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.
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.
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.
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.
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.