There is a difference between ‘on being influenced’ and ‘to be inspired’. And when it comes to biryani and pulao / pilaf, both have somewhere over the years have influenced and inspired each other.
The two terms, biryani and pulao, are almost used interchangeably, both being rice-with-spice dishes replete with meat and veggies. But biryani and pulao are as different as chalk and cheese.
Pulao is a humble dish unlike biryani that is rich in spices and texture. Biryani has a spicy, tangy flavour with a complex texture. It is made in different parts of India in different procedures. Whereas, pulao is lighter in taste, texture and is generally eaten alongside a curry dish but Biryani is a complete dish.
Biryani is cooked with a layering technique, where rice is par-boiled separately in spiced water before covering it with meat curry that is sealed and cooked over low heat. Biryanis hailing from different regions vary in taste and flavour, basis the available ingredients of the region including the type of rice. The most popular biryanis include Lucknowi and Hyderabadi, where the latter version is prepared with a process called ‘dumpukht’. On the other hand, pulao is a one-pot-meal that is cooked by letting the meat, vegetables and rice stewed together in ghee and spices over a low flame. Pulao also takes lesser time to cook compared to biryani. Pulao also has umpteen variations, names and styles of cooking, depending on the ingredients used. Some of them are Kabuli Pulao, which is a national dish of Afghanistan, Turkish Pilav, Osh Plov – a staple dish in Uzbek, and Paella – a Spanish dish cooked along with chicken sausages, salami, herbs and spices, but interestingly it doesn’t break into the category of pulao or biryani.
Some historian believe pulao is a precursor to biryani and has Persian or Arab origins, whereas the word pilaf is said to have been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘pulaka’, suggesting the dish existed in India before Muslims invaded India. A rice and meat cooked together dish also finds a mention ancient Hindu manuscript the Mahabharata.
The origins of biryani are also segregated. Some claim biryani hails from Persia and came to India with the Mughals. Some believe Timur brought it from Kazakhstan, while some say it has Indian origins.
Although its origins are debatable or what came first: pulao or biryani, the two rice dishes are relished by global diaspora.
If you would like to relish authentic Lucknowi Biryani flavours in the comfort of your home, watch Raja Rasoi Aur Andaaz Anokha as Chef Ranveer Brar cooks it and discloses lesser-known tips, Friday at 8pm.