You can take a foodie out of Kolkata but you can never take “Kolkata” out of a foodie. A Kolkatan is unmistakably associated with his love for gastronomic delights – no matter in which part of the world he is. Food is integral to the essence of the city itself. Known for its diverse palates, Kolkata has a food connoisseur in every nook. Here, no discourse is quite complete without food and no celebration quite as joyous without sweets! Welcome to Kolkata – the wondrous amalgam of culinary diversities- a place where spices rest blithely with sweets and desserts are as savored as starters and main courses are. Today we’re going to do what we do best – and that’s talking food – specifically one of favorites of Kolkatans – chicken biryani!!
Biryani: Its Popularity in Kolkata
The mixed rice dish prepared with spices, chicken, vegetable, lentils and of course rice, enjoys unassailable popularity in the city. Iran can proudly claim its place as the origin of biryani but that doesn’t stop the Kolkatans from counting it (i.e. biryani) as one of their own. No wonder, there is hardly a corner of the city where you won’t find this food– from roadside eateries to reasonable food joints to the plushest of the restaurants and hotels- biryani (especially chicken biryani) is a near-permanent fixture in the menu cards. Some of the best places to eat chicken biryani include Arsalan and Nizam’s.
For Kolkatans it’s the chicken biryani which scores above the rest
The quintessential Kolkata biryani is more in the lines of Lucknow biryani (the Kolkatan version is lighter on spices) since it was Awadh’s last Nawab – Wajid Ali Shah who brought biryani to the city when he was exiled to Metibruz (suburb of Kolkata) in 1856. It is primarily made with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, mace, cardamom and yoghurt based marinate. The inclusion of potatoes is “signature Kolkata” since during the Nawab’s times, the poorer households prepared the dish with potato instead of the more expensive chicken or mutton.
Needless to say, the unprecedented popularity of the food led the cooks to experiment with different versions. And, these variations are not only limited to the ingredients (you have beef biryani, egg biryani, vegetable biryani and the inclusion of tomato, dhania and jeera along with other spices) but apply to the cooking process as well. For instance, though birayni is not commonly prepared with coriander in Kolkata, you can experiment with the inclusion of Coriander Powder in India to find out whether it suits your taste or not.
Kolkata is synonymous with chicken biryani. In spite of all the variations we have talked about so far, Kolkatans crave for chicken biryani and the reason is not hard to find.
Why do Kolkatans love chicken biryani?
It’s tasty- so much so that it can effortlessly satisfy the fussiest of foodies or the most fastidious of food aficionados hailing from any part of the world. Its unbeatable taste is primarily attributed to the inclusion of rich seasonings (including Red Chilli Powder in India and garam masala powder). Nothing pleases Kolkatans as effortlessly as chicken does – not even mutton, its richer cousin. We have already mentioned that Kolkatans in general prefer the lighter version of the quintessential Lucknow version. Chicken is more suitable for the less rich palate than mutton or beef is.
Why do Kolkatans crave for chicken biryani? Let us tell you that its aroma is not the only reason which keeps one hooked to it. As difficult as it is to believe, even the ghee-tossed biryani has a slew of health benefits. Chicken alone has several benefits to offer you. Vitamin B6 is responsible for stronger bones and the selenium present in it can improve your immune system. The compulsive health-conscious eaters can switch to brown rice and add minimum oil and spices to prepare biryani without compromising on its taste.
You can enjoy different versions of chicken biryani as per your tastes, culinary skills, health needs and budget. This adds a lot of convenience to your eating experience. Not every other form of biryani promises to be equally tasty in so many different versions. Chicken biryani scores there too. Additionally chicken is more affordable than mutton.