How Biryani arrived in Singapore?

By: Ravi Chandran

Although Biryani is not among the dishes listed among the national dishes of Singapore in the Michelin guide, no one can deny that the rice dish has a special place in the hearts of Singaporeans.

Some say that there can be little doubt that biriyani originated in Persia (modern day Iran). They point out that the name biriyani can be traced to the original Persian “birinj biriyan” – meaning fried rice. They suggest that from there, it was brought to India by the Mughals where it was further developed in the Mughal royal kitchen.

But did Biryani come to Singapore from India?

It is possible that Biryani could have come to Singapore straight from the Persians as the Lion City was in the very center of the Maritime Silk Road. The Maritime Silk Road connected East Asia, Southeast Asia, Indian subcontinent, Arabian Peninsula, Persia, Somalia, Egypt and Europe and flourished between the 2nd century BC and 15th century AD.

Historians have noted that ancient Singapore was a very large and populous city and that all the shipping which happened in these parts of the world went through Singapore for a very long time before Malacca was founded.

So, while one branch of the biryani comes from the Mughals, who got the dish from Persia and subsequently during their reign in India entrenched it, the other branch of biryani must have crossed the Arabian Sea and come to Singapore, brought in by the Persian and Arab traders using the Maritime Silk Road.

You can immediately see how this is possible when you consider the version of Biryani which is most commonly found in Singapore – a softer variety which is light on the stomach and served with vinegar pickles and appalams. In terms of taste, it is very different from Biryanis served in many parts of India.

There is another possibility as to how Biryani may have first arrived in Singapore. Long before Singapore came under the control of the British (or even the Sri Vijaya Empire), it was under Indian sphere of cultural influence of the Pallavas and Cholas.

There is historical evidence of a rice dish similar to Biryani called the ‘Oon Soru’ which was composed of rice, ghee, meat, turmeric, coriander, pepper, and bay leaf, and was used to feed military warriors. ‘Oon Soru’ was first mentioned in Tamil literature in 2 A.D. This is why some swear that “Biryani” is simply a persian name for the Tamil dish “Oon Soru”.

But regardless of if Biryani came to us via the Maritime Silk Route or from the Tamils, the fact is, this dish came to us long before the Chicken Rice and Laksa, and possibly way before it arrived in Malaysia.

Good food can boost the mood of people and make them happy. Biryani proves it. You will never see a person who is sad after eating biryani.

Calories in chicken biryani

About 200 g of biryani contains an average of 290 calories. Its nutrition facts are:

Fat9.4 g
Saturated1.7 g
Trans0.1 g
Cholesterol48 mg
Sodium419 mg
Carbohydrates31 g
Dietary fibre1.4 g
Sugars3.2 g
Potassium462 mg
Protein20 g

How much are 290 calories and how to burn it

Depending on your diet, 290 calories is not considered an exorbitant amount of calories. Ideally, a person must consume at least 300 calories in breakfast alone. Nonetheless, some low-intensity ways to burn 290 calories are to jog for about 30 minutes, or to cycle for about 40 minutes.

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