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Biriyani, biriani, buriyani, beryani or beriani is a rice-based dish made with spices, rice and mutton. Later chicken,fish, eggs, and vegetables were also made. The name is derived from the Persian word beryā which means "fried" or "roasted". Biriyani was believed to have been invented in the kitchen of Mughal Emperors. The dish was popularised in the Indian sub-continent by the Mughals. It is very popular in South Asia and is a key element of the South Asian cuisine.

Some of the popular styles are Hyderabadi, Lucknowi (Awadhi) , Sindhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Vaniyambadi, Bhatkali, Memoni, Malabar, Beary and of course the Orusorru Biriyani a speciality of the Madurai cuisine.

The spices and condiments used in biriyani may include, but are not limited to, ghee (clarified butter), nutmeg, mace, pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander, mint leaves, ginger, onions, and garlic. The premium varieties include saffron. For a non-vegetarian biriyani, the main ingredient that accompanies the spices is the meat— lamb, goat, beef, chicken, fish or shrimp. The dish may be served with dahi chutney or Raita, korma, curry, a sour dish of eggplant (brinjal), boiled egg and salad.

Raw, succulent pieces of mutton, chicken or fish are marinated in exotic spices soaked in water and mixed with tasty basmati or seeraga samba rice and simmered over low heat for a few hours.

The difference between biriyani and pullao is that while pullao may be made by cooking the items together, biriyani denotes a dish where the rice (plain or fried) is cooked separately from the thick sauce (a greatly reduced curry of meat or vegetables). The curry and the rice are then brought together and layered, resulting in a dish of the contrasting flavours of flavoured rice (which is cooked separate with spices) and intensely flavoured sauce and meat or vegetables.

This separation is partly of necessity: the proportion of meat/vegetables to the rice is high enough to make biriyani a one-dish meal(like Orusorru), and the cooking time of each of the main ingredients is significantly different from each other. In a properly made biriyani, the final dish is dry or minimally moist, with the individual rice grains separate, as opposed to a risotto, where the rice is of a creamy consistency.

However, many biriyani recipes call for the rice to be cooked for three-quarters of the usual time, followed by layering with the meat/vegetable base, and then a final slow-steaming until fully done: this approach allows the flavors to blend.