HYDERABAD: It was 1856 when the last Nawab of Oudh, Wajid Ali Shah lost his kingdom to the British. The Nawab was exiled to Metiabruz, a suburb in the British capital city of Calcutta where he came with his huge entourage and set up his residence. Among them were his khansamas and rakabdars who had to cook his favourite Awadhi Biryani for the members of this team. However, the financial situation of the Nawab did not permit maintaining the same meat ratio in the dish. Meat was expensive and the bawarchis replaced them with potatoes to bring down the cost.
Though fund constraints seem to have been the reason for the inclusion of potato in the Nawab’s biryani, another story talks about that potatoes at that time were sought-after vegetables added just to bring a variation to the recipe. The variant was appreciated and thus was born a new version of biryani known as Calcutta Biryani in which the rice and the meat are cooked partially, and the potatoes are fried, before the biryani is layered in a handi, and put on dum. The moist biryani relies more on the flavour and has vless masala as compared to its Hyderabadi counterpart. It is light on the stomach usually enjoyed with sides such as chaap or pasanda. Saffron, kewra water, and mitha attar are some of ingredients used for its typical fragrance.
Over the centuries, the dish became popular in Kolkata and around, with many versions seen in popular Kolkata eateries like Royal Indian, Shiraz, Arsalan, and Aminia with differentiation, for example, Royal Indian Restaurant still serves biryani without the omnipresent potato, whereas Aminia has a version which has a taste closer to the Awadhi counterpart.
In Hyderabad, Call of Bengal at Gachibowli has been offering authentic Calcutta biryani for the past few years the place is owned by Sumita Ganguli, a culinary expert. They have hired a trained chef from Kolkata to prepare this biryani. Other than mutton and chicken biryani, they also offer vegetarian and egg versions of the dish.
IT professionals form their loyal clientele for this dish while at the same time the locals initially had inhibitions about the lack of spiciness in the biryani. But over a period of time, the Hyderabadis have begun to fall in love for the dish for its unique flavour and aroma. The restaurant will soon be shifting to a bigger location. Other than this, Kolkata House in Hafeezpet and Bengal Zone in Miyapur are other eateries that offer Calcutta biryani on their menu. Sabyasachi is a food enthusiast and blogs at ww.foodaholix.in