Although we may recognise biryani as one specific type of dish with its own distinct flavour, there is no single recipe for all the Biryanis found in India.
In fact, the only thing all biryanis in India have in common is rice! Besides that, there are a number of local traditions about the kind of meat used, how it’s cooked, the spices and condiments, how it’s served and what its key ingredients are. At a basic, compositional level, all biryanis have rice, fat, spice and meat. But how these elements combine is upto the local culture of where it is made. Although this list is nowhere near exhaustive, these are some of the most popular biryanis found in India.
Probably the most popular biryani - and what comes to mind when one says biryani - is Awadhi - or Lucknowi - biryani. This is a north Indian dish, usually eaten as a celebratory dish and is spiced with temperamental and delicate spices like saffron, star anise and cinnamon, and is cooked slowly, overnight.
Hyderabadi biryani is of two types - pakki (cooked) and kacchi (raw) don’t be fooled though - the meat is still perfectly cooked in both, but in different ways. Pakki Biryani layers previously cooked meat with the rice and spices, while Kacchi biryani is slow cooked with the marinade from the meat together with the rice and spices.
Sindhi biryani has its origin in Sindh. (now Pakistan) This is a spicy biryani, which makes generous use of chopped chillies, mint, yoghurt, dried fruits and chopped onions. Usually, this Biryani also includes potatoes. Kolkata biryani also has potatoes, mild spices, eggs and spicy chicken. This is a milder biryani, and although a variant of the Awadhi and Hyderabadi biryani, doesn’t carry the heat of either. The Thalassery biryani takes after local flavours from Kerala. An indigenous species of rice - Khyma - is used instead of the regular Basmati rice. It is flavoured with Malabar spices.