Bombay Biryani: All About This Potato-Packed Regional Dish
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Cherished the world over, biryani is one of the hallmarks of Indian cuisine. Essentially, biryani is an amalgamation of rice, meats, spices, herbs, and in some cases, vegetables. These different ingredients combine seamlessly to create an enriching, aromatic, and vibrant dish that is bursting with flavour and robustness. Biryani’s esteemed status in the canon of Indian cuisine shouldn’t be surprising; the dish, in fact, does boast royal origins. Just like luscious kebabs and rich meat-based gravies, biryani is believed to have originated during the reign of the Mughals.

From the Mughal Empire, the dish spread to other regions of the country, most of which put their unique stamp on this timeless dish. Some of the best-known varieties of biryani include the traditional Hyderabadi Dum Biryani, Dindigul Biryani, and Kolkata Biryani. Another regional variation of the dish that is a big hit in Maharashtra is the Bombay Biryani. Although lesser-known than some of its more ubiquitous counterparts, Bombay Biryani still packs a punch. Let’s explore the different aspects of this lip-smacking rice-based delight.

Bombay Biryani: History & Origins

As noted above, the traditional biryani that was crafted in the royal Mughal kitchens spread to other regions of the country through trade as well as cultural exchange. The dish underwent a significant transformation when it found its way to the thriving streets of Mumbai. For starters, the dish reflected the diversity of the cosmopolitan population of the city, retaining the classic Mughlai influences while simultaneously incorporating Maharashtrian influences, which included the use of a unique blend of spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.

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Remarkably, apart from Kolkata Biryani, Bombay Biryani is the only biryani variety that uses potato as one of its major ingredients. This can be traced back to colonial times; Portuguese and Dutch colonialists introduced the versatile spud to the Indian subcontinent, laying the foundation for a plethora of delightful and tasty potato-based Indian dishes. The colonialists, in turn, are believed to have discovered the potato in the New World, in Peru, South America. In this way, the Bombay Biryani reflects the perfect marriage of flavours between the traditional Mughlai cuisine and a South American staple.

Image Credits: By DeepanjanGhosh - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikimedia Commons

Although originally a meat-based dish, the Bombay Biryani also has vegetarian sub-varieties. This symbolises the extent to which the dish has evolved since its initial days in the Mughal Empire. This is also reflective of the impact of the different communities of Bombay, many of which do not consume meat, on the dish.

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Flavour and Ingredients Of Bombay Biryani

Bombay Biryani is characterised by its use of local ingredients, such as Basmati rice. Typically, the dish is prepared by layering marinated meat, which could be chicken or mutton, rice, caramelised onions, fried nuts, raisins, and spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, and star anise. Vegetarian varieties of the dish substitute the meat for a rich blend of vegetables, including capsicum, cauliflower, and peas. Potato remains a fixture in both veg and non-veg versions of the dish to help infuse it with a wholesome quality as well as elevate it with an earthy flavour.

Apart from the use of potato, what sets the Bombay Biryani apart is use of dried plums. These plums imbue the dish with a mild sweetness. Additionally, the fried onions give the dish a crunch, and the use of kewra essence, a traditional Marathi cooking substance, also give the Bombay Biryani a unique taste and flavour. Bombay Biryani is typically topped off with a mint leaf and dry fruits, and savoured with a helping of creamy raita. Want to take a short at cooking your very own Chicken Bombay Biryani at home? Here’s an easy and hassle-free recipe for your reference.


1 kg chicken

3.5 cups long grain Basmati rice

2 tablespoons of ghee

1 cinnamon

2 green cardamom

1 bay leaf

4–5 onions, chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

2 potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 tablespoons garlic paste

2 tablespoons ginger paste

½ cup yoghurt, whipped

1 tablespoon red chilli powder

1 tablespoon Bombay biryani masala

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¼ cup milk

Saffron strands

1 tablespoon kewra

2 tablespoon coriander leaves, chopped


Step 1: Marinate the chicken in ginger paste, garlic paste, turmeric powder and salt.

Step 2: Fry the potatoes in a different pan and set them aside for cooling.

Step 3: Fry the sliced onions till they assumed a golden brown colour.

Step 4: Blend the tomatoes with the fried onions until the oil separates.

Step 5: Add the marinated chicken, yoghurt, biryani mix, and chilli powder to the concoction and stir fry for about 10 minutes.

Step 6: Introduce fried potatoes to the mixture and blend thoroughly.

Step 7: Add a cup of water and cook the chicken on low heat till it becomes soft.

Step 8: To prepare the rice, heat ghee in a pan with whole masalas.

Step 9: Add the basmati rice to the pan; fry it for nearly a minute and introduce some salt and water.

Step 10: Cover the rice and allow it to simmer till it is semi-cooked.

Step 11: In a pot, heat some ghee and spread half the rice.

Step 12: Drizzle fried onions and coriander leaves on the rice.

Step 13: In a separate container, mix milk and kewra essence, and pour them over the rice.

Step 14: Layer the chicken on the rice, and garnish it with the remaining rice and lime juice.

Step 15: Add another helping of fried onion, coriander leaves, and saffron milk.

Step 16: Put a lid on the pot and allow it to cook completely before serving.