Kuzhimanthi Biryani: The Yemeni Delight Taking Over Kerala
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Kuzhimanthi, a popular meal in Kerala, is a variation of biryani with roots in the Yemeni dish of rice known as mandi but with modifications to suit Indian palates. Typically, the Kuzhimanthi employs chicken, whereas the Yemeni dish uses lamb and lamb stock as its flavouring. Along with having less heat than its Indian equivalent, the Yemini version is eaten with tzatziki, a type of cucumber raita.

Despite being frequently confused for a biryani, Kuzhimanthi is actually a mandi, a dish cooked with delicious rice and meat. The Arabic word "mandi" (which means "dewy") alludes to the dish's soft flesh. The cooking pit is described by the Malayalam word "kuzhy," which is derived from it.

Despite the fact that the rest of the country may not be as familiar with it, Kuzhimanthi Biryani has become one of Kerala's favourite dishes. The Mappila community's favourite food during iftaar, the biryani, which is mostly popular in the Malabar region, has transformed from being one of the dishes that are suggested for tourists experiencing the local cuisine.

But like many Malabar dishes, Kuzhimanthi Biryani has a long history in West Asia on the opposite side of the ocean. For instance, kuzhimanthi is a rice meal from Kerala inspired by a Yemeni cuisine. The Kuzhimanthi's rise to fame is more recent, but Kerala and Keralan cuisine have a lengthy history of West Asian influence that predates the Mughal Empire.

In a Kuzhimanthi, rice is salted before being gently cooked in a sizable earth pit. Since the rice is cooked on top of the chicken, the chicken's juices can flow into it and enhance the flavour. The cooking method in a pit reminds travellers of the Arabian desert.  The only way those travellers could cook during the day's strong winds was by digging a hole in the ground; this tradition is still used to prepare the dish today.

Malabar cuisine has historically drawn inspiration from and been influenced by West Asian culture. Beginning in the 1500s, the Mughals had a significant impact on Indian food, resulting in the emergence of staples like biryani.

Before Babur entered India, nevertheless, the Malabar region had access to Arab cuisine for decades. Arab spice merchants had crossed the Arabian Sea by the seventh century and were operating along the Malabar coast. Many of them were enticed to settle and mingle with the locals by their economic success. They brought with them Islam and a culinary tradition that they combined with local fare to produce the recognisable Malabari cuisine we know today.

It is said that the dish was introduced to India in 2006 by chef Ashraf Ali, who spent a number of years living in Saudi Arabia before returning to Kerala and adding it to the menu of his eatery, Spicy Hut. As a staple of the Mappila community's iftar, kuzhimanthi has grown to become a delicacy that every traveller to the Malabar region must eat.