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Unraveling the Delectable Secrets: Kolkata Biryani True Story Revealed

Updated: Jul 16, 2023

The strange case of the potato in Kolkata biryani.

Kolkata biryani is a big hit not only in Kolkata, but all over the world. However, contrary to popular belief, it was not introduced as a meat substitute. Continue reading to learn the true explanation.

For those of us who grew up in Kolkata's cocooned area, which included Victoria Memorial's buggy rides, Park Street's restaurants and nightlife, and the club culture of Tollywood and Royal Calcutta Golf Club, biryani was always something to be relished and enjoyed whenever the opportunity arose. Most of us in Kolkata only discovered that biryani didn't taste the same as it did back home when we were on vacation or had moved out of the city by mistake. We gradually learned that there were various types of biryani, such as Lucknowi, Hyderabadi, and so on. And it seemed that the aloo was exclusive to Kolkata biryani.

But what is Kolkata biryani and where did it come from?

When Wajid Ali Shah arrived in Calcutta in 1856, he expected Awadh to be returned to him, but this did not happen. As a result, he dispatched his mother, son, and younger brother to England to present the petition to Queen Elizabeth II and the British Parliament. The uprising of 1857 occurred as negotiations were taking place in London, and all hopes of regaining Awadh were dashed because the British were focused on crushing the rebellion.

Wajid Ali Shah
Wajid Ali Shah

Shah was apprehended and kept in Fort William for 26 months. He was given the option of living anywhere in the country when he was released, and he chose Metiabruz in Calcutta. When word got out that he had settled in Calcutta, musicians, chefs, hakims, and the general public began to flock to the city, and Metiabruz grew into a distinct culture in a short period of time. It was also more like a miniature Lucknow.

The potato makes its way to India

The rulers of Awadh, among other items, were food connoisseurs who inspired their chefs to try new dishes. Potatoes, chilies, and tomatoes were first grown in India by the Portuguese in the early 16th century.

They had cultivated potatoes in Surat, and the crop spread throughout the country over the next few decades. The English traders took it to Bengali. Because of the low cultivation, it was not an easily available vegetable in those days, and it was also considered an exotic vegetable.

When biryani from Kolkata meets potato, it's a match made in heaven

The chef added potato to the biryani in one of the experiments. The dum-phukt method is used to prepare the Awadhi biryani. The lid is sealed over the pot in the dum-phukt style to prevent the steam from escaping. As a result, the smell, scent, and juices of spices, rice, meat, and saffron are all absorbed into the meal, making the dish very tasty. So, when the potato was cooked with the saffron spices and the meat, it tasted very delicious and sweet, and when it was served to Wajid Ali Shah, he loved it so much that he said that from now on, whenever you prepare biryani, make sure to include the potato. So that's how it all began in the Metiabruz court of Wajid Ali Shah.

When it was served to the nobles, they were enthralled, and when biryani was prepared in their home, they instructed the wife to add potatoes, and the dish quickly became a part of Calcutta's culinary heritage.

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Arnab Dhar

Namaste 🙏🏻 Everyone, Welcome to Chef Arnab’s World. I am a professional Chef. I have 6years of experience in the culinary journey and still going on. I love to travel to different place’s. Here you can find my Culinary Experience, food, travel & Lifestyle.


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