Moti Biryani: A Culinary Gem From The Royal Kitchens Of Awadh
Image Credit: Moti Biryani aka pearl biryani

It is not uncommon to find lesser-known or lost recipes in India. Given the vast diversity of cultures and cuisines, followed by the influences of intermingling styles, there are newer dishes that come up often. Then, there are some recipes that are forgotten in this process. One of them is the Moti Biryani or pulao, a one-pot rice dish originating from the Awadh region.

While most dishes today base themselves on techniques and methods of ancient times, the original recipe starts dwindling and losing prominence. Moti Biryani was considered a part of the shahi cuisine for the longest time, because of its appearance and taste and, of course, name where ‘moti’ refers to pearls in Hindi. It is said that this kind of biryani was first made in the courts of Wajid Ali Shah. The fifth nawab of the Oudh (Awadh) kingdom was an ardent fan of good food.

The last surviving ruler always hosted parties at his court and the lavish dinners were a talk of the town during that time. Often, the nawab would ask his khansamaas to experiment in the kitchen and surprise him with something delicious. In many texts like the Sham-e-Awadh, descriptions of the elaborate feast during Wajid Ali’s rule find place. Interestingly, the moti pulao is given a special mention wherein the pearls of egg yolks are topped on the rice dish that lend it its unique name.

This is also the specialty of this biryani or pulao. The royal touch comes in when the egg yolks are beaten and covered into gold and silver foils to be stuffed inside the chicken and cooked. According to historical accounts, the chicken itself is said to have been made fragrant with saffron to lend a distinct smell to the pulao. The pearls are edible and also the highlight of the entire meal. It lends richness and royal flavours to the dish, making it a shahi biryani.  

While the technique of cooking the pulao is quite different, especially the way meat is added to it, it was also considered a symbol of grandeur. The fact that real silver and gold are being used to make a dish that will be served to the guests definitely enhanced the reputation of the nawab. Gradually, other versions of this dish started coming to the surface. This includes the meat kofta balls that are added to the biryani or even paneer balls as a vegetarian substitute. However, whether one should address it as Moti Biryani or pulao is something that is still debatable.