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Chicken biryani for the soul


Fragrant, steaming basmati rice, orange and white with bright green fresh coriander sprinkled on top. The description is enough to get you drooling, excited and ready for lunch (again!).

The word ‘biryani’ comes from the Persian word ‘biryan’ which means to be ‘fried before cooking’. This refers to the frying of the spices, onions, tomatoes and coriander before it is all mixed in with long grains of basmati rice. The origins of this highly-loved dish are difficult to pinpoint exactly, but they date back to the Mughal Empire of the Indian subcontinent. Some historians claim it originated in royal Mughal kitchens, as a spicy spin on the Persian pilau rice. It is revered for its highly popular flavour and its balanced nutritional value. In fact, one story about biryani’s origin is that of the wife of Shah Jahan of the Mughal Empire visiting the army barracks and realising the soldiers looked weak and undernourished. She immediately ordered the chefs to prepare a flavourful dish if meat and rice, with exotic, fragrant saffron and spices in order to provide a balanced diet to provide nourishment for the soldiers.

Today there are many variations of the biryani - by region, country and by variety (there’s vegetable biryani, lamb biryani, chicken biryani, seafood biryani  - and that isn’t even half of it). Arab and Iranian cultures have their own spin on cooking biryani, as do Indians and Pakistanis. In fact even within the subcontinent, there are different ways to go about cooking biryani. Some, like the Calcutta biryani, contains potatoes and eggs; while others, such as the famous Hyderabadi biryani is cooked mainly using meat or chicken, spices and rice. 

The Hyderabadi biryani is of two types: kachhi and dum. Kachhi is made with raw layers of meat or chicken marinaded overnight, then put into the pot in between layers of rice and then cooked in its own steam as the pot is sealed shut. Dum biryani is also cooked in steam but the ingredients aren’t raw before being steamed - the meat or chicken is marinated for a shorter period of time and cooked first, then layered into a sealed pot with rice.

Whatever way it is prepared, biryani is loved by many around the world and has an almost legendary status. In fact, Zabardast’s own biryani (whether it is lamb, chicken or vegetable) has received lots of praise for its unique mix of spices and warm flavours. It’s also an awesome way to warm up in this cold winter!

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