Bengali cuisine is an interesting mix of flavours, heritage and the journey of Calcutta to being today’s Kolkata. It is rich, varied and says a lot about the extensive history of the region. Unfortunately, somewhere between ‘maach’ and ‘mishti’, several Bengali delicacies and their fascinating tales go unnoticed. And one such dish surely is the classic Kolkata biryani. Whenever we mention biryani, the first two names that pop up in every mind are – Lucknowi biryani and Hyderabadi biryani. But you ask any Bengali, biryani for them is equivalent to Kolkata biryani that comes with a big boiled potato, loaded with flavours; and that’s what makes biryani of Bengal standout in the lot.
Now you must be wondering why an aloo came into the scene, when you already have juicy pieces of meat to enjoy with the aromatic rice?! To understand, you need to first delve into the history of Bengal. Read on.
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How Aloo Was Introduced In Bengal’s Biryani Preparation:
The tale goes back to the year 1856 when Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last King of Awadh, was dethroned by the British and exiled to Kolkata from his capital Lucknow. When he moved the city, Nawab took his ‘khansamas’ (cooks) along to not compromise on food habit – history has it, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah was fond of his tastes and indulgences.
Over the time, due to the scarcity of Nawab’s money, his indulgences were in fix. But as they say, necessity is the mother of invention – the cooks decided to add a local variation to the Lucknowi biryani by cutting down on meat and adding potatoes to it. As per food expert Kalyan Karmakar, due to the money crunch, “the biryani became lighter with toning down of spices in the rice. And meat was expensive, so they decided to add potatoes instead to give contrast to the rice.”
However, there are various conjectures to the theory. Reportedly, some theories negate the scarcity of money angle and state that potato was included as a sign of luxury as it was considered an exotic vegetable during that period of time.
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What Is The Science Behind Adding Potatoes In Kolkata Biryani:
You must be wondering, why potatoes, when there were other exotic vegetables too?! There’s a science behind this. Potato us a tuber, with starchy texture. Its cellular structure is designed to absorb all the flavours of the food, in comparison to rice that is a dry grain and absorbs less flavours. Hence, you would find potato being widely used in various meat-based recipes, where the vegetable loses its water content and absorbs the flavours of the spices and juice and fat of the meat.
What Is The Right Way To Add Potato In Kolkata Biryani:
According to biryani experts, the quality of Bengali biryani is best understood from the aloo inside. The well-cooked the aloo is, the better the biryani tastes. An ideal biryani aloo should be intact, yet soft and juicy, with all the flavours of the meat and rice.
According to Kolkata-based Chef Koyel Roy Nandy, “To get that perfect taste and texture of biryani aloo, you need to first pick the right kind of potatoes of same size. Preferably, get jyoti potatoes of 100gm each. Keeping a uniformity in size helps you cook all the potatoes evenly.” The next important step is frying. Chef Koyel adds, “Wash, peel and then marinate the potatoes nicely with salt, turmeric and red chilli. Then fry them well and cook along with the meat for all the flavours and juices. Frying also helps you hold the structure of the potatoes after cooking.”
Sounds delicious, indeed! If all these discussions about delicious Kolkata biryani is making you slurp, then here we have a surprise for you. We bring some iconic biryani places from Kolkata that are a must-try. Click here for details.