Sofiyani Biryani, the Other Biryani from Hyderabad

When we mention Hyderabadi biryani, we usually refer to the saffron-colored spicy zafrani version which is available everywhere – star hotels, restaurants as well as Irani cafes. However, there is another version of biryani in Hyderabadi cuisine, a white aromatic rice and meat preparation called Sofiyani Biryani, which was quite popular in yesteryears and still finds favour with a select few food lovers.


Sofiyani Biryani has distinct Hyderabadi roots, though a version of this also exists in Pakistani cuisine. A story about its origin says that one of the Nizams had this recipe developed, as he was very fond of biryani but could not digest much of spices. Since then this flavourful dish was a regular feature for important dinners as well as festivals.  Another version traces the history of this dish from Turkish pilafs. There used to be a common man’s version of this dish too, which was in the household menu for special occasions.

Well-known food connoisseur and chef Pradeep Khosla rates this as one of the hidden gems of Hyderabadi cuisine. The easy to digest Sofiyani Biryani uses a lesser amount of ghee, the richness of the dish stemming from the use of khoya and malai. Strong spices like red chillies are mostly avoided in this preparation, and instead, green chillies are used. The recipe does not use saffron, and to maintain the white colour, whole spices are often preferred to powdered ones. Green cardamom, coriander, and mint leaves, as well as cashew, pista, and almond, are some other important ingredients used in the masala. The white basmati rice is half cooked before the marinated meat is added to it and cooked in a sealed handi. As usual, little variations in the recipe is seen from place to place, for example, some chefs still prefer to use a layer of kesar to throw in a few coloured rice strands for better looks. Tamatar Kut is a Hyderabadi salan which goes well with this biryani.


In today’s Hyderabad Sofiyani Biryani is no longer commercially popular. Noor and Ahaana’z Kitchen, a home-based delivery service, is one of the few home chefs who have Sofiyani on their menu. As per Noor Sahil from this outlet, the demand for this subtler version of biryani is low, as the taste buds of most of the food lovers in Hyderabad have been fashioned by the spicy biryani which is available in the Irani cafes and restaurants. However, people who are fond of milder flavours still like his version of Sofiyani, using almond and cashew paste and without fried onions. Quite a few wedding caterers still have it on their list of items, as some discerning customers still want this item as part of their valima menu.

Aish, the Indian fine dining restaurant at The Park Hyderabad is perhaps the only place which used to have a dish called Sofiyani Pulav on its regular menu.  Zaiqa-E-Hyderabad, a popular restaurant serving Hyderabadi cuisine, occasionally serves Sofiyani Biryani as a special dish on weekends.  One hopes that Hyderabad revives its passion for this rich and flavourful dish, thus preventing it from going into oblivion.

Note: This is an updated version of the article originally published in New Indian Express Hyderabad on 22nd July 2017 

Also Read: Jouzi Halwa, the Hyderabadi dessert with Turkish influence



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