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Kolkata Biryani: Culture, Identity, and Politics

A plate of Arsalan's Mutton Biryani

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the tenth and last ruler of Oudh, who was on the throne from 1847 to 1856, is said to have brought the biryani to Calcutta in 1856, when he settled in Metiabruz, on the outskirts of Calcutta, an impeached, broken ruler. The Nawab, who is known to have been a patron of music, dances and literature, carried with him, all the way from Lucknow to Calcutta, via Kanpur, a taste of home: the Lucknowi/Awadhi biryani, cooked in the dumphukt style and served in a sealed handi which also led to this variety of biryani being called the 'dumphukt biryani' or the 'handi biryani'. The Kolkata biryani departs from its royal Awadhi origins in one distinct way – the presence of the humble potato in this regal biryani makes it unique. Thus, the Kolkata biryani stands for adaptability, flexibility and assimilation. Through this module we explore the roots and history of the Kolkata Birayani, while discussing its role in present day eating habits.

Embedded thumbnail for Cooking the Kolkata Biryani
By Manjari Chowdhury in conversation with Somrita Urni Ganguly
Embedded thumbnail for Cooking Kosha Mangsho to Accompany the Kolkata Biryani
By Sujay Thakur in conversation with Somrita Urni Ganguly