Thursday, 11 January 2018


One day after the successful posting of Chhath story on my blog page. I thought what’s next. Suddenly, I got message from Debolina my class mate, “the winter leave has started and I am free for a week, Ashwani what is yours next subject? If you have not plotted your next subject, why don’t you write on “Makar Sankranti”? Maker Sankranti is a festival based on bathing in a holy river and worshiping the Sun as well as it marks the beginning of the harvest season and I replied to her Yes, let’s do a story together ………
Makar is rashi and Sankranti means the movement of sun from one rashi to another.  Makar Sankranti is mainly celebrated on 14th January every year. It is one of the most auspicious days for Hindu all over India, Indian sub-continents and overseas.
In a year there are 12 Sankranti and Makar Sankranti is the most celebrated one. Every year on 14th January Sun enters Capricorn with Sagittarius and known as Uttarayan. By the way, it is an astronomical phenomenon, but this zodiac change of Sun has been considered as special even from spiritual point of view. This natural movement of change is celebrated as Makar Sankrant.
The auspicious festivals have been there for many years .The Vedic story also speak that Hindu auspicious celebrations are based on season and natural power elements... From that era people purify themselves by taking bath in Ganga, Yamuna and other holy rivers, they also visit auspicious place and worship Lord Surya and seek blessings. According to Mythology, “In the Mahabharata, the Gangaputra Bhishma Pitamah clearly mention that he will wait till Sun would become Uttarayan after that he will get Moksha from his life”- Unke Pass Ekcha Mirtu Ka Bardan Tha. It is believed, if there is a possibility of liberation from death in Uttarayan the person will get Moksha from the life.
Do you know, In India festivals are celebrated according to lunar and solar calendar (Panchank)? Lunar festivals are based on moon and solar are on sun cycle. The basic difference is that lunar festivals date varies where solar festival is celebrated on the same date every year. It is believe that after one hundred years the date of Makar Sankranti gets change means it will go one day ahead.

Makar Sankranti is considered as the bringing of the holy phase. Good things start to happen from here. After Makar Sankranti the days become longer and warmer. This is the sign of beginning of new season. The weather starts changing from here.  It is said that-“A change in feelings can lead to a significant change in behaviours.” Heat and light of sun start increasing and people start coming out from their houses. It signifies that cold is moving out and new developments happen with the sun changes.
As per Hindu believe the Makar Sankranti is also the last day of Kharmas. It is forbidden to do any good will works in Kharmas. From that day the all auspicious work begins, like Grih pravesh, Wedding, Mundan etc happen.

The beginning of the official English calendar is marked with the harvest festival of India known by various names in different regions of India. It is the biggest celebrations for those farmers who assist in cultivations. They are happy because they cut the crops and again cultivate the second crops for their future uses. The main staple food of India is associated with this period of time. Dhan (Rice-Kharif) is harvested and Gehun (Wheat-Rabi) is cultivate. In Bihar, Punjab and Tamilnadu it is time to harvest the corp. Rice and Sugarcane are the most important Kharif crops thus it find their place in Makar Sankranti delicacies. Wheat, Barley, Mustard, Sesame basically Rabi crops are cultivated from late October to March.

According to the different regional beliefs Makar Sankranti delicacies vary from one region to another region. Festivals have their own specialities. The only dish is Khichri which is common amongst many states, apart from this rice and pulse dish, sesame and jagerry are also consumed widely due to winter and also its heating properties.


Festivals remind us of our childhood. On Makar Sankranti we wake up early and take bath(it’s a mandatory) and Mother gives us Kala Til and Kacha Chawal to touch for 5 times. On Makar Sankranti a bath in the early morning is said to remove all sins. The first thing which we get to eat is made of Til. Tilkut, Til ka ladoo, Lai, Chura dahi and Aloo gobi mutter ki subzi is served that day!!!

  • Tilkut- Til is Sesame seed and kut is pound. The world famous Buddhist spiritual place Gaya is also known for the making of tilkut. The varieties of tilkut are endless like, chini ka, gud ka mawa wala, khoya bhara, khastha, rolls etc……. ‘Gaya ke tilkut ka koi sani nahi’.
  • Til ka ladoo- Roasted sesame seed and gud ka paak (syrup) combined together and shape into a round ball. If keep it in an airtight container it will not spoil for few months. Both white and black are used to make the ladoo.
  • Lai- Roasted rice flake/puff and gud/chini or gur ka paak (syrup) combined together and shape into a round ball. If keep it in an airtight container it will not spoil for few months. Ginger is also added to Lai by some people as ginger is always considered hot.
  • Chura dahi- Chura is rice flake and dahi is curd. Chura is washed with water and later soaked in milk till it is fully absorbed then it is eaten with curd and gur/sugar.
  • Dahi chura- The difference is, here the quantity of curd is more then chura approx. - 1/2 kg curd and 100 gm of chura. Rest of the process is same as Chura Dahi. Ask any Maithili Brahmin about this, he will proudly say how much he loves Dahi Chura.
  • Aloo gobhi mutter ki subzi- This types of rasawala curry only Bihari/Jharkhandi can make. New potatoes boiled, peeled and cut into dices. Cauliflower florets fried in mustard oil. Fresh garden peas peeled and added. The curry is made with turmeric, garlic, red chillies, cumin and black pepper paste; Use of “sil batta” gives the unique taste.
  • Khichri- Bihari khichri is the best. Arhar dal and Arwa chawal are cooked together with potatoes, cauliflower florets, fresh, green peas, turmeric and salt. Later give the baghar (tadka) of mustard oil, jeera, golki, lahsun, lal mirch and tejpata. Deshi ghee is added on top when khichri is being served.

I remembed, we friends enjoy playing guli danda or goli (Kancha) on Maker Sankranti……..
Milk and ghee are treated as ritually pure food thus every auspicious occasion is incomplete without their presence in. Secondly the best part of ritual ceremonies is that we get to seat on the ground (aashan) facing east or north in order to have food with a pin drop silence.

In Maharashtra people make tilguls and distribute among their family and friends. A Local says, ‘Tilgul ghya, god-god bola’ means distribute tilguls and speak sweet words. Tilguls made from til and sugar and til ladoos are from til and jagerry. This day Maharashtrian women play Haldi kumkum, as well as Goan does so.
Turmeric is used in Indian rituals and worship. Kumkum or red Tilak is made by powdering Turmeric and drying it after mixing it with Lime.

While me and my friend Debolina were talking to people of various regions about their way of celebrations, her friend Namrata told that a day before Sankranti they celebrate Bhogi when they eat some til ki Bhakra made of Jowar or Bajra along with winter vegetables, cooked specially for the day to serve as offering or (bhog) to their kuldevta.

Makar Sankranti is celebrated by the name of Poush Parbon in Bengal.It is called so as it is the festival (parbon) to mark the end of the Bengali month Poush...The day starts with the arrangements of special preparation of variety of sweets called as "Pithe" special for this occasion. These sweets are different from the regular Bengali sweets made up of milk, pithe are the preparation of rice, coconut and a special jaggery found in winter season called patali gur (jaggery from the dates-khejur)
The special delicacies are:-
  • Patishapta-The pancakes made of rice flour stuffed with stuffing made of coconut and jaggery
  • Siddho puli- A mouth-watering sweet which is the rice flour dumplings with the same stuffing of jaggery and coconut and is eaten with the date syrup
  • Chitoipithe-These are pancakes made up of rice flour and is eaten with dates syrup or with a light curry of potatoes specially made for this.
  • Doodhpuli-This is the  sweet prepared on this day and similar to the payesh or kheer ,the only difference is that for this the puli(rice flour dumplings with stuffing of cocunut and jaggery) is boiled in the milk .

Apart from these common delicacies the various districts of Bengal have their own variations in preparation but mostly they are done with rice flour and some are with boiled moong dal. The pithe made up of moongdal will have pinch of salt and sweet taste as the outer covering of dal will be salty and stuffing will be sweet and these will be fried.
The patali gur (jaggery made from date syrup, is a special delicacy of winter in Bengal, usually the jaggery is made from sugarcane but prior to winter the slits are made in the date trees from which the syrup is collected in earthen pot tied to the stem and these syrup are collected and boiled to make jaggery called as nolen gur. All the sweet of Poush parbon is made with this nolen gur...

In Assam Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu celebrated on the last day of Pusya and the first day of Megha. Bihu is derived from the Sanskrit word Visuvat. Piling up firewood to form a Maji (Temple-like structure) and setting fire to it is an important part of this festival. The whole day is spent in feasting, singing songs and dancing. Pitha, Laaru, khazoor ka gur are eaten all over the Assam. That day in the morning Assamese people take Jolpan (light meal) i.e. Chira or Muri. Traditionally Jolpan consist any form of rice eaten with mostly curd and gur.

Tamil nadu a down South state celebrate this harvest festival by the name of Pongal and the name of the festival is related to the very special sweet dish special for this festival called as Sakarai Pongal (sweet pongal).The farmers and common people wait for this day and celebrations are marked for four days begins with Bhogi the day before the Pongal, it is the day when they burn the old things and residues of crops , next is Pongal day, starts with early morning cleaning of houses and preparing pongal in courtyard. They arrange for age old practice of fire in bricks and cooking pongal in clay pot with sugarcane standing on four side guarding bricks and turmeric plant. The new rice is boiled with milk and jaggery and whole family waits aside, with the first boil of milk all says pongala -pongala to rejoice the cooking of pongal, they worship Family God with this pongal and whole family eats this as their first meal of the day. Next is the day of matu pongal followed by kanu pongal. The day’s speciality is linked with worship of cattle’s at house and ancestors along with having merry time with family and friends.

A tourist place of India, Rajasthan is known to celebrate the little and big occasion. Every occasion they have different custom and tradition. Uttarayan are celebrated as the new beginning of life in Rajasthan. It is symbolic to the start of a fresh new season by getting rid of the bad vibes of previous season. In the same connection kite festival is organised every year on 14th January in the various parts of Rajasthan. Mawa ki kachori, Ghewar, Malpua are the main attraction on the various shops. If you want to look for a good Rajasthani food always visit during their festive time. I remember when I worked in the Sun City of India, Jodhpur, I was invited by one of my Indian Chef Kanhaiya Lal to his house on Makar Sankranti and I was served with Dal ka pakoda and gur ka pakoda with chutney. They also prepared Namakpare, Sakarpara, Til Ke ladoo and Til Papdi. The Rajasthani celebrate the Makar Sankranti by donating their food to worthy Brahmin and other deserving persons. They also served same food to their domestic animal.
Jaipur is known to organise the International Kite Festival, which are organised from the many years on Makar Sankranti. The whole Jaipur city fall fluttering kites over the sky. This day, people enjoy and play kite, eat pakodas and til papdi, sing songs.
Gujarat also host International kite festival on the second week of January every year. My childhood friend Santosh Patel who lived in Surat after passing out from Kendriya Vidyalaya No-2, Bokaro, Jharkhand say,” Undhiyu, Puri, Jalebi and gur aur moongphali ki chikki are the main attraction on the uttarayan menu". A winter dish undhiyu traditionally cook in earthenware and eaten with puri. Surti papdi, moothia, ripe banana, brinjal(Rawaiya), ratalu, sakarkandi, dana(batana and Tovar) simmered in coconut, Coriander(Kothamvir) , ginger, green chillies(marcha), salt and pounded spices .Here, celebration continue on the next day also known as Vashi Uttrayan.
Vedic knowledge says - ''Seven colours mix together to become an intense glow of white rays of the sun.'' When flying a kite, our body comes in contact with the sun's rays directly, which cure diseases in winter. To engage yourself in the sun light people start themselves busy with some fun activities like flying kite and etc. Kite widely known as ‘PATANG’ is signifies the spirit to fly high in the blue sky. It’s a family game where every age group people enjoy and wants to cut the more kite as they had put their best manjha(a type of paste) on the thread and preparation of it was not an easy job .

The largest state in India, Uttar pardesh celebrate the Makar Sankranti by taking a ritual bath in the river or home. After that people take a bowl and put kacha chawal, kali urad dal, namak, mirch, deshi ghee, kale aur safeed til ke ladoo, any one fruit, any one vegetables and some money and they sprinkle water around the bowl. Later they donate it to the Brahmin. After this ritural they make and have Khichiri and celebrate the new harvest season, this is also known as Khichiri Parv.

Magh mela celebrated at Prayag, Allahabad. It starts on Makar Sankranti and celebrated almost a month. Every 12 years the Magh mela become Kumbh mela.

The word Lohri originated from Loh and Aai, which means Iron foe. Lohri is a popular Punjabi community festival celebrated on 13th January; the last day of the month Poh (Pusya). It marks the end of winter. People (Usually young members) collect Cowdung cakes from their neighbourhood and arrange them in a pyramidal shape in their courtyard. The elder women of the house set fire to it and offering are made into the fire. Traditionally, til and sugarcane are thrown into the fire. People collect ashes in the next morning and taken to their houses as a gift from the god. Lohri is associated with harvest festival (Rabi crop) in Punjab. Sarson ka saag and makai ki roti with makhan and gur are eaten everywhere in the Punjab that day. It is tradition to eat Til, Gajjak, Reori, Peanut, Gur and Popcorn in Lohri.

  • Gajjak-Solidified sugar or gur cover with til comes in various shape and size.
  • Reori-A sweet made of sugar/gur syrup paste, til, khoya and groundnuts.

The next day 14th January is called Maghi, kheer is made in sugarcane juice is a special delicacy to savour.
Indians know the art of producing sugar from sugarcane. “Syakarah” means sugar in Sanskrit. Greek, Chinese, Portuguese, European learnt the skill of producing sugar from us.
Happy Makar Sankranti 2018!!!!!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Chhath Puja

It was a beautiful busy evening and Dilli32 was hosting Hyderabadi food festival. MY blogger friends Mr. Maneesh Srivastva & Mr. Vickram Vicky had come to honor us with their presence. It’s always a pleasure talking to them on various topics, and that day chhath was our discussion topic.

Mr. Maneesh Srivastava says, “Chef Aap chhath puja per kyun nahin likhthe? I said aap ko humari madad karni padegi’’. He has lightened my task by saying that ‘’aap suru to kare”.

Chhath, “A goddess who is called chhathi maata is worshiped for four days. Chhath Maha Parva is celebrated in Shukla Chaturthi of Kartika Month. Mainly every year after six day from Diwali chhath is celebrated. Due to Suryashashthi’s fasting, it is called ‘CHHATH’. It is also said Chhath in Hindi is 6.

It is a mega festival of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. Mithila Region of Nepal also does chhath, infact there is an important connection between chhath and Mithila region. My Rakhi sister Mili Sharma (Mithila Brahmin) vice principal of DAV, Biratnagar in Nepal says that chhath is very popular here and celebrated all over the Nepal with same faith and happiness every year, as we have in Bihar.

The 100% Bihari festival Chhath Puja starts with removing all the negativity and turning it into positive. Chhath means everything to a Bihari, and we feel proud that the oldest ruling history state has such a unique festival in the whole country that it has got respect from every others religion.
It’s a religious festival and celebrated in the family with purity. A four day function where all family members come together to celebrate.

Indians belongs to the family of Aryans. From the Vedic period we worship sun as it is a symbol of power and energy. Life style is based on Varna and Caste. Sanskrit is the main language of communication. People were scared from the natural powers like- Sun, Moon, Star, Rain, Fire and Wind in that era, and hence they started worshiping them like god and goddess.

Upanishad, Ramayana and Mahabharata all are documented in this era and provided many instances on Sun and other worships. Pandavas wife Draupadi used to worship sun for the sake of family’s good health and their longevity.

It is believed that Chhathi maiya is the sister of Lord Surya and if we worship HER, Sun God is worshiped. The worshipers fast and worship on the banks of river Ganga, Yamuna or any river and reservoir.

Dev in Aurangabad district of Bihar has a sun temple and their chhath puja is world famous. Many villagers in Bihar establish the Surya murti in nicely decorated pandal and after chhath they do visharjan.

To wish to have a child in their lives, people started to celebrate chhath puja with a faith and belief in Lord Surya. Believe me it’s true to many………..

My childhood memories begin with the making of ghat with friends in chhath. We used to carry tools like kudal and khurpa in ours hand and went to the riverside to make it. This beautiful journey with childhood friend helped to select the perfect place for the ghat. Then, we wold compete to see who is making it better and quicker.

The festival begins from NAHAY KHAY (Nahay is bath and khay is food), the devotees take a bath and enjoy satvik bhojan thus called “Nahay khay”. Song of chhathi maiya is sung by the family members in every household. Puri, Chana dal, Lauki ki subzi, Aloo chokha, Aloo dum, Dhaniya ki chutney, Arwa chawal and Ghee are the highlights of the menu cooked in sendha namak without onion and garlic Also referred  as ‘’kaddu bhat’’ if anyone eats with rice. 



Second day is the day of “kharna”. The preparation for making Prasad (kheer) with full faith and prayers for family’s well-being is called Kharna. Vartis do fasting whole day, without any water and food and in the evening they worship Lord Bhaskar and offer him Ganga Jal, Gur ka Kheer and ghee ki Roti after that they intake it and later the Prasad is distributed to the family members.  New rice and new gur is used to make Kheer. It is made separately in clay Chulah, in which the mango woods and the cow’s dung cakes are used in the form of fuel.

 In the end I am blessed to wash the leftover cloths of the varti, which is also a very important part of the chhath puja. They wear the same saree throughout the ritural ceremony of chhath.



Arwa chawal/Gur/Fresh cow or buffalo milk

Boil milk add soaked arwa rice and cooked till mashy consistency, remove from fire and add gur.

Nirjala vart

Where varti do the fasting without having any water and food is called Nirjala. Chhath, Teej, Jitiya are the most difficult Nirjala vart of our country.

The 36 hrs long fasting without water is starts after that.

The festival of Chhath is the most difficult festival. It’s not easy to spend 36 hrs of long fasting. The whole night is utilized to make Tekua, thikri and khajuri and this work continues till morning. The temperature required to fry Thekua should be very low, more time required due to large quantity of Prasad, thus done in night. The Tekua will be made of only wheat, which is specially washed and dried for Chhath.
In the afternoon, every kalsup and daura is decorated beautifully and traditionally with fruits, vegetables and 7 thekua each. Picture of sun with ghee and sindoor are made in the kalsup. The weight of Kalsup for Arghya (offering) with milk is more than 5 kg.

5 kg chaki ka atta / 2 1/2 kg gur / 300 gm sudh ghee.
Thekua is fried in sudh ghee.


“Daura and Kalsup” are kept on the forehead of male members and all move to the ghat near river side. (Some did it on their rooftop). This is the most enjoyable and responsible task, performed by the male members of the family and ladies keep walking singing the chhathi maiya songs.

काँच के बाँस के बहँगिया, बहँगी सतर्क जाएय् होख॥ सुरूजदेव सहाय…… बहँगी घाट पहुँचाए…… घाट पर हमहूँ अरधिया देबई हे छठी मइयाँ……. it’s a long song, if you sing you fall in love of it.

Kids enjoy crackers throughout the journey…………….

As varti reach the ghat, all daura and kalsup are kept on the ghat floor and ghat is decorated with sugarcane and Banana tree leaves. Some do modern 
lighting too.


The first arghya is called “SANDHYA ARGHYA. Varti does worship in river/pond/ man made water pond. They hold the kalsup in their hands and stand in the water. They move around five times at the same place and every time family members offered arghya of water near the kalsup to Lord Bhasker and take blessings of Chhathi Maiya.

Again, Kids enjoy crackers on ghat throughout the ritual ceremony………….

After the first arghya, “KOSI BHARNA” is an event during Chhath Puja. When your manat is fullfiled by Chhathi Maiya, you do kosi bharna. In a beautiful earthen pot (here, sculpture of elephant) which has many diya in it and in the centre of earthen pot, vartis’ put thekua, fruits, sacha, and puri. The earthen pot is kept in the center under the shades of sugarcane stacks. It’s a thanks giving to the Goddess.

Kids enjoy crackers on ghat throughout the ritual ceremony………….

Many people stay over the ghat in that night. Many cultural activities are performed by the local and celebrities. Varti along with family members enjoy chhathi songs to avoid falling asleep.

As and when we talk about chhath song definitely one name comes to our mind that is of Sharda Sinha. She is world renowned singer by the virtue of chhathi maiya songs.

Those who return back to their houses, wake up at 3:30 am in the morning. The sound of the loudspeaker indicates you to do bath and get ready for the ghat. Without any Pandit this ritural of chhath happens in the supervision of the elder family member. The ugthe surya ko arghya is given with raw cow milk. Everyone at the ghat does the milk arghya. After that, we do surya Arti and dhup hawan and put dhup samagri (shakil) five times and this is done by everyone in the family.

Kids enjoy crackers on ghat throughout the ritual ceremony………….

In chhath the long sindoor on mother’s forehead through the nose, resemble her as goddess.

The chhath puja finishes with blessings and we take prasad and seek blessings of Chhathi Maiya and Lord Bhaskar. Vartis’ do sindoor and khoichha ritural to the others ladies.

Today is Paran day, all varti’ open his/her fasting by eating thekua. The thekua loaded with sindoor looks very attractive and just melts in your mouth. It’s very soft due to loads of ghee used in the preparation. Thekua is divine and is just out of the world.
All Bihari will agree with this statement about thekua…………
There is a tradition to eat fish in the afternoon as Bihari always consider fish as auspicious.

Happy chhath puja to all!!! “Chhathi maiya ki kirpa aap per bani rahe”.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

“Kya pulao se aaya hoga biryani” - An insight to Biryani

Memories of food are often a powerful reality, which gets imprinted in our mind. My first encounter with biryani was when I was working as a Chef in charge at Maharaja Heritage resort, Balsamand Lake Palace, Jodhpur. This beautiful property of His Highness Mr. Gaj Singh is known for their Royal Marwar food. On his 50th Birthday ceremony, I was cooking for him at Sardar Samand lake palace, Pali, Rajasthan. Soola, Boothan, Sath, Safeed maans, Panchkutta, Mokul, khato and his highness favourite Shikampuri kebab were the selected delicacies in the menu for the gala dinner.

I saw our G.M.  Mr. Atul Chana of ITC fame, coming towards me and telling that ‘Bap Ji’ (His Highness) has asked for biryani also to be served on the royal table for the dinner tonight. It was an important order to me and that too at the last moment. Well, I have always believed not to get panic in sudden situations like this, instead calm my own self and concentrate in order to try to deliver the best i can within that short span of time.
Eventually what I did, I just boiled the rice and then layered it over the safeed maans and cooked. Though, I was skeptical but not afraid at all. Finally the biryani was served to him and he had it. Later he called me up and praised me immensely in front of all his Royal friends. He said to me that this was one of the best Biryani's he ever had till now in a really long period of time. That compliment over my confidence and effort made my day and got embarked in my mind forever.

Basically, the Safed maans has all the ingredients which are necessary for a good biryani. Rose water, Cardamom, mace, Fennel, white pepper, ghee, green chilles, ginger, poppy seed, curd and milk- basically it’s a white korma - The trick worked that day.

Rajasthan is not known for biryani except Dargah of Ajmer Sharif, they serve biryani deg, called “Sarai ki biryani”. Marwar have Kabuli pulao which is a vegetarian version with vegetables, raisins, cashewnuts etc and they also add fried breads croutons that look like meat.
“Kya pulao se aaya hoga biryani” - An insight to Biryani
India has a long history of rice cultivation. It developed on the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas. From there it got spread to the rest of the world. In India, rice is a symbol of prosperity and from the past old times it was associated with the rich people, because rice was too expensive to afford. It was cultivated and stored for the special occasions. Ghee and milk was also a part of the cooking medium and hunting was very much popular too during Aryan culture.

Rice cooked in water called ‘Bhath’ and is accompanied by ghee, curd, and dal or meat preparation. Pulao is a renowned rice preparation and an Indian delicacy being popular from the Vedic time itself. Mahabharata also referred that when meat and rice cooked together then that is a similar dish. 
''oon soru"
A rice preparation with ghee, turmeric, pepper and meat was served to warriors, which is mention in Tamil literature.
Since we all know, India was ruled by many rulers from time to time and thus has been their influence on the food. . When Alexander conquered the northern state of India at that time he had this Indian delicacy 'Pulao', which he relished a lot and took it from here
to Greece and then from Greece to Turkey. Then the pulao which travelled from India to Turkey that eventually returned back to India in the form of 'Biryani' by the Mughals. “Ain-e- Akbari", the Mughal document also states that pulao was familiar with the Indian people.
If we consider this statement then, my belief becomes even stronger on it, that the Indian Pulao which was served to the Mughal Emperor's table would have only become biryani further. Since the Muslim cooks were known for their innovation and creation of new delicacies. It might have happened that on the demand of their emperor they might have invented biryani, which was cooked in layers and was much easier to cook rice rather than pulao.


Pulao is actually a type of rice preparation, generally cooked in home when there is any special occasion, picnic, festivals or wedding. The preparation of pulao starts with frying meat/vegetables with spices and herbs in ghee (clarified butter), after that water is added which is approximately double the quantity of rice (1’inch above from the level of rice) in the prepared meat/vegetables. Later rice is added and simmered together to absorb the flavours of the spices. This process is called - absorption method.

Soaking is very important in the making of pulao, it helps in minimising starch upto a limit and another characteristic is that the grain of the prepared pulao comes out evenly and separately. Very low heat applied from both the sides which gives pulao a definition of what it is!!!

Rice/Pulao is generally cooked by a male Brahmin (Maharaj) due to its huge volume in the ritual ceremonies in India.
Basic pulao recipes-
1 kg old aged rice/1 kg mutton curry cut pieces/250 gm desi Ghee/250 gm onion/100 gm curd/1 pod garlic/ 1 pcs ginger /5 nos green chillies/½ tsp cumin seed /10 nos clove /10 nos black cardamom /4 nos bay leaf /4 pcs cinnamon/Salt to taste...
First, wash and soak rice for 1 hour. Then fry half of the onion in ghee and pound it nicely. Make a paste of ginger and garlic and strain the juice and keep it aside. Marinate the mentioned ingredients all together- chillies, cumin, cinnamon, curd, salt and juice of ginger and garlic. In a pot, fry bay leaf, clove and cardamom and then add the rest of the onion and fry it upto golden. Now, add the marinated mutton and stir nicely till golden brown colour comes in. Simmer it till all the ghee comes on the top and then you can say that meat is cooked nicely. Now, drain the water from the rice and put in the prepared korma. Check the seasoning and when the rice absorbs the juice of the meat nicely, cover it and then cook it on dum.

Kabuli pulao/Moti pulao/Kofta pulao/Kashmiri pulao/Yakni pulao/Boot pulao/Muzaffer/Zard/Muthanjan/Shahjahani/Coorgi yarchi pulao etc

My recommendation to the readers - Soak the rice, drain the water from it and spread it over a table cloth and let it dry first then fry it in the ghee and later add to the Yakhni to enhance the flavours of the pulao. Always keep this in mind, in order to prevent rice to get overdone add little curd to the pulao before adding water/yakni to it.

“Biryani ka matlab”- 
Biryani comes from a Persian word ‘’ Birinj aur Biriyan’’, Birinj is rice and biriyan means fried- literally means fried rice. Apart from this there is no other evidence about biryani nomination.
Biryani is a combination of rice and meat/poultry/fish/vegetables. It was brought to India by the Mughals and was spread by them to all over the Indian regions, where they ruled. The traditional Mughlai biryani was not documented even in Ain-e Akbari, it has description only about the types of meal which used to be served, and it was meat with rice i.e. pulao/ biryani.


Biryani is a Muslim food and kebab was an accompaniment to the Biryani. Dastarkhwan, a ceremonial spread used to have an array of dishes- from kebabs to Korma and Qaliya all eaten together with biryani. The quality of a cooked biryani can be tested by throwing a handful of it on the ground in a spray. If the grains of rice fall separately from each other then it is supposed to be a good biryani.

Biryani is basically a winter dish. Cooking style of biryani is different in every community in India. Necks, Barrah, parchas and ndare are the various cuts of mutton with least fibrous meat which are best suited for preparing Biryani. The good practice of eating habits says that the food rich in blood are supposed to be consumed in winters. Likewise, biryani has the attributes of a man/the warrior and is considered as sexually potent.
Delhi who was an evidence of Imperial kitchen of Mughals had developed many cooking styles. Mughals were known for having a high sense of taste and aroma of the food. From here they had spread it to all over the Indian Sub-regions. In Delhi, here biryani is cooked in a single layer or double layer with ghee and is being sold in kgs at small eating joints and thelas all over. It is quite a popular as it justifies its worth with the quantity they sell. So that, “koi yah na kahe ki kam di biryani khane ko”

The yield of the prepared biryani is approx. 1 kg meat + 1 kg rice = 4 kg of biryani.

Biryani can be categorised into two forms - ‘Kutchi' (raw) and 'Pukki' (cooked).
Lucknowi biryani is known as ‘Pukki’ biryani and the Hyderabadi is famous for ‘Kutchi’ biryani. According to the 'pukki' style, meat and rice are cooked separately then layered in a ‘Deg’, brass vessel for the finishing whereas in ‘Kutchi’ biryani style (with raw gravy); meat, marinade and rice are layered raw and cooked in 'Dum'.


DEG / DEGCHI: This is a pear-shaped pot of brass, copper or aluminium. The shape of this utensil is ideally suited for the 'dum' method and is used for cooking Pulao, Biryani, Nehari or Shab Deg.

Lucknow was ruled by the Nawab Asaf - ud – Daulah, who were of Persian origin. He was a connoisseur and a great lover of cuisine, who is said to have maintained six kitchens and spent vast sums of money inventing fabulous delicacies. Lucknowi, ‘’Rakabdar ‘’developed the ‘’Dum style’’ of cooking in which food is cooked for a long period of time.

RAKABDAR: In the Royal kitchens of Awadh, this designation was equivalent to that of today’s Gourmet Chefs. Their job was to look after how the food has been prepared, the process and procedure of cooking, the quality etc, they don't use to cook themselves oftenly and rarely in small quantities if required. 

Chilman Biryani

Lucknowi biryani is highly aromatic and full of meaty flavours. It is scented with saffron and vetiver, some used to cook it with dry fruits and nuts also.  They don’t put tenderizer at all. There are many innovative biryanis by Nawabi Rakabdar in Lucknow.
Lucknow serves pukki form of biryani. Pukki means cooked. This biryani mainly has three steps:-

The meat is fried in ghee and cooked with ginger, garlic, crushed fried onion and little milk with warm aromatic spices till the meat becomes tender. The prepared meat yakhni is drain out and jugalbandi of atter with saffron, cardamom and mace are added after checking the seasoning. The nazakat of Lucknowi biryani is that no whole spices should come to your mouth while you are having it.

The rice is slightly fried in Ghee, and boiled in the meat broth or water.

Cooked meat and cooked rice are layered twice or more in a deg. Saffron or food grade lemon yellow and orange colours are sprinkled on the layered rice. Then the deg is sealed and cooked over low heat. The result is perfectly cooked meat, rice, and a homogenous flavour of aromatic meat yakni, aromatic spices and sweet flavors.

The city Hyderabad is known as a land of Biryani in India. The famous Kacchi gosht ki biryani is prepared with marinated lamb and rice cooked together. The use of tenderizer i.e. papaya in marination (Kachi yakni) makes the difference here. The highly aromatic biryani has green and red chillies, peppercorn, star anise, cardamom, kebabchini, mint etc.
In Hyderabad collection of biryani is rich and vast and in their both preparation whether it is vegetarian or non- vegetarian and has many delicacies.
The Hyderabadi Muslims got their food habits from the Mughals. Hyderabad serves both the original Hindu Andra style and Mughlai Hyderabadi biryani which highly influences by Mughal imperial kitchen. One main preparation difference is the use of lemon juice instead of tamarind juice by Muslims. Andhra produced largest chillies which actually reflect in their biryani which is why it is much spicier then north. Here, mirch ka salan and bhurani are eaten with biryani, which helps to aid digestion.

Bhurani is a good healthy combination with biryani supposed to prevent constipation occurs due to rice.

Procedure of making Hyderabadi kache gosht ki biryani -

Mutton is marinated with lemon juice, green papaya paste, curd, onion, garlic herbs and spices with desi ghee. The marination is kept for minimum 1 hr to 4 hr in the fridge.

Rice is soaked, drained and cooked in mutton stock or water with potli masala. The first layer of cooked rice is almost 30% done spared all over the marinated mutton and the second layering is of 50% cooked rice is added and spread nicely. Pre-soaked saffron milk is sprinkled all over the rice and more ghee is added on the top.

Seal the deg with dough and put the lid on and live charcoal is placed on the top as well and let it cook on slow flame till done. 

In my early commi days, I used to marinate the meat very well for the kache gosht ki biryani, the only problem I faced was while cooking rice. The timing to take out the rice from the boiling pot and layering it over the meat was very important and one has to leave some water along with the boiled rice while pouring it over the marinated meat. If you didn't maintain the timing it spoils the whole process of making biryani. The biggest challenge for me was to maintain the consistency. Either the grain of biryani were too mashy or the rice/ meat remain raw.

Hyderabad is also known for its Pulao, Qubooli Mughal influence rice and lentil preparation. It is also cooked with meat as a non veg option.

Potli ka masala
Black cardamom /cinnamon/bay leaf/coriander seeds/kebabchini/dried rose petals/kapoor kachai/pan ki jad/star anise/stone flower/sandal wood/khus ki jad/gehunwala

On my grand trunk culinary journey trip, I got chance to explore the biryani of Calcutta. It was quite a knowledgeable opportunity. Calcutta is known for their love towards biryani. One can easily assume that Calcutta biryani is a true copy of Lucknowi biryani. Every aspect of biryani is equally same, only difference is the uses of potatoes in it. If you ask me then, I must say, Calcutta biryani has less ghee and kushboo in comparison to Lucknowi biryani. The best part is that it was light in taste.

Calcutta Biryani

Why Potatoes in Calcutta biryani?? One of my friends who are a school teacher, Debolina Mustaufi expressed:-
Mouth-watering biriyani have stolen the hearts of people of every region of India, with the expansion of Islamic rule in India the culinary expansion also happened simultaneously. Along with the Nawab Wajid Ali Shah coming to Bengal, biriyani spreaded its fragrance to millions of Khaddyo Rasik (food loving) Bengalis. The Lucknowi biriyani with a yummy tender potato along with meat pieces had made its entry to the long list of mukhorochok (mouth-watering) khaddyo talika (Ala carte) of Bengali cuisine. You must be wandering why a Potato in biriyani??Well that reminds us of a saying "you have to adjust with ups and downs of life and enjoy to the fullest”. The Nawab lost his wealth but not the taste, so his chef found that the boiled succulent potato can be the alternative for the eggs in the biriyani. There begins the journey of potato along with the meat in biriyani. No wonder that this boiled potato cooked with spices adds the volume to the dish and has blended so well that now it has become another style of this age old preparation of biriyani, named Kolkata style biriyani...

Difference between Lucknowi and Hyderabadi biryani

Pulao vs Biryani

Basmati the finest long grain rice quality in world comes from India and some parts of Pakistan and known for their aromatic fragrance which is ideal for the biryani and pulao due to their non-sticky characteristic .Both white and brown are very much in use and can give really result good when stored and aged for 2 to 5 years. Old aged basmati rice requires less water to cook in comparison to the new age one.

Tahari is neither a pulao nor a biryani, both Lucknow and Hyderabad claim it to be an expert in making of it. Pilibhit ki tahari is one of the most famous one. Use of mustard oil and turmeric provides Lucknowi tahari the different taste and texture. Potatoes, cauliflower are cooked with yellow masala rice is the most likely tahari in north India. It appears like a pulao, while the ingredients used are as similar to biryani. Hyderabadi take on tahari is similar to their dish and is much closer to biryani. One more unique aspect which differentiates tahari from pulao and biryani is that the tahari is comparatively spicier. 

Food provides nutrition to the body. Biryani has all the main five nutrients which required to a good health. That’s why Biryani is a complete meal in itself.

If biryani is perfect then it really doesn’t require any accompaniments – don’t remember exactly who said this but heard from many Muslims friends.

Now, it’s time to talk about why I am writing or trying to understand biryani. The reason lies in my previous article on curry; someone has requested me to write about biryani as well. Honestly speaking cooking rice is a very difficult subject to handle in home as well as in hotel business. One has to be perfect while dealing with biryani and pulao even simple rice needs experience to cook it perfectly. Kehtey hain, “Aag, Hawa, Pani Aur Nazar ka khumar hai cooking”, ya phir kahe to, “haath ki safai hai”.

Here, I am not trying to claim any statement it is just for the viewers reading pleasure.

Happy Cooking...............