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Final Draft. Enjoy!

And the onions sizzled on

June 25, 2020

I closed my eyes to soak in the tangy smell of the tomato chutney, which was filling the  dusty atmosphere that surfaced all around, with a delicious aroma. I gazed at the shop's label, which, after years of standing tight had started to peel off at the creases. The ancient tape recorder sent the music of love  throughout the building, and we, the customers who had been eagerly waiting for the dish swayed with the notes of the classic, Kaho na Pyar Hain.

My keen eyes dwelved inside the building which had played mother to so many magnificent dishes. The onions sizzled on, exhaling the fresh aroma throughout the area. This was, the Barista. I recollected the good old days, when my mother used to make Dum Biryani at home. The onions, she would say, were the most important part of the entire dish. They could not be overcooked(that would smell like carbon in the pan), or undercooked(according to mum, your cooking skills are atrocious if you ever undercook a dish). The onions have to be sizzled till they turn a golden brown, and a beautiful aroma touched the tips of your noses. I remember mum telling me the exact proportions to which we have to make the alternate layers of chicken and rice. This, for me, was the most exciting part. 

Once or twice, I had even managed to chuck out a leg piece or two while my mum paid her full concentration to the onions. I recalled the time we had gone to visit my uncle at Hyderabad. The restaurant there served fresh, aromatic Hyderabadi Biryani. All the way there, we were forced to absorb the knowledge that Biryani was , indeed born in Hyderabad. Mum, on the contrary, kept arguing that Dum Biryani was born in Kolkata itself. I sat still between the two siblings, unable to agree or to disagree, but my  child's mind very excited  at the prospect of  tasting something new. 

The new dish was a distant cousin of the dish that I loved, but I still loved the richness of the chicken, and the heavenly aroma of the herbs and spice; eventhough  Mum kept telling uncle throughout the meal, that this was miles away from the actual Biryani . Our Calcuttan Biryani is famous for its potatoes. The soft and fresh potatoes or Aloos, as we prefer to call it in Bengali, brings it to a whole new level ! But this was not Kolkata. This was Hyderabad. And no matter what, you have to accept  the fact that India is unique in its diversity, even in terms of food.

The Dum Biryani winds a tale around its origin.

I always asked Baba , why the Calcuttan Biryani was different from other states'. At this , my Baba always laughed and summoned me closer. I would come and sit near him , all work forgotten , to hear about the origin tale of one of my favourite dishes. He used to bring one hairy hand upto my shoulder and squeeze me closer, to which I would squeal and laugh,and then,  he would start the story.

It was during the time when the English East India Company were ruling the land, when they drove the King of Awadh out of his kingdom, and exiled him to Kolkata. The King had become poor and penniless, and hence had to accomodate to the feeling of nothingness: something , which was very new to him. Biryani was one of the King's favourite dishes, and when one day, he  ordered his cook ( yes, the cook also came with the King) to make the dish for him, the latter was at splits. Nevertheless, he managed to hunt down all the ingredients but realised at the last moment,  that the amount would be too small to satisfy the King's hunger. So, very cleverly, he added three potatoes in the Biryani, as to increase the amount. The King was high in praises of the new dish and hence came forward Kolkata's very own, The Dum Biryani.  
Baba- father in Bengali 
Aloo- Potato in bengali

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