Did you know that Empress Nur Jahan invented biryani?

Did you know that Empress Nur Jahan invented biryani?

At the book launch of Pakistan Heritage Cuisine, we learned some fascinating facts about subcontinental food's history
16 Nov, 2017

Very few would know that the love story of Agha Bakar and Khani Begum inspired the name Bakarkhani for the bread. Do you know that Empress Nur Jahan invented biryani? Did you know that the Nizam of Hyderabad Mir Qamaru­ddin adopted the symbol of the kulcha bread on his flag?

These are just some of the facts mentioned in Pakistan Heritage Cuisine, a beautiful coffee-table book, which delves into the history of food.

“It is not a recipe book. It’s more about our cultural heritage,” said the book’s author Sayeeda Leghari at its launch at the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture here on Wednesday evening.

“I wanted to showcase Pakistan through the one thing we don’t debate about — food,” she said.

“Through hearsay or documented evidence, I have tried giving the background of the creation of various dishes, which have come into our homes and daily lives, and while doing this I have celebrated our unsung cooks and chefs,” she said.

Sameera Raja, who moderated the panel discussion about the treatise, said that it was really a delicious publication as the pictures in it looked edible.

Art critic Marjorie Husain also said that it was “a gorgeous book. And the beautiful pictures help one take a journey of the senses,” she said.

“Food was scarce when I was growing up due to war,” she said. “So I actually developed a taste for the lavish Pakistani food when I came here,” she said, while adding that she may not be a good cook herself.

“I may be hopeless in that department,” she laughed.

Mulaika Sayeed, a family member of the author, meanwhile, said that she thought that food could also “involve fusion and a little confusion.”

She explained this with her own story where her Hyderabadi husband wasn’t particularly fond of Hyderabadi food and she made innovations in it by adding Bohra food.

“I wasn’t a very good cook but I learned by practising with recipes handed down to me from the time of Arabs who came to settle here,” she said.

“Then my in-laws warned me not to share those precious recipes, which I had mastered, with my daughter as then she would take them to her in-laws. But I could always share them with my daughters-in-law to keep them in the family,” she said.

“But my daughter wasn’t interested in cooking anyway,” she added.

Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United Nations Hussain Haroon traced the history of various foods and dishes popular with different people of the world.

He spoke at length about the great Mughals of the subcontinent and their food preferences, which have laid the foundations for our traditional cuisine.

Dr Nizam-ul-Hassan, president of Child Aid Association, praised the author for her volunteerism and philanthropic work.

The author’s late friend and chef Ali Yousuf, who is also an integral part of the book and helped her research for it while travelling with her through the length and breadth of the country, was also fondly remembered on the occasion.

Originally published in Dawn, November 16th, 2017


khan Nov 16, 2017 09:21am
I thaught Shaan masala invented Biryani?
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aNALYSIS Nov 16, 2017 09:37am
@khan Lol!
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Mudassir Ali Khan Nov 16, 2017 09:38am
Lovely, will definitely buy a copy. Massive thanks to the Empress for inventing BIRYANI by the way :D
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Hassaan Khalid Nov 16, 2017 09:41am
Invented is a strong word.
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Abdul - USA Nov 16, 2017 09:58am
I am happy that at least someone picked up one heritage, even if it is for their own benefit. The author is a direct descendant of Mughal family and was told about these recipes. I am surprised that the author did not look towards the middle -east for her heritage.
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Chitrubootham Nov 16, 2017 10:06am
The beloved Empress was cooking?
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MG Nov 16, 2017 10:11am
I have failed to understand what is relationship between Pakistan and Hyderabad Nizam? I'm from erstwhile Hyderabad province and have no connection to Pakistan whatsoever.
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Prateik Nov 16, 2017 10:23am
There is no historical artifact to prove that Nur Jahan invented biryani.
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Ahsan Gul Nov 16, 2017 10:32am
And I thought that she invented sewing machine??
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Solah aanne Nov 16, 2017 10:41am
Then it would have known as nooryani, I think Birbal invented it,it rhymes well with his name.
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Jai22 Nov 16, 2017 11:34am
I think Birbal invented it, and was later modified by Yani (the musician). Hence BIR-YANI
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Kau Nov 16, 2017 11:51am
I am sure that she laid a great stuff for him to eat slowly to his hearts content
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Sridhar Raghunatha Rao Nov 16, 2017 12:06pm
The story of Nur Jahan itself is most amazing. She was born in dire poverty. Her parents, with nothing for their livelihood, left Lahore by foot to reach Delhi in search of their fortune. Midway, Nur Jahan's mother delivers a girl baby who would in future going to become empress. The mother, with nothing to nourish her new born girl child, abandons her in the same place of delivery and proceeds further. But, mother's deep bondage and concerns makes her to come back and takes charge of the child. Later, a Wazir in Jahangir's court marries her whereby she gets noticed by Mughal emperor Jahangir. Rest is history.
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Einstein babar Nov 16, 2017 12:32pm
very unhealthy thing to eat yet very popular
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Rationalbabu Nov 16, 2017 02:00pm
Some of the hilarious comments made my day!
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Irfan Nov 16, 2017 04:00pm
I am so happy to learn Deccan, Hyderabad Nizam, Lucknow is in Pakistan, nice invention indeed.
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Desi dimad Nov 16, 2017 07:55pm
Wow 70 years of heritage Amazing achievements.
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Desi dimad Nov 16, 2017 07:55pm
@MG true
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Nadeem Usmani Nov 16, 2017 08:31pm
Sorry but there is evidence that Noor Jahan invented the Biryani. author has to do more research to come to the conclusion.Otherwise ,it is good effort to come out with historical heritage-- Cuisine
Recommend (0) Nov 16, 2017 10:13pm
It is amusing to read the comments from some rather illiterate persons theses are same people who thinks Taj Mahal is the architecture genius of Hindus. Noorjahan was extremely smart and well educated who invented many things one is Kathakali dance. What her poverty background has to do with her immense intelligence! growup people.
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Ashar Hamid Nov 17, 2017 05:59am
Yeah well, she was not exactly standing in the kitchen slaving over a stove and inventing byryani. One of cooks must have invented it and the credit went to her.
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Waheed Noor Nov 17, 2017 06:32am
Yea, right. I am sure they found her recipe buried in the Taj.
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ahamed Nov 17, 2017 09:11pm
It may ok to say Biryani became popular in Nurjehan's time. No one has the claim on it. Biryani remains on top anyway - at home and abroad. Good attempt to bring new vision in culinary art.
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Fazal Nov 17, 2017 11:44pm
I dont believe that Nur Jehan invented biryani. Biryani was always there .Only the ingredients were changed to suit the taste of the royals. I think thr credit should go to the royal cooks of the palace of that time.
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