We started sharing our well beings with each other, only after we were done eating. Such was the dedication both of us shared for Biryani.
Many a Suns, have risen upon the earth since then, many things changed both in life as well in society. But what remained constant is my love for this dish which no time can change. After a thorough research on this dish and after innumerable experimentations I have finally mastered on the recipe of Biryani which I share with my readers today. You perhaps can try this instead of relying on the Biryani masalas available in the market. Do share your feedback with me in the comment section or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
First let me share the detailed ingredients with you.
Mutton or Chicken with bones: 2 Kg
Boiled Eggs Shell off: 1 Doz
Boiled small Potatoes: 1 Doz
Cooking Oil: 1/4 Cups
Yogurt: 1 Cup
Fried Onion: 1 Cup
Ginger Paste: 5 Tbsp
Garlic Paste: 5 Tbsp
Black Pepper whole: 1Tbsp
Cloves: 1 Tea Spoon
Green Cardamom: 20
Black cardamom: 4
Javetri: 4 flacks
Kabab Chini: 1
Tea Spoon Cinnamon Stick: 4 of 1 inch
Cumin Seeds: 1 Tbsp
Salt: 2 Tbsp
Water: 4 Glass of 16 oz
Yakhni: 3 glass
Milk with cream: 1 and 1/2 Cups
Oil: 3/4 Cups:
Ghee: 1/2 Cups
Lemon Juice: 5 tbsp
Dried Plumps: 12
Biryani Garam Masalah: 2 Tbsp (Ingredients : Black pepper: 1 tbsp, Cumin seeds: 1.5 Tbsp, Cloves: 1 Tea spoon, Green cardamom: 10, Black Cardamom: 3, Javetri flakes: 3, Cinnamon stick: 2, Fine grind them and use 2 Tbsp for 2 Kg Meat )
Red Chili Powder: 1 Tbsp
Salt: 2 Tbsp
Rose water: 4 Tbsp
Kewda water: 4 Tbsp
Boiled Potatoes: 1 Doz
TO BOIL RICE:
Basmati Rice: 4 Lbs Extra Long Grain (soaked for 1/2 hours)
Cinnamon stick: 5 of 1 inch
Green Cardamom: 15
Salt: 8 Tbsp
Water: 10 Glass
Remaing Yakhni: 2 Lit approx.
Boiled Rice 60% cooked
Boiled Eggs: 1 Doz
Ghee: 1/2 Cups
Fried onion: 1 cup
Saffron: 1 pinch mix in milk Milk: 1 cup
Biryani Essence: 2 drops
Saffron: 1 pinch
Wheet Flour for sealing
As you might have guessed, I follow a three step process for this. The first is making the Yakhni or stock. Second is cooking the rice and thirdly making Qormah followed by the Biryani in Dum-phukt style.
It is important to note that Biryani is not just a dish, it is a process, it is a tradition, it is a culture, it is a heritage. So ingredients are of utmost importance. Like the mutton is not just any mutton, it should be either from shoulder or from the hind leg. Each peace should be not less than 150 to 200 grams. Also note the meat should not be washed more than once, as water toughens the fibers.
Next is rice which should be extra long grain basmati. I explore the local market instead of depending on packet products. The ones which I use is Pusa Basmati which are slender and long tipped. I also use Ranbir Basmati as they are exceptionally long and have a electrifying aroma.
The saffron used should be only premium quality Kesar which is A++ . The ones I use are Negin from Iran with stems of 2 cm.
The red chilly used should not be the packet ones but hand grinded from Guntur Chilies or Mathania Chilies. Ginger garlic past should be hand grinded and not in a machine. The utensils I use are made with copper or brass.
Now coming back to the process, well before I start cooking I boil the potato adding 1 tea spoon each of turmeric and salt. I also hard boil the eggs (cooking time 10-12 minutes). I keep the birista ready by frying the onions. I wash the rice and keep it soaked.
Once these are done we are ready to starts the cooking of Yakhni or stock. Heat oil and adding the garlic paste followed by the ginger paste. Cook it for a while and then add the fried onions. Once mixed add the mutton and keep sautéing in medium heat. Add a little bit of water to mix. Add the whole spices and mix further. Now is the time to add the curd. After mixing add the remaining water and increase the heat for 2 to 3 minutes, add lead. After 5 minutes reduce the heat and cook for about half an hour. Once cooked you need to separate the meat and the stock. Note that all whole spices needs to be discarded at this stage.
The next step is boiling the rice. Add the whole spices and bring the water to boil. Add the rice and cook till 60% done. Drain the excess water and remove all the whole spices. Remember the best Biryani is the one which keeps the ingredients a surprise.
The last stage is making the Biryani which starts with adding lemon juice, alu bokhare (dried plum) and oil to the yakhni. Start heating the liquid and add the remaining salt and dried red chili. Once it starts to boil add milk and the powdered garam masala, reduce the liquid by one forth. Add the meat peaces and mix and reduce further to two third. Add the rose water and keora water and reduce the liquid to half. Add the potatoes and cook for 2 more minutes after covering in reduced heat. Add the cooked rice in layers and each top up each layer with saffron (both wet and dry) and Ghee. Top up with the boiled eggs and seal to cook in Dum.
You are done. Now is the time, the moment of truth, the time to open the lid and experience the heavenly smell and then.….
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A devoted foodie with keen interest in wild life, music, cinema and travel Somashis has evolved over time . Being an enthusiastic reader he has recently started making occasional contribution to write-ups.