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Thursday, April 4, 2019

A to Z Biryani / Pulao / Khichdi Series ~ D for Donne Biryani (Vegetarian Version)

Military hotels are a standard feature of many towns across the parts of southern India. Though no one is sure about the story behind the name, they have nothing to do with niether the military nor the lodging. Indians have a habit of loosely calling an eatery as a hotel though it has nothing to do with lodging facilities. These miltary hotels are usually small eateries that serve non vegetarian food. These kind of tiny establishments with the boards 'Ragi mudde oota tayaar' outside (meaning ragi mudde lunch is ready), dot the parts of Bangalore city. Ragi mudde, the cooked balls of finger millet flour are served with non vegetarian curries here. Rustic farmer food from the plains of Karnataka is the staple food in these humble hotels and women wouldn't step into these hotels in the olden days.

Some hotels are so well known in Bangalore that they are running over a hundred years. Many military hotels in and around Bangalore, like Shivaji Military Hotel  display an unmistakable Maratha influence according to this interesting excerpt about the history of Military hotels in Bangalore. It is believed that Maratha soldiers who garrisoned in Bangalore area during the 17th century might have brought their traditional non-vegetarian cuisine with them and those families were the forerunners of Bangalore's miltary hotels, which were obviously heavily influenced by the Saoji-style eateries, that they were used to back home.

Mutton biryani slowly cooked over coals, using short grain rice and coriander, mint and green chili paste takes precedence at these Maratha influenced eateries over ragi mudde. The meat dishes here tend to be spicier, influenced by the fierce Saoji and Kolhapuri cuisines of central Maharashtra. This kind of biryani is also called donne biryani and it seems to be a signature dish of especially, the Shivaji military hotel in Bangalore mentioned above. Mutton and chicken seems to be the popular choices for the preparation of donne biryani. 

I lived in Bangalore area almost all my life before moving to US more than two decades ago but being a vegetarian, the name 'donne biryani' never crossed my radar during that time. Donne biryani seems to be a popular choice in military style hotels of the region. This biryani is called so since it is served in a donne. Donne, pronounced as 'though - nnay' (with a stress on n) is a Kannada word (the local language) used for the biodegradable cups made with areca nut palm leaves / banana leaves and so on.
The recipe is a secretly guarded one and so, basically the recipes floating online are own interpretations of food bloggers. I did not pick any particular recipe to cook this biryani from and chose to  pressure cook it making it an easy, quick and flavorful meal. Basmati rice is not used to make this biryani but seeraga samba rice, a popular choice in Karnataka and Tamilnadu is used. If the preferred rice is not available, go with regular rice. Mint flavor is the most dominating one in this biryani unlike most of other biryanis.

I have made it a vegetarian version using soy chunks and my husband thought potatoes and capsicum would have been a nicer addition. Any combination of preferred vegetables can be used to make this biryani. This is one of the biryanis that I had on my to do list even before this marathon theme was announced and so, it was the first biryani I tried for this series. I am so glad that I tried this biryani and that too with soy chunks since they were like the selling point of this biryani. Soy chunks were so succulent, each infused with the cilantro - mint base flavor and I don't think the vegetables would have created the same effect. Serve it with a simple raita / plain yogurt.
Ingredients to saute and grind:
1 - 2 tbsp. ghee / oil
2 cloves
1 inch cinnamon piece
2 pieces of stone flower / dagad phool
1 onion, chopped
2 green chillies (Mine were very spicy chillies. adjust the quantity depending upon the spiciness of the chillies used.)
1 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves (I didn'y use any)
1 cup cilantro and mint leaves

Other Ingredients:
1 cup soy chunks, hydrated (or substitute vegetables) 
2 tbsp. ghee and /or oil
2 cloves
2 cardamom
1 inch piece cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/8 tsp. turmeric powder (optional)
2 tbsp. yogurt
1 tsp. biryani masala
1 and 1/4 cup water
Salt to taste (I used about 1 and 1/4 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup rice (I used sona masuri rice.)

* If using seeraga samba rice, soak it in water for about 15 minutes and drain completely. If using sona masuri or the regular kind, no need to soak. I used sona masuri rice and the water quantity mentioned is for that variety of rice. 
* Soak soy chunks in water to hydrate them. If using vegetables, chop them and keep aside. When the soy chunks soften, squeeze out water from them and keep aside.
* Heat ghee / oil directly in a small pressure cooker or a pan. Add all the other ingredients mentioned under 'saute and grind" list except the cilantro and mint. Saute them stirring intermittently until the onions turn pinkish and add cilantro and mint. Saute for about a minute and turn off the stove. Let them cool slightly and grind to a paste adding a little water. If more water is needed to grind, use some from that 1 and 1/4 cup water mentioned under ingredients' list ( so that you would not end up adding more liquid while cooking rice which in turn ends up in a mushy biryani.)

* To the same pan which is of course empty now, add ghee, cloves, cardamom. cinnamon, bay leaf and saute for few seconds. Then add onion and fry stirring intermittently until it turns pinkish.

* Next add turmeric, biryani masala and yogurt and stir well. Next add water and salt to the cooker / pan and bring it to a boil. Add rice, soy chunks and lemon juice.  

* If using sona masuri rice, rinse and add to the cooker. Pressure cook for three whistles if using cooker.

* If not using pressure cooker, add 1/8 cup more water, cover the pan tightly with an aluminium foil and close the lid. or cover the lid and seal it with a dough ring, to cook it in dum style. Cook on low flame, until rice is cooked, about 15 to 20 minutes.
* Open and check after 20 minutes. If there is stll water, cover and cook until all the water evaporates. If the mixture appears dry and the rice is not cooked through, sprinkle some water and cook some more time.

So far in my Biryani / Pulao / Khichdi series,
A for Ambur Biryani
B for Basanti Pulao / Misthi Pulao
C for Corn - Fenugreek Greens Pulao

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#99.



sushma said...

Donne Biryani looks yummy, I will try with meat sometime. Bookmarked.

Srividhya said...

I too always wondered about the name reason behind military hotels... This donne biryani looks very inviting. I love soy chunks so I am happy with this version. :-)

vaishali sabnani said...

Very interesting read - Suma your posts have such good content , I love reading them . The Donne Biryani is new to me - perhaps I am
Not familiar with the South Biryanis . This festival has been a real learning curve . The Biryani sounds full of flavours with mint . Great pick .

Srivalli said...

Excellent read Suma. Thanks for taking the efforts to document. Histories behind each dish makes a fantastic read. The biryani looks awesome and I am sure the soya chunks tasted great.

Pavani said...

The biryani looks irresistible and yummy! I always love reading your posts and reading the history behind each dish! Lovely share!

CookwithRenu said...

Never heard of this Biryani, but it looks yum and so so tempting. Awesome description of each and every step.

Harini R said...

Wow! A fantastic find, Suma. Very interesting history as well. I can imagine the flavor of all the spices and mint.bookmarked

Gayathri Kumar said...

I wanted to make this, but without a donne, I couldn't call it as donne biryani. So skipped it. Your vegetarian version looks wonderful Suma. The mint must have added an amazing flavor to the pulao.

kashishfood said...

I bookmarked your recipe. I Will try to make biryani this weekend then i give you feedback.

Sharmila Kingsly said...

Donne Biryani looks absolutely yummy !! It is my to do lost for a long time but still i dint post... Lovely share...

Sowmya :) said...

Donne biryani looks awesome. Love the description of military hotels. Lovely pick!!

Preeti said...

Very unique and interesting biryani .. love the flavors and story behind this.

Kalyani said...

another flavourful biryani.. we seem to have simialr to-do lists for this bm, and although I did post another dish for the alphabet, I have my eye on this recipe. Like you said, thinking about Military hotel stuff was forbidden while growing up, guess blogging clears that bias like u did with using soya chunks in place of the meat...

CookwithRenu said...

Donne Biryani looks so delicious. I love the lovely green colour from the green's, must have added so much flavour to the dish.

Swati said...

Very interesting read.I liked the use of fresh biryani masala with the flavourful greens. You have very cleverlys substituted soya nuggets with the meat. Good share!!