Kolkata Mutton Biryani: The Iconic Cultural Biryani
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When a plate of  Biryani arrives on the  table, it evokes an ocean of emotions. There is nothing that a delicious plate of aromatic biryani cannot fix. Styled after the Lucknow-style biryani, Kolkata biryani has delicious Basmati rice that emits a delicate scent, flavourful meat, and just a trace of sweetness. Apart from the flawlessly cooked rice seasoned with rosewater and threads of saffron, the humble potato is the star of this meal.

Traditional Kolkata biryani is a meal in which the meat and potatoes are gradually cooked in oil over low heat. Uncooked rice, meat, and potatoes are then stacked in a large pot (handi) with spices such as cardamom, mace, saffron and cloves. The handi is sealed and then cooked with the ‘dumpukht’ technique.

Although there is no particular history of biryani, because every region has their own version of biryani based on their taste and the spices available in the region. But in Kolkata, mutton biryani became popular after Wajid Ali Shah. In the year 1856, Wajid Ali Shah, the 10th and last Nawab of Awadh, after having  dethroned was exiled from Lucknow to the city of Kolkata by the British. He brought his cooks with himself and that is how biryani was introduced to Kolkata. 


    4 cups basmati rice, extra-long grained ones 

    2 kg mutton

    6 medium sized onions, sliced thinly

    8 big potatoes cut into halves

    8 eggs, hardboiled and descaled

    6 star anise

    4 pieces 1-inch cinnamon sticks

    6 black cardamoms

    2 tsp white pepper, powdered

    2 tbsp ginger-garlic powder

    4 tbsp special homemade Biryani masala*

    100 ml rose water

    100 ml kewra water

    ½ cup aloo bukhara or prunes, dried

    2 cups white oil

    500 gms ghee

    salt – to taste

    2 tsp sugar

    ½ cup milk

    1 tsp saffron

    2 tsp yellow food colouring

    1 tsp Meetha attar or Biryani flavouring

    3 cups flour to make the dough for the dum

    1 muslin cloth (optional)

For marination of mutton-

    500 gms yoghurt

    4 tbsp ginger-garlic paste

    4 tsp red chilli powder

    ½ papaya, finely grated

    ½ cup cashews, ground into a fine paste

    4 tbsp Biryani masala*

Biryani masala-

For 100 gms of Biryani masala, grind together the following:

    30 gms javitri or mace

    30 gms cinnamon powder

    5 gms chhoti elaichi or green cardamom

    25 gms gulab patti or rose petals, dried and crushed

    5 gms jaiphal or nutmeg

    5 gms cloves

Procedure For Preparation :

    Wash the rice in cold water, drain and spread over kitchen towel for 15-20 minutes or until absolutely dry

    Marinate the mutton with yoghurt, grated papaya, ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder, cashew paste and the Biryani masala

    Soak the saffron in milk in a bowl and keep aside

    Soak yellow colouring in ½ cup water and Keep aside

    Heat ghee in a pan, add ½ tsp of sugar, add the sliced onions and fry them till they are golden brown and set them aside 

     Keep aside ¼ of the fried onions for cooking the meat and the rest for using while layering the rice and for garnishing.

For the Mutton-

    In a deep bottomed pan, heat 1 cup of white oil, then add the whole spices

    Add fried onions and ginger-garlic

    Add the marinated meat, salt and sugar, cook on high flame for ten minutes until all the spices in the marination gather themselves up

    Cover up the meat pieces with enough water and add the meetha attar, rose water, kewra water and prunes and let it cook in slow flame until the meat is three-fourth cooked

For the Rice-

    Heat some ghee in a deep bottomed pan then add and stir the rice lightly

     Add water till the level of water is more than double the height of the level of rice and then drain off the excess water while the rice is three-fourth cooked

    Pour few drops of  yellow colouring or saffron soaked milk on the rice

Layering of the Biryani-

    In the deep bottomed pan (pot or a handi) in which the meat has been cooked, layer with a portion of rice and lather generously with ghee then sprinkle some fried onions and spread some saffron soaked milk and strands of saffron over the layer of rice

     Repeat the process of layering twice or until it fills up your pan

    Once the layering is done, pour over the remaining of saffron soaked in milk along with a bit of rose water and add ghee generously around the sides of the pan, so that the Biryani rice doesn’t stick to the pan then add fried cashew nuts and raisins (if you are using them) and sprinkle a bit of Biryani Masala on top

    Make a dough with flour and a bit of sugar, flatten the dough and cover the cooking vessel (Seal the top of the vessel with this dough)

    Cook this over a stove top over a slow flame for 15 minutes

    Kolkata mutton biryani is ready

Kolkata biryani is light since it is made with substantially less oil and spices. Its Hyderabadi equivalent, on the other hand, is a hearty lunch with substantial amounts of spice. So enjoy the meal without even raita.