Succulent pieces of meat are being cooked together with flavoured rice as I wait impatiently for my order to arrive.  While on one end, a huge degh is setup for biryani, there is another one for kormas too. Though I’m tempted to try the korma, I think that satiating my hunger with just biryani this time would be worth it. This started one fine day when I discovered that there was something called Moradabadi biryani. My first encounter happened at a college fest, when I happily headed towards the biryani stall in the hope of getting my usual plate of brown rice. There I saw, this huge banner which said, “1 plate Moradabadi Biryani for INR 100”. 

I was in no mood to experiment so I just stuck to some kebabs from the adjoining stall. However, my brain’s memory card recorded this name and kept it hidden in my sub-conscious for long until I came across the dish again. Taking a walk around Nizamuddin Basti, I saw these small shops who claimed to sell authentic Moradabadi biryani and this time I couldn’t resist the urge. Almost immediately, I entered the shop and place an order for Moradabadi biryani.  Now as I’m observing the place, the aroma of freshly prepared kebabs and kormas have got me mesmerized. Finally, my order arrives. 

What I see is a plate of white rice (as opposed to the brown rice I was expecting) with pieces of meat. I’m not a big fan of mutton biryani so I ordered the Chicken Moradabadi biryani. As I try to sense the flavours and take my first bite, I’m hit with a zest of lemon juice which is quite unusual for a biryani. Next thing I know, I’m chewing green chilies along with the rice. The biryani does not seem to have that usual layering, instead it feels like the rice and meat have been cooked together along with a host of khada masalas (whole spices) whose strong flavours are hard to ignore. The ginger and green chilies is what makes the biryani so simple yet distinct. 

Later, I go on to discover that my assessment had been correct. Named after the city of Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, Moradabadi biryani is kacchi-style biryani, which means that the rice is cooked along with the meat instead of separately, which is more of the Hyderabadi style. I begin to highlight the differences between the two as I relish my plate of biryani. Hyderabadi biryani is quite famous, unlike Moradabadi biryani. The pukka-style of first, cooking the meat and rice in separate deghs, and then layering them together to be slow-cooked in a dum handi is what infuses the Hyderabadi essence in the one-pot dish. The marination of the meat with a gamut of spices and yoghurt lends an aroma to the biryani which is hard to resist. 

The long-grain rice used in Moradabadi biryani does not leave even a hint of oil for the taste buds and is often relished with a side of coriander chutney (with a thin consistency). On the other hand, the robust blend of spices in Hyderabadi biryani is heavily influenced by South India. The cooking techniques and the use of oil differs between the two biryanis as does the influence for instance, Moradabadi biryani finds its roots in the cuisine of Lucknow. 

Be it Moradabadi or Hyderbadi, or even Calcutta Biryani, one thing that is undeterred is the love and special essence of the place that the biryani carries with it.