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Biryani VS Pulao - The Major Differences

Updated on November 1, 2010

Tasty Pulao VS. Powerful Biryani - Do You Know What Makes Them Different?

Unfortunately, you will find a lot of folks in the world who are of the opinion that pulao is exactly the same thing as biryani. This is incorrect. Although both dishes are largely rice based and derived from the Middle East or the Indian subcontinent, there are several remarkable differences which help make both dishes unique. This is how you can recognize the difference between the two dishes:

The Differences

Pulao v. Biryani - Clash of the Titans

1) Layering - When biryani is made the basmati rice must be cooked independently from the masala. The rice must be boiled in a separate pot with a whole lot of salted water after which it must be drained using a colander right before it is fully cooked. The rice then needs to be stacked in layers in a dish with the meat & masala (that has already been cooked). Right after the rice & masala are layered on top of one another, the dish then has to be baked in the oven.

With pulao, the dry uncooked grains of rice are actually added directly in to the masala and meat which will have already been simmering in a large pot (normally on a stove top burner). Some water is then poured in and the whole pot is covered with a lid and left on a low heat right until the rice has absorbed the liquid and is completely cooked. This is called the absorption approach to cooking rice (as opposed to the draining method employed for biryani).

2) Strength of Spice - Biryani is usually much heavier in spice level than a pulao. On the whole the amount of spices & aromatics incorporated into a biryani will be significantly higher than with a pulao. The crucial components that bring the spice are chili powder, garlic, ginger, and green chilis. Pulao on the other hand does not include as large a volume of these ingredients and will also balance spice with other components such as dried raisins and nuts. Also, as a result of the layering in a biryani the level of heat on each individual mouthful may really fluctuate significantly. A first bite may be loaded with masala and spices, while another may well have a lot more plain white rice. This is rather different from a pulao where the amount of spice in a spoonful is made mostly uniform throughout the dish due to the fact that the rice is boiled in the masala liquid.

3) Simplicity of Preparation - Pulaos are generally easier dishes to put together since they're mainly completed in a single pot and don't call for the separate cooking and ultimate pairing and stacking of rice and meat / masala like a biryani does. Biryani will often be used as a main component of a meal because it is so hearty. Pulao, because of the ease by which it can be cooked (in addition to its levity compared to biryani), will generally just be a piece of a dish - not the primary course.

And so, I hope you will no be able to spot the difference between a biryani recipe and a pulao recipe. Best of luck with your indian cooking!

What Do You Like Better - Biryani or Pulao - Search your heart of hearts...

They're both tasty. They both are rice based. They both have some amazing spice. But only one can be your winner.

Which do you prefer - biryani or pulao?

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      Ram 24 months ago

      I like pulau . It simple and orepare.