It's the people's dish. Learn all about biryani — the rice dish that unites India’s incredibly diverse population.

By Nileema Khan
Andy Lyons

What is Biryani?

With more than 1.3 billion people (one-sixth of the world’s total population!), India represents nearly every major religion and many ethnic groups within its borders. Its many cuisines reflect that diversity, and biryani is a great example. The spiced rice dish made with vegetables or meat is familiar to all Indians and has countless variations across the country.

Many Indians are vegetarian or vegan for religious or cultural reasons. The predominant religion in India is Hinduism, and while it doesn’t strictly forbid eating meat, it does promote a lifestyle that respects other forms of life. Others eat animal products like milk, eggs, and honey. And there are plenty of people who eat meat, too, so there are many different types of biryani.

Each variation is typically prepared with either meat or vegetables. Vegetarian versions change based on what’s in season, but potatoes, tomatoes, onion, cauliflower, and peppers are common ingredients. Non-veg variations are often made with marinated chicken, mutton, or beef. Most types of biryani contain a lot of oil or ghee (clarified butter), so the dish is treated like an indulgence, savored on special occasions like weddings or pujas (Hindu celebrations). Biryani is often served family-style along with kebabs, raita (a yogurt-cucumber side dish), and borhani (a yogurt drink flavored with mint.)

The recipe here is quick, vegan-friendly, and more casual than some biryani recipes. For example, my family makes an elaborate version with dozens of ingredients. We cook it using the dom method, which involves sealing the pot with a ring of dough so that the steam is trapped inside, slowly cooking the ingredients in their own essences. There are so many varieties of biryani out there that you’re sure to find one that will become a favorite! —BengaliFoodie

Try this recipe for Vegetable Biryani Recipe

This article originally appeared in the April / March 2017 issue of Allrecipes Magazine.

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