Aminia at 90: We take a look at the dramatic history of the Calcutta Biryani
A plate of Aminia’s biryani can really define a day for us, and there’s a reason for that too - the Mughlai-Awadhi fine dining joint has simply been doing it for too long. Ninety years, to be precise. Yes, your go-to Biryani destination is just a decade shy of hitting a century, and just ushered in its 90th anniversary last month. On August 15, in fact. This may surprise you, if you have never really looked beyond the steaming cauldron of their Kolkata-style biryani to look up its origins, but we did the hard work for you. Turns out, Aminia is one of the most historically significant eateries in the city, and is heavily responsible for shaping Kolkata as a leading Biryani haven in the country.
It was in 1929 that the first Aminia outlet was opened up in Zakaria Street by the late Abdul Rahim, and was one of the few places in the city which served up authentic Lucknowi Awadhi cuisine. Aminia’s biggest and the most popular outlet till date is the one near Futnani Chamber near the Kolkata Municipal Corporation in Hogg Market or New Market. Today Aminia has eight outlets across the expanse of the city, set up by Rahim’s descendants, all of which use the original, age-old recipes which made Aminia the sensation that it is.
“Since we first started, we have used the same recipes which were curated by my grandfather, and the taste of our biryani has remain unchanged. Aminia’s biryani has a unique taste, because we have stuck to the same ingredients and techniques from our inception,” says Aminia’s Managing Director Mohammed Azhar, who’s also the grandson of the late Rahim.
Evolution of the Kolkata biryani
The Kolkata biryani may be the ultimate comfort food, but has a stunning history behind its birth. “When the British took over Lucknow, they exiled the Nawab Wajid Ali Shah to Kolkata. When he settled in Kolkata, he started his own kitchen, and the Awadhi delicacies started becoming popular . The potato in the biryani was his invention, you don’t find it anywhere else in the country. The potato was actually introduced to replace the meat, as they didn’t have enough money to go for mutton. That recipe stuck, and was eventually adapted into what we know today as the Kolkata biryani,” Azhar informs us, over a plate of their finest Awadhi biryani.
Though most of Aminia’s recipes have their origins in the Nawab’s time, there have obviously been some modifications to fit the evolving modern palate of the Kolkattans. For instance, the spicy zest in the Mutton Rezala and chaap has been simmered down to a subtler taste, and has been made sweeter by adding in more onions. Similarly, the consistency of the gravy in the Aminia special curry has been made lighter to make it appear like a ‘jhol.’
The Aminia Special Curry is a recipe which has been at the heart of the eatery from the day it opened its doors. An indulgent scarlet gravy meal, featuring succulent mutton shanks, potatoes, onions and tomatoes, it has a fragrant and sweet aftertaste. The mutton pasanda is another bestseller, along with some of the other entree curries, like Lahori Chicken, Mutton Khada Masala etc.
Today, the fine-dining restaurant is being run by the third and fourth generations of the founder’s family, and has expanded its chain by setting up outlets in Golpark, Jessore Road, Shyambazar,Rajarhat, Behala, Barrackpore, and Serampore, and is expanding overseas very soon with its first outlet in Dubai.