Biryani, one of the Indian subcontinent's richest, most delicate and complex dishes has a muddled origin. While many believe it to have originated in India because of its immense popularity, this theory has been questioned.
Most scholars agree that Biryani originated in West Asia, in what is now Iran. The word ‘Biryani’ has Persian roots: quite literally, it means fried rice. It travelled to South Asia with the pilgrims and nomads, hybridising little by little every step of the way. It was only in Awadh (now Lucknow) in the 17th century, that Aurangzeb sent his Nizams to hyderabad to bring him a form of Biryani that was infused with local flavours.
Like any other food, Biryani is subject to cultural changes. The long-ago biryani of Timurlane in West Asia has little resemblance to the Biryani consumed with relish in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iran. Biryani has lived a multitude of lives on the Peninsula. It’s been transformed into a local dish, one popularly made with locally grown Basmati rice instead of the traditional long-grain brown rice. Even locally, it is cooked, plated and served in an infinite variety. Just as there is no one, essential form of the biryani, there is no one history to this widely loved culinary masterpiece.