A culinary superstar that it is, the biryani is cooked in different styles, both home and abroad. The fragrant rice infused with soft tender meat is served with a wide range of accompaniments. And yet, the biryani recipe leaves enough room for invention.
Right from selecting the meat to liberally flavouring it with spices and other ingredients of your choice. Once all the spices and meat have been mixed with the rice, the biryani handi is sealed with dough to allow the rice, meat and vegetables to cook slowly.
There’s clearly a lot that goes on behind the scenes before you can dig into your plate of biryani. Beyond the ingredients that are added to the biryani recipe, even the cooking and marination style results in different types of biryanis – kacchi or raw biryani and pakki or cooked biryani.
It's these details that make all the difference between a Chettinad Biryani or the Awadhi Biryani. Each style of biryani is reflective of the rich gastronomical history of the region and the culture it originates from. So what's the difference between a kacchi biryani and pakki biryani? Read on.
What is kacchi biryani?
The term ‘kacchi’ means ‘raw’ but don't worry, you won't be served uncooked biryani. Rather, the kacchi-style of cooking, which is also known as kacchi yeqni, refers to the method of cooking all the raw elements together in one pot. This cooking style results in a flavourful and happy marriage of all the ingredients of the biryani recipe.
Chef Amitesh Singh Virdi from Punjab Grill, Mumbai explains, “Rather than pre-cooking any of the ingredients, the biryani handi is alternately layered with raw marinated meat, soaked rice (preferably long grain basmati) and fragrant whole spices. This is then sealed with dough and cooked in a clay oven in its own steam on low heat for hours.” The most important step in this biryani cooking style is not opening the handi until the biryani is ready to be served, he adds. All that slow cooking means the meat in the biryani is so tender that it almost falls off the bone and the rice grains are fluffy and soft.
For the kacchi biryani, the raw meat is marinated with a mix of masalas and curd for hours, usually overnight. While mutton is typically what’s preferred for this biryani recipe, the kacchi biryani is also made with chicken but rarely with seafood. You will also find a kacchi biryani recipe that calls for the addition of a layer of potatoes. “The key to making the perfect pot of kacchi biryani is getting the balance of spices right and using succulent pieces of meat,” adds the expert.
While the Hyderabadi biryani, one of the most famous Indian biryanis, is cooked in both the kacchi and pakki style, the city of Nawabs is most famous for its authentic kacchi biryani. The biryani in Kolkata, known for its subtle use of spices, uses the kacchi method too. Raw marinated meat and potatoes are sandwiched in layers of rice and then cooked on a low flame for nearly three hours.
What is pakki biryani?
On the other hand, pakki biryani is considered the "easy way out" of cooking the biryani recipe. In this style of cooking biryani, the rice and meat are cooked separately before being brought together right before serving. If you are a beginner in the kitchen or have little time, then the pakki biryani style of cooking is your best bet when attempting the biryani recipe.
In this style, the biryani handi is layered with par-cooked rice and meat with some water. Halfway in, the flames are put out to create steam that gets choked inside the curved walls of the handi, before it can escape, leading to the term 'Dum Pukht'. For the even distribution of heat, the coal may also be placed on the lid of the handi.
Explaining how the experts make the biryani recipe using this cooking style, Chef Virdi says, "The cooking pot is covered with a lid so that no steam, flavour or aroma of the food escapes. Preferably, a heavy-bottom pot or clay pot is used since the food will be slowly cooked and to prevent the grains from sticking to the bottom of the pan.”
The major difference between the kacchi and pakki style of cooking biryani is that in the former, raw meat and rice are sealed in a handi and cooked over a slow flame, while in the latter, semi-cooked rice and meat are arranged in layers and then steamed. Besides, kacchi biryani requires the raw meat to be marinated for hours, in pakki biryani the meat is marinated for a lesser time.