BERYĀNĪ (from beryān “roast”), an Iranian meat dish usually served wrapped in flat bread, in later times particularly popular in Isfahan. Methods of preparing it have varied in different periods and places. The 4th/10th century author Aḵawaynī (p. 636) mentions taking the beryānī out of the oven and wrapping it in flat bread, which is the modern method (cf. Bosḥāq, p. 57). In the 5th/11th-century translation of Ebn Boṭlān (pp. 98-99), only the qualities of the beryānī are described. Verses by Najīb Jorfādaqānī (5th/11th century) and Ḵāqānī Šervānī (6th/12th century), quoted in Dehḵodā’s Loḡat-nāma (s.v.) show that the meat was mutton. The early 10th/16th-century cookbook of Moḥammad-ʿAlī Bāvaṛčī (pp. 159-61) contains descriptions of roast (beryān) meat dishes that are not of the usual beryānī type. The 11th/17th-century traveler Tavernier describes certain cookshops at Isfahan where a whole skinned sheep carcass was hung in an oven to be roasted and a potful of rice was put on the floor of the oven to be cooked by the melted fat dripping from the carcass (Pers. tr., pp. 636-37). His description concurs with one given by the 13th/19th-century writer Taḥwīldār (pp. 119-20) except that, according to Taḥwīldār, a pot half-full of boiling water (instead of rice) was put in the oven, the door of the oven was kept shut all through the night, and when it was opened in the morning, the sheep was well roasted and the drippings that had fallen into the pot formed a rich broth. The same method of preparing beryānīs from a sheep roasted whole was practiced at Isfahan until the early 1330s Š./1950s. In the early 14th/20th century, the beryānī of fat mutton is mentioned by Nāder Mīrzā (p. 220) as a dish on sale in Tabrīz in summer and autumn. The definition of beryānī as a “sort of salted polow” given in Ḡīāṯ at-loḡāt (s.v.) and Farhang-e Ānand Rāj (I, p. 697) is evidently unattested.
The method of preparation in use today is as follows: fat mutton, together with onions and a little water, is put in a pot and stewed until the meat is half-cooked, when it is taken off and left to cool down. Then the meat and the same onions are minced together, and spread in a pan; small amounts of cinnamon and saffron are sprinkled on the mince, which is then put in an oven (tanūr), or today on a stove or a gas cooker, to broil. It is served wrapped between sheets of warm sangak bread, with rice (as a polow), with pickles, or with fresh vegetables.
Among old, established families at Isfahan it has always been customary either to mix sheep’s lights (jegar-e safīd) with the beryānī meat and the onions or to stew the lights separately with a little tail fat (donba) and then mince and grill them to be served with the beryānīs. Otherwise the method is the same as that described above. The use of lights in the cooking of beryānīs is also mentioned by ʿAlī-Akbar Khan Āšpazbāšī (pp. 56-57), Nāṣer-al-Dīn Shah’s chef.
Entirely different was the beryān-pelāv and the method of its preparation described by Shah ʿAbbās I’s chef Nūr-Allāh (pp. 214-15). This was a rice dish, as evidenced by Mīr Ṣadr-al-Dīn Moḥammad Šīrāzī’s reply to a versified letter from Moḥtašam Kāšānī (in Ṯābetīān, p. 371). Ostād Fūlād Beryānī was famous at the time for his skill in cooking beryān-polow.
In India (according to an Indian informant, Mr. ʿAbd-al-Qāder Hāšemī), two sorts of beryānī are to be found. One is the moḡolī beryānī, which is eaten with rice; the meat is boiled with yogurt, onions, and spices (ginger, garlic, cloves, black and green cardamom seeds, cinnamon, black pepper, black cumin seeds, nutmeg, sometimes also red pepper, turmeric), and the rice is cooked separately in the polow style (see berenj). This dish is often served at weddings and is considered a sufficient repast for guests. The other sort, found mainly at Hyderabad (Deccan), is called kaččī (raw) beryānī because the meat is not cooked but tenderized with juice of the papaya fruit. This dish is the same as the taḥčīn-e barra (see berenj) which in Iran in past times was similarly cooked with spices (today most often with saffron, pepper, and cinnamon). The Hyderabad beryānī resembles a dish once made in Iran from lamb taken from the womb of the ewe, which, being sufficiently tender, was not boiled but marinated in yogurt and served with steamed rice. Today, since unborn lamb is unavailable, the meat is always cooked.
Fayżī Serhendī (s.v.), the Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, and Demaisons mention a beryān-e moḥallā served with leeks (tara), pennyroyal (pūna), tarragon, onions, bread, and radishes. The name suggests that it meant only a garnish. The method of cooking is not indicated, but it is unlikely to have been an ordinary beryānī because wrapping it in bread would hardly be practicable.
Abū Esḥāq (Bosḥāq) Ḥallāj Šīrāzī, Dīvān-e Aṭʿema, ed. Ḥ. Eṣfahānī, Constantinople, 1303/1885-86, passim.
Abū Bakr Rabīʿ Aḵawaynī, Hedāyat al-motaʿallemīn fi’l-ṭebb, ed. J. Matīnī, Mašhad, 1344 Š./1965, p. 636.
Mīrzā ʿAlī-Akbar Khan Āšpazbāšī, Sofra-ye aṭʿema, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974, pp. 56-57.
Shaikh Farīd-al-Dīn ʿAṭṭār, Asrār-nāma, ed. Ṣ. Gowharīn, Tehran, 1338 Š./1959, p. 167.
Awḥadī Marāḡaʾī, Jām-e Jam, in Kollīyāt-e Awḥadī, ed. S. Nafīsī, Tehran, 1340 Š./1961, p. 649.
Boḵārī, Anīs al-ṭālebīn, ms. in the possession of the Moʾassasa-ye Loḡat-nāma-ye Dehḵodā, fol. 92.
Bonyād-e Farhang-e Īrān, Farhang-e tārīḵī-e fārsī, Tehran, 1357 Š./1978, s.v. beryān-beryānī. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Islamic Manuscripts in the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library I, 1939, p. 216.
J.-J. P. Desmaisons, Dictionnaire persan-français, 4 vols., Rome, 1908-14.
Ebn Boṭlān Baḡdādī, anonymous Pers. tr., Tarjama-ye Taqwīm al-ṣeḥḥa, ed. Ḡ.-Ḥ. Yūsofī, Tehran, 1350 Š./1971, pp. 5, 55, 91, 98-99.
Allāhdād Fayż Serhendī, Madār al-afāżel, ed. M. Bāqer, Lahore, 1337 Š./1958.
Ḡīāṯ-al-Dīn Moḥammad Rāmpūrī, Ḡīāṯ al-loḡāt, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1337 Š./1958.
M.-ʿA. Jamālzāda, Goft-o-gū-ye ḵānavādagī dar bāra-ye Eṣfahān, Tehran, 1353 Š./1974, p. 69 n. 1.
ʿOmar b. Moḥammad Ḵorramābādī, quoted by Moḥammad ʿAwfī in Lobāb al-albāb, ed. S. Nafīsī, I, Tehran, 1335 Š./1956, p. 170.
Rašīd-al-Dīn Abu’l-Fażl Maybodī, Kašf al-asrār wa ʿoddat al-abrār, ed. ʿA.-A. Ḥekmat, Tehran, 1331-39 Š./1952-60, I, p. 207.
Ḥājī Moḥammad Bāvaṛčī Baḡdādī, Kār-nāma, in Āšpazī-e dawra-ye ṣafawī, ed. Ī. Afšār, Tehran, 1360 Š./1981, pp. 159-61.
Moḥammad Pādšāh, Farhang-e Ānand Rāj, ed. M. Dabīrsīāqī, Tehran, 1335 Š./1956.
Nāder Mīrzā Qājār, Tārīḵ ojoḡrāfīā-ye Dār-al-salṭana-ye Tabrīz, known as Joḡrāfīā-ye moẓaffarī, 1323/1905, p. 220.
Nasḵa-ye šāhjahānī, ed. S. M. Afżal Ṣāḥeb, Madras, 1956.
Nūr-Allāh Āšpazbāšī, Māddat al-ḥayāt, in Āšpazī-e dawra-ye ṣafawī, ed. Afšār, pp. 214-15; see also pp. xxi, xxvi, xxxiii, xxxvi.
Moḥammad b. ʿAlī Rāvandī, Rāḥat al-ṣodūr wa āyat al-sorūr, ed. M. Eqbāl, Leiden, 1921, p. 459.
M. Rodinson, “Recherches sur les documents arabes relatifs à la cuisine,” REI, 1949, pp. 65-195.
Mīr Ṣadr-al-Dīn Moḥammad Šīrāzī, “Nāma dar jawāb-e nāma-ye manẓūm-e Moḥtašam Kāšānī,” in Ḏ. Ṯābetīān, Ketāb-e asnād o nāmahā-ye tārīḵī o ejtemāʿī-e dawra-ye Ṣafawīya, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964, p. 371.
Mīrzā Ḥosayn Khan Taḥwīldār, Joḡrāfīā-ye Eṣfahān, ed. M. Sotūda, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963, pp. 119-20.
J. B. Tavernier, Les six voyages de Jean Baptiste Tavernier en Turquie, en Perse et aux Indes, 2 vols., Amsterdam(?), 1677 (Pers. tr. Safar-nāma-ye Tāvernīa, tr. A.-T. Nūrī, ed. Ḥ. Šīrānī, Isfahan, 1336 Š./1957, pp. 636-37).
ʿA.-Ḥ. Zarrīnkūb, “Sofra-ye īrānī,” in his Az čīzhā-ye dīgar, Tehran, 1356 Š./1976, pp. 9-25.
See also Ḥ. Zayyāt, “Fann al-ṭabḵ wa eṣlāḥ al-aṭʿema fi’l-eslām,” in al-Ḵezāna al-šarqīya, pt. 4, Beirut, 1948.
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
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Vol. IV, Fasc. 2, pp. 169-170