Mutton pulao: the dish that survived the chicken takeover

Published May 15, 2017
The rice is made in mutton stock and an array of spices including coriander seeds, cumin, cardamom, and cloves. — Dawn
The rice is made in mutton stock and an array of spices including coriander seeds, cumin, cardamom, and cloves. — Dawn

RAWALPINDI: Mutton pulao has been a popular dish throughout the history of Indian cuisine and is still popular in the city.

Mutton and beef have, with time, been replaced with chicken in the dish, but there are still many admirers of the mutton pulao.

The rice is made in mutton stock and an array of spices including coriander seeds, cumin, cardamom, cloves and others.

The dish is made almost in every house during Eidul Azha and also on most special occasions. A lot of restaurants across the city also offer the dish.

Mutton pulao came from Central Asia at the time of the arrival of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent and was one of the more popular dishes in Mughal cuisine as well. Like the Urdu language, biryani and pulao too varied across the region and was cooked differently in Delhi and Lucknow, the two main cultural centres for the Muslims of the subcontinent. Biryani was more popular in Delhi and pulao in Luknow and residents of both cities had their own recipes for both the rice-based dishes.

Many people who migrated to Pakistan after the partition established shops in downtown Rawalpindi offering pulao for which they used a mix of both recipes.

“We came from Amritsar and brought with us the traditional recipe for mutton pulao, which is still liked by the people. We have been making pulao since and a lot of things have changed with time. For instance, chicken has replaced mutton because the latter now costs too much,” said Ghulam Hussein, owner of a pulao shop in Bhabara Bazaar.

He said the distinct aroma of the dish was due to the use of stock and spices and that basmati rice is used to make pulao at the shop.

Pulao was only made on special occasions before such as weddings when people wanted to serve a special meal, he said.

Mr Hussein added pulao is best made with the meat of a lamb and not that of a goat as the fat lends a soft and creamy quality to the rice, which is also helped by the use of curd.

The manager of a hotel on Murree Road, Munawar Hussein said they also use lamb meat to make pulao because if cooked in goat meat, the rice turns out harder. Beef pulao is also requested by some diners, he said, but that has to be made after an order is placed.

He said mutton pulao is still requested by diners, even though people think the chicken variety is now preferred.

“Chicken pulao costs less than mutton pulao,” he said.

A customer at Bhabara Bazaar, Mohammad Imran said mutton pulao made in a cauldron tastes better than the home cooked version, also because professional chefs follow the traditional recipe.

“I always like having mutton pulao at least once a week for a change because I get fed up of eating chicken,” he said.

Mohammad said though biryani also tastes good, he prefers pulao as the use of mutton stock makes it a healthier option.

A resident of Satellite Town, Fayyaz Mohammad said he likes mutton pulao due to its distinct aroma.

“It reminds me of special occasions when I was a child where we would make pulao, and sweet rice and korma. These were traditional dishes which people would not make often because they were spicy,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2017

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