This recipe for Hyderabadi Dum Biryani comes to us from our friend Gopi Kishore Byluppala, the CEO and Founder of The Culinary Lounge. Gopi works with famed Hyderabad food historian and consultant Nawab Mahboob Alam Khan. And, this is the story of Nawab Mahboob’s family recipe. We are so happy to share it with you. What a privilege.
The Nawab’s Recipe
Nawab Mahboob says that the muslims that came to Hyderabad from Central Asia brought the knowledge of cooking meat and rice with them. They came to India many centuries ago. Hyderabad’s recipe for biryani is that ancient. And, despite the popularity of chicken biryani, the mainstay ingredient is to make Hyderabadi Dum Biryani with mutton (lamb or goat).
When the city was ruled by Muslim Nawab’s (muslim nobility) the cooks for their armies used to make biryani in the early morning. They’d attach the cooking vessels to the sides of horses. Then, when the contingent arrived at their destination after a long day of marching, a feast would be ready for them.
Many modern recipes cook the meat and the rice separately and then combine them. Nawab Mahboob, says that to call a dish a Hyderabad Dum Biryani, both the meat and the rice must start raw and be cooked together. His secret to obtaining full flavour and tenderness is to marinate the meat for 35 to 40 minutes with a mixture of mashed papaya, curd (yogurt) and a lively spice masala. All Hyderabad Biryanis are also known as dum biryanis.
What makes a Dum Biryani?
The term “dum” translates to “breathe.” In the making of a Hyderabadi Dum Biryani, dum refers to the build up of steam and air pressure during the early stage of cooking.
It works like this: meat, rice and the other ingredients are placed in a heavy bottom cooking vessel. The vessel is placed over a charcoal fire. The flat lip of the cooking vessel is then covered with a strand of wheat and water dough. Finally, the lid is pressed into the dough and weighted. This reinforces the seal.
As heat is applied, the internal temperature increases and the airspace in the vessel fills with pressure and steam. This is much like a pressure cooker. And, when it builds enough, the steam will make a forced escape (a breath) through the dough.
When the cook sees this, they know it’s time to decrease the amount of fire under the vessel. Then, they simply cook the dish another 35 – 40 minutes. When the lid is removed at this point, the rice and meat will be fully cooked.
Nawab Mahboob cautions that cooking it less will result in undercooked ingredients. Cooking it longer will result in dried out rice. As an octogenarian whose enjoyed cooking his family’s recipe for a lifetime, we completely trust his judgement. We are very proud to share his famous recipe with you.
Enjoy your Hyderabadi Dum Biryani with classic sides like Mirchi ka Salan, Onion Raita and Mint Chutney.