Have you ever wondered if that simple mix of rice and vegetables is a veg biryani? Were you never sure how to spot the difference between a pulao and a veg biryani? Do you scratch your head every time you order a veg biryani and end up being served pulao? If yes, then this is a must read for you.
The cacophony of calling any rice dish with vegetables as pulao is a misnomer in many eateries and restaurants. That's why we are here to break this myth and turn over the tables. Because the debate that veg biryani & pulao are same has left people stuttering over their origins, preparation and melange of spices. But, we have amassed a bouquet of differences to help you identify what's on your plate. Here we go!
1. Veg Biryani is not Pulao!
While both are rice dishes, calling each recipe synonymously with the other is a crime for food connoisseurs. Originally from Persia, Pilaf, pulao or Pilafi is still considered to be derived from the Sanskrit word "pulaka" or "Pulla" ( meaning rice & vegetables). Researchers believe, its a dish originating in India which made its way back through Central Asia. On the other hand, there is speculation that the veg biryani recipe originated in Persia but migrated to India with the Mughals. Considering that Mughals were advocates of fine cuisine, they shaped the Indian culinary heritage significantly with this recipe.
2. Cooking Philosophy!
Many parallels can be drawn when it comes to theorising the origins of veg biryani and pulao. But, the contrasts between the two can't be overlooked.
While many point out the resemblance of pulao to Yakhni Pulao from North India - rice prepared in vegetable stock & whole spices - a Kayastha course, describing the melange of Indo-Islamic culture.
On the other hand, vegetable biryani, the zenith of Indian Cuisine is believed to be brought by the Turk-Mongol conqueror, Timur at the frontiers of India in 1398.
Thought to have originated as a war-time menu from Timur’s army, the veg biryani primitively was a clay vessel full of rice, spices & anything that was available. It was buried in a hot underground pit, to be eventually dug up and served, known as 'dum' style.
3. The Simplicity of Preparation:
The pulao mirrors a reasonably easy cooking style wherein the contents are cooked first, the rice is added and then the duo is cooked together in a pre-set amount of water. Hence, pulao is essentially a one-pot dish made wielding the absorption method.
Conversely, the vegetable biryani is a made through a complex and time-consuming process. The fresh vegetables in the biryani are prepared separately along with spices, while the rice is par-boiled separately. The next step involves arranging the ingredients in layers in a pot & slow cook them in "dum", on a low fire. A menagerie of flavours and spices, biryani is described as an evergreen classic.
4. The usage of spices:
Humble on spices, easy on the preparation of cooking and simple in terms of technique, a veg pulao would be one's go-to-dish on a rainy day. The only additions that are made to a pulao besides its simple blend of rice, vegetables, and spices are whole dry fruits or nuts to add some zing. Pulao is never high on spices but still remains high in flavours. It’s a delicate balance of simple ingredients and subtle zests.
In a vegetable biryani, on the other hand, spices are the foundation of its complexity. An essential part of the preparation, this vibrant dish may have strong or subdued flavours relying on the region it originates from in India, but the intricate use of seasonings and flavourings is a binding factor.
Consider this piece our honest ode to the legacy of biryani. Always remember — biryani-making is a form of art; don't do yourself a disservice by trading pulao in the name of biryani. And the next time you see rice and vegetables together, be aware of precisely what's in your mouth! And if you forget everything you’ve read here, remember this simple test. No two grains of rice would ever stick to each other in an authentic veg biryani. The rest is all a farce!
Do you have more questions? Need more advice about your food escapades? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you.