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Friday, September 21, 2012

Biryani Power

Spotted in a neighborhood in Singapore.
Driving around Houston, I noticed an increasing number of restaurants touting biryani as their signature item. Indeed, I do think that biryani is rising in popularity, even if ceviche seems to get all the press and notice. What is this wondrous dish? Basically, it's a cooking technique of layering rice (must be basmati, my experiments using shorter grain rice have yielded poor results), spices, vegetables, sometimes meat or fruit, and even yogurt in a pot, and cooking it slowly. The final dish is a one pot meal fragrant with the mixed spices, and revealing treasures as the diner digs therein.

Beef biryani, Nikoz Fusion Grill, Sugarland, TX
A standard in Indian/Pakistani kitchens, a meat-based biryani is an easy crowd pleaser, specially if bringing novices to the powerful flavors of the subcontinent. But biryani, like casserole, is as much a technique as it is tradition, and I think it is wide open for more modern interpretations. Varying the meat would be a start - pork is verboten in the kitchens of its origin, so pork belly biryani would be a daring variant. The long slow cooking time would make it amenable to dried ingredients like machaca, smoked fish, or mushrooms. And the range of spice variations beckon - long peppers, sichuan peppercorns, oregano, or cheeses. 

Lamb biryani in a dum, Great W'kana Cafe

One last thing: dessert biryani, anyone?

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