If you are part of or have ever visited a South Asian household you know exactly when mum's making biryani. The aroma of fragrant rice soaked in a spicy meat curry and garnished with everything from saffron to fried onions hits you right at the doorstep.
From after Friday prayer gatherings to celebratory family feasts, biryani, arguably the king of South Asian cuisine, has distinct memories for many.
Now, in typical Dubai fashion, Bombay Borough, a restaurant in the emirates, has made a very luxurious version of the dish.
Called the 'Royal Gold Biryani', and termed the “most expensive biryani in the world” by the restaurant, the dish will leave you short of Dh1,000 from when you entered the eatery located in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).
Gold, exotic spices and traditional technique
Gulf News spoke to the culinary director of Bombay Borough, Shikha Nath, to ask what makes the dish so luxurious.
The 23-karat gold dish comprises of Kashmiri lamb seekh kebabs, old Delhi lamb chops, Rajput chicken kebabs, Mughlai koftas, and malai chicken served on a bed of saffron-infused biryani rice, topped with a generous amount of edible 23 karat gold.
“The Kashmiri seekh kebab is a delicate skewered kebab made with hand ground mince and is infused with the ancient spice mix called ‘Kabab Chini’, while the Rajput Chicken Kebabs are rubbed with ‘shikaar masala’ a hunters spice blend used by the royal warriors of India,” she said.
Additionally, the earthy-tasting lamb chops are spiced with parmotrema perlatum which is commonly known as black stone flower or Dagad Phool.
Deemed as one of the most unusual spices used in Indian cuisine, black stone flower is typically used in meat dishes like nahari, paya, Bombay biryani, goat meat stews and some vegetarian dishes.
“The Mughlai koftas and malai Chicken roast along with the slow cooked gravies on the side complete the royal experience,” said Nath.
With each element, the dish aims to highlight various different flavours of different parts of India.
History and types
Speaking of different flavours, understanding the dish’s origin and the various types of biryanis is key when trying out the dish.
While there is an ongoing debate about the dish’s origin, history suggests that this mixed rice dish has its origins among the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, part of the Mughlai cuisine for which India is famous.
Many historians believe that the dish originated in present day Iran and was brought to India by the Mughals. Biryani was further developed in the Mughal royal kitchen, which is the version closest to what we know today, according to a report by CNN-News18, an Indian English-language news television channel.
The dish’s name comes from the Farsi word ‘birian’, which means ‘fried before cooking’.
Traditionally, biryani was cooked over charcoal in an earthen pot. While the essence of the dish that comprises of mainly rice and meat is still the same, the method of cooking has slightly changed with the introduction of different types of vessels. Additionally, the dish has given birth to different types across South Asia.
In India alone, there are many kinds of biryanis varying from region to region.
For instance, if you have had the Kolkata biryani, you’re bound to spot a potato on your plate or if you have tried out the fiery Hyderabadi biryani, it would have made you reach out for a glass of water because of how spicy it is.
The Malabar biryani is for people looking for a light and aromatic version of the dish. Whereas, the Bombay biryani is overall sweeter and heavier.
Restaurants and households in India’s Lucknow serve a less spicy version of the dish and those in Bengaluru use ample quantities of mint and coriander leaves.
In Pakistan, the Sindhi biryani is arguably the most popular one.
Sindhi biryani uses a generous amount of spices and herbs with an addition of nuts and dried fruits. Plums and potatoes are also added to this version of the rice-based dish.
How is this luxurious version made?
As for Nath’s creation, it derives inspiration from various types of methods and techniques.
The dish uses long grain basmati rice infused with saffron and ‘Potli Masala’ or a bouquet garni, (bundle of spices and herbs that is added to casseroles, stocks, sauces and soups). It is slow cooked in a sealed pot using the ancient technique of ‘dum’ cooking.
Dum or dum pukht is a traditional cooking method that can be traced to the royal kitchens of the Awadh region in India and the words ‘dum’ and ‘pukht’ mean to breathe and to cook, respectively. This technique involves placing the food in a heavy-bottomed brass or clay pot called a handi, sealing it tightly with dough and cooking it over a low flame, according to food guide website guide.michelin.com.
Dum or dum pukht is a traditional cooking method that can be traced to the royal kitchens of the Awadh region in India and the words ‘dum’ and ‘pukht’ mean to breathe and to cook, respectively. This technique involves placing the food in a heavy-bottomed brass or clay pot called a handi, sealing it tightly with dough and cooking it over a low flame
“The different sort of meat in the biryani is marinated overnight with natural tenderisers and signature spice blends,” Nath said.
The restaurant specifically chose biryani as the dish to give a luxurious makeover due to its use of celebratory Indian flavours and its sheer popularity in the UAE.
Biryani has gotten extremely famous in the UAE over the years. The dish was popularised by Indian and Pakistani migrants in the country. Currently, hundreds of restaurants serve different versions of the dish across the seven Emirates.
Nath even compares the dish to its counterpart in the Arabian Gulf and the UAE, Machboos (a dish with spiced meat and rice).
There has always been a bond between Indian and Emirati cuisine. Indian spices have found their way into Emirati kitchens, Chicken Machboos is one such dish that indicates this common culinary bond and flavours."
“There has always been a bond between Indian and Emirati cuisine. Indian spices have found their way into Emirati kitchens, Chicken Machboos is one such dish that indicates this common culinary bond and flavours,” Nath said.
So whether it is a plate of gold covered biryani or a humble serving at the corner side cafeteria, when visiting the UAE, you are bound to find your favourite with all the different kinds of biryanis eateries in the country have to offer.
Nath decided that Gulf News readers should also discover other recipes from Indian cuisine and has shared three of them with the Food team of gulfnews.com.
Egg Tadka Biryani
With all this biryani talk, it’s only appropriate for us to give you a recipe for one. While recipes for the typical biryanis are widely available, here is one which focuses on eggs as the star of the dish and it is suitable for vegetarians.
150gm long grain basmati rice
10gm lemon juice
5 ml kewra essence (a concentrated oil made from pandanus flowers)
70gm onion chopped
2 green chili slit into halves
5gm ginger garlic paste
20gm tomato chopped
2gm coriander powder
2gm red chili powder
2gm turmeric powder
2gm garam-masala powder
50gm cup curd
Salt to taste
4 boiled eggs peeled
1 pinch saffron soaked in 1/4 cup milk
20gm browned onion
20gm coriander chopped
20gm mint chopped
5-6 fried almonds
5-6 fried cashew nuts
1. Wash the rice and soak in water for an hour.
2. Poke the boiled eggs with a tooth pick all over and fry them till golden brown.
3. Heat oil and ghee in a pan add onions and fry them till they are translucent.
4. Add the green chilies and ginger garlic paste and fry it till the raw smell of ginger and garlic is gone then add tomatoes and fry it for a minute.
5. Add coriander powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder, garam-masala powder along with curd and little water and cook till the oil starts to separate from the sides. Add eggs and cook for another minute.
6. Add rice, ghee, salt, lemon juice, water and kewra essence in a pan and cover and cook till rice is 90 per cent done. Drain the rice and layer it over the egg masala.
7. Sprinkle saffron soaked in milk, browned onions, coriander, mint, fried almonds and cashew nuts on top.
8. Cover the pan with its lid tightly and cook on very low heat for about 10-15 minutes.
9. Remove the lid of the pan and give the biryani a gentle mix.
10. Garnish with fresh coriander.
Malabar coconut stew
This coconut stew is bound to virtually transport you to south of India, with it's light, tropical flavours. This creamy delicacy can be eaten over fragrant tumeric rice, as mentioned in the below recipe, or as is.
20gm potato peeled medium
20gm onions peeled medium
20gm carrot peeled medium
5gm ginger and garlic paste
20gm green peas
5gms tsp finely chopped ginger
2 bay leaves
4-5 garlic cloves
2gm fennel seeds
5-6 black peppercorns
1-2 cinnamon stick
1-2 crushed black peppercorns
salt to taste
2 green chilies slit
50ml coconut milk
100gm boiled rice
20ml coconut oil
4-5 cashew nuts broken
5-6 curry leaves
1. Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a deep nonstick pan. Add fennel seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and sauté till fragrant.
2. Add sliced onions and sauté.
3. Cut potatoes and carrots into small cubes.
4. Add chopped garlic, ginger and slit green chilies to the pan and sauté.
5. Add chopped potatoes and carrots and sauté.
6. Add green peas and ½ cup of water, cover and cook for around 5-7 minutes till the vegetables are done.
7. Finish with coconut milk and cover and simmer for two minutes. Add salt to taste.
8. Temper boiled rice with turmeric, curry leaf, mustard and mix it well.
9. For the tempering, heat remaining coconut oil in a nonstick pan. Add curry leaves, broken cashew nuts and sliced onions and sauté till golden brown.
10. Pour the tempering into the stew and serve hot with turmeric rice.
Semolina sheera pops with passionfruit cream
No truly satisfying meal misses out something sweet and these dessert 'pops' would make for a perfect final course celebrating Indian flavours. Semolina, which is called sooji in Hindi, is called sheera when made sweet. The ingredient is often used in South Asian desserts.
180ml cup water
180ml cup milk
100gm cup ghee
10 whole cashew nuts, broken into small pieces
1/8 tsp cardamom powder
50gm bread crumbs
50gm passion fruit extract
50gm double cream
1. To a pan, add sugar, water and milk. Stir and let it heat up on medium heat.
2. Put a pan on medium heat and add ghee and allow to melt. Then add the semolina to the pan and stir. Add in the broken cashews and stir.
3. Stirring continuously, roast the semolina on low-medium heat. Add cardamom powder and continue to stir.
4. Stir for around 8 to 9 minutes on low-medium heat. As soon as the semolina is fragrant and beginning to change colour, that it the time to add the liquid.
5. Add the heated milk-water-sugar-mixture into the pan. It will bubble a lot as you add the liquids into the pan so be careful and add slowly.
6. Stir the semolina continuously as you add the liquids. Add the liquids in 2-3 parts, whisking continuously with one hand.
7. Keep stirring, semolina will begin to absorb the liquid and thicken up.
8. Stir for 2 minutes more until the halwa thickens and leaves the sides of the pan.
9. Let the halwa cool down then divide it into 7-8 equal size balls coat it with breadcrumbs and crushed nuts and let it rest in the freezer.
10. For the passion fruit cream use the extract and double cream heat it together add a pinch of salt and let it sit over an ice bath.
11. Take out the coated balls deep fry them and serve it with passionfruit cream.
12. To fry the pops, heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a deep nonstick pan. Add fennel seeds, black peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaf and sauté till fragrant.
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