The difference between Pulav, Biryani and Fried Rice

I have always known that the three were different.  But have never been able to articulate what ‘exactly’ the difference is.  That was until I stumbled on this article.  Here goes:


Lucknowi biryani, Yakhni pulao, veg fried rice–we love these dishes, and every other variant of their larger categories. But the one thing every foodie needs to keep in mind is that they are not the same.

Yes, they look similar. On occasion, the non-discerning ones among you might even assume they taste similar. But, the fact remains unchanged. Biryani, pulao, and fried rice are not interchangeable categories of rice dishes.

Many restaurants are as confused as the home cooks out there who assume making a biryani, a pulao and a fried rice dish entail the very same things. You should know the difference–because if you are in fact interchanging them, you are missing out on the authentic taste of all of these rice dishes. There are five major differences that you should be aware of.

1. Origins

Biryanis and pulaos are popular dishes in countries from India to Turkey. The Turkish pilaf is barely any different from the Indian versions. Biryani’s main variants were invented by the Mughals and Nawabs of the subcontinent–which is why we have different recipes from Lucknow, Kolkata and Hyderabad. Fried rice is basically a Chinese dish, and it’s made with predominant Chinese flavours.

2. Rice Preparation

Biryani is made using the draining method of cooking–which basically means the rice is par-boiled in water, and then drained, dried and used to layer up. Pulao is made through the absorption method, so the amount of water or stock is completely absorbed by the rice and vegetables in the dish. Fried rice is cooked with pre-cooked rice, and the method of cooking the rice doesn’t matter much.

3. Layering

Biryani is always prepared in layers, with at least one layer dedicated to meat and another one for fried onions. The ingredients are half-cooked (quite like the rice) separately, then layered. In Pulaos, the veggies, meat and rice are sauteed together, and then cooked with water or stock. The ingredients in a fried rice are never layered. The veggies are fried first, and pre-cooked rice is added later.

4. Spices

Biryanis are chock full of aromatic spices, with everything from whole cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms to saffron. Pulao is much less heavy on the spices, and usually the white on the rice isn’t hued with any other colouring. Fried rice is made with Chinese spices and ingredients like ajinomoto and soy sauce.

5. Heat

Biryani is always cooked for hours on a low flame. The utensil–whether made of terracotta, cast iron or copper–is always sealed to preserve the aroma of the dish. Pulao is cooked faster, on medium to high flame. Fried rice is always cooked on a high flame.

It’s because of all these differences that biryani, pulao and fried rice each have a distinct taste. If you don’t know the difference, you are actually being cheated out of enjoying all three as they’re meant to be. So it’s high time you know how to identify a proper biryani, pulao and a fried rice.



Khuda Ke Liye

Well for one – I had heard a lot about this Pakistani movie. All the reviews were very good. So I borrowed the DVD from seventymm and saw it.

I would rate it at 4.5 stars. The movie is worth watching. It opens a lot of eyes and makes you really think about religion, culture, happiness, children etc. etc.  There was this argument of what we consider as taboo in religion ………which is not truly a religious taboo – but a cultural taboo.  So we end up mixing religion with culture.  This was what got me thinking of the taboo we have in our culture on beef eating.   We claim religious reasons to it – that “all” Hindus don’t eat beef (which is so very far from the truth).  That really is so much of hubris.  The reality is that this is a cultural trait which we have carried on for so long without reason.    True we worship cows – but what stops us from eating them as well.  Why do we see a contradiction between worshiping and eating.  Does the contradiction arise because we have to ‘kill’ to eat.  Whats so gory about killing cows when the same gore doesn’t become associated with killing other forms of life to eat.  There isn’t anything wrong with killing as long as it can be eaten and the killing happens in the right way (that’s my view).  



Today there was this interesting argument which we had at home. It had to do with eating beef.  My mother is quite aware that I eat all kinds of meat.  

So there was this context at home where I was telling my dad that I eat beef. Suddenly the argument took off from there. My mom took my side – while my father and sister rallied against me. The argument which my dad and sister posed was that being a Hindu we should not eat beef and my dad added that a cow is the ‘milk giving god’. Well for that matter even a goat or a sheep would give milk. Add to that pigs, camel etc. etc. would produce milk. Why edify a cow just because it gives us milk in greater quantities.  My mom however has absolutely no problems with me eating beef – as long as she doesn’t end up eating/preparing it.   I had the same problem in Egypt when other Hindus with me would cringe at me when I ordered a beef burger.  They would stand a feet away from me and give me awful looks – while they themself would eat a good chicken burger.  Why this? Do I become a demon because I eat beef.  That’s my belief and I don’t force them on it – so why not respect me for what I am and not discriminate against me. 

Besides the history of Hinduism has many many references to beef eating.  Eating beef was not taboo at all.  It was only the later post-vedic brahmanical culture which brought about this practice of not eating beef.  I can quote quite a few Hindu  scriptures myself  where there is ample evidence of beef eating being common.  I know the vedas mention it (although I don’t remember which one).  I know a story from the Devi Bhagavatam where there is cows meat offered etc. etc.  I can go on an on.    But the point doesn’t lie there.  It lies in people’s attitude of discriminating – when they see others doing what you yourself don’t do.

Foods of Egypt

Well I had promised Hemu ………..that I would be making this blog entry ……and I’m keeping my promise. However before I proceed ……..I should warn those of you who are vegetarian …… read on at your own risk – as you may not really like what you are going to read. But those of you who are true-blue non vegetarians like me ……….. please go on ……you are going to get a glimpse of heaven. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Before I left to Egypt ………..I had ‘heard’ that Egypt …… North Korea has Ostrich farms and as would be it ………….. it was on my wish-list to eat Ostrich. Along with that …………being an Islamic country …….I wouldn’t have minded eating Camel meat as well. One other thing I was pretty clear about was that I would avoid Indian restaurants as much as I could. However as luck would have it ……….the moment I landed in my hotel ………my colleagues who had been there for a week before me ……….dragged me to a popular Indian restaurant called Kandahar. It is actually a twin restaurant with another Lebanese restaurant called Rocher attached to Kandahar. The kitchen for the two is the same. I ordered a paratha dish which had lamb meat as the paratha filling. I was very hungry ……………..and the lamb meat was very tasty. I hadn’t eaten such tasty lamb in all my life. That was the beginning ………..and all along whenever I ordered for lamb ………anywhere in Cairo ……I was never disappointed.

Before I move on to authentic Egyptian food ……..let me exhaust myself about the various kinds of meat which were available there.

Shortly in a couple of days I traveled to Iskandriya (Alexandria) on a pleasure trip with friends. The fun part of Iskandriya was not only the really blue Mediterranean Sea and the superb climate………but the fantastic fish which we got there. In Egypt ………there are restaurants which specialize in sea food ……….which commonly call themself – ‘Fish Market’. Here the way the fish is prepared is that ………….there are raw fish which are spread on a huge pile of ice. You are expected to choose the variety of fish you want from the spread of raw fish there……and the particular fish you are interested in ………..and then instruct them to prepare the fish as grilled or fried. Its interesting to note the way this fish is served. First they would bring in the traditional Egyptian pita bread with various sauces/chutneys. The famous ones are Hummus, Babaganush and Tahina. They would get all the three along with some salads. It is expected to be your appetizer before the fish arrives. The fish would then arrive and then you can apply some Tahina and eat it ……………and its like a piece of heaven. The fish which I ate in Iskandriya was particularly tasty. I did not get the same taste even in Cairo. The most famous fish restaurant in Iskandriya is called ‘Fish Market’ ……….which has a spectacular view of the sea from there. I enjoyed the view and the food.

It was only in Cairo when I had a similar dish in a big boat on the river Nile …with my mother …on the night Egypt won the Africa Cup – that I had another good experience with sea food and a spectacular view of the Nile flowing all around you ……………..and the city at night all like a bride decked for her wedding.

My next excursion was to a Chinese restaurant called La Peking ………where I ordered a dish of duck. The taste was remotely familiar ……… I remember having eaten duck when I was a very small kid. It was good though ………but not as fantastic as the lamb.

Later at another Indian cum Chinese restaurant ………….called Maharajah ……..I ordered for ostrich. The guy got a meat which very much tasted like duck. But I could never authoritatively say it was/wasn’t Ostrich meat …… I hadn’t eaten one.

Beef was abundantly present in Cairo ……… various forms and tastes. Beef was ok ………as taste wise it isn’t very great ………although I did try it quite often.

Pork was not something which I remotely expected in Cairo ……….as it is an Islamic country. However I was in for a pleasant surprise when we went to this Pizzeria called ‘Thomas Pizza’ …….which is an international pizza brand. I went there with a co project manager …….and Egyptian Muslim. He was casually mentioning that many Egyptians don’t visit this restaurant as they serve pork – and it is mainly foreigners who visit it. That was a good enough hint for me to order a pork pizza – and man it was quite tasty.

Later my mom came and she advised me to try pigeon meat while I was there ………….as it is particularly good for health. I wasn’t too keen on trying it out …… the thought of eating pigeon was a bit revolting. However when my mom seemed to favour me eating pigeon ………..I persuaded myself to try it. I got the opportunity when we were invited to the home of our Satyam Egypt country-head. There we ate the dish – Hamam mashwi …….which is grilled pigeon with rice stuffing. It was good and a different taste.

I went on to try camel meat as well ………which is not a story worth telling ……..although the meat was good.

Before I move to Egyptian dishes ……….there are a couple of very good Indian restaurants and a few Japanese and Mexican restaurants which I particularly enjoyed. The Indian ones where Maharani which is a restaurant in a river boat called La Pacha. There is another restaurant called the Kabul which is located in the fabulous ‘Meena Oberoi’ Hotel …….bang opposite to the Pyramids of Giza.

The japanese restaurants which I liked are the ‘Fusion’ which is again located on the banks of the Nile and the ‘Teriyaaki’ restaurant in Mohideseen area. There is a fantastic Mexican restaurant …(I forget its name) which is located in the huge City Stars mall in Heliopolis area.

Egyptian food:
While I have already covered a few sauces and non vegetarian items there are a huge repertoire of vegetarian dishes which I enjoyed as well.

The first of these is the Karkadee flower juice. This is a flower related to the Hibiscus flower. This flower is dried and then boiled in hot water ……..mixed with sugar and drunk. Its very tasty and very good for health. I got two packets to India as well.

Taamiya is a dish like our Ugaadi vadeh and is prepared with chickpeas and spices.

Kosheree is another vegetarian dish prepared with rice, macaroni, spaghetti and channa dal. While this dish is very much stomach filling ……….it is something which is eaten by low end people and is very abundantly and cheaply available.

Shai (Chai) and Koffee (Nescafe) were abundantly available at the universities we were working at.

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