What comes to your mind when you think of food in Kolkata? Sweets and fish? Well, it’s also home to the Kolkata biryani, a dish that’s been ruling the hearts, minds and tummies of Bengalis for ages.
Kolkata biryani is cooked much in the Awadhi (Lucknow) style. The dish dates back to the reign of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1822-87). When he was dethroned and exiled by the British from Uttar Pradesh to what was then Calcutta in 1856, he took his bawarchis and khansamas (cooks and chefs) with him to the city. Unable to find meat, the cooks started adding potatoes to the dish, which has gone on to become a quintessential part of the delicacy.
Eateries such as Aminia, Arsalan and Royal Indian Hotel have been maintaining the legacy of Kolkata biryani for decades.
“The Bengali Muslims incorporated the pattern of Awadhi style of cooking. And with time came a local touch to the delicacy,” Aminia hotel manager Ejaz Akhtar said.
Royal Indian Hotel, started in 1905 by Ahmad Hussain, is perhaps the oldest eatery that serves biryani in the city.
“Hyderabadi biryani is heavy and too spicy while Delhi biryani uses gravy for the preparation. But Kolkata biryani is exceptionally light. No essence and less spices make its taste very different,” Mohd. Irffan of Royal Indian Hotel said.
So what makes biryani of Kolkata different from other cities?
“Nothing can compete with biryani. I have tried biryani in many cities, but what is being served here is best. The taste and aroma make all the difference for me. And if it’s a plate from Arsalan, Aminia or Royal then there’s no delay in gobbling down,” said Kaustav Karak, a resident of Shyambazar and a foodie.
But this popularity is not limited to residents. Bollywood celebrities and even cricketers go gaga over Kolkata biryani. “Ranbir Kapoor orders a plate of Arsalan biryani whenever he is in town, so does [former Pakistan cricketer] Shoaib Akhtar. Almost all the known celebrities order biryani whenever they visit the city,” Khan said.
When next in time, try a plate.