Have you tried Hyderabad’s white biryani?

Hyderabad is waking up to safed biryani, which is fast becoming the favourite of discerning biryani lovers

February 21, 2024 11:56 am | Updated 02:36 pm IST

The safediya pulao at Green Park

The safediya pulao at Green Park | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The new year will come and go, as will food trends and predictions. The one thing that will not change in Hyderabad is the common love for biryani. As 2023 ended, Hyderabad opened its heart for a new type of biryani; safed/sofiyani biryani. 


Safed biryani is exactly that; a biryani that is white (safed being the Hindi word for white) but with a distinct flavour, both aspects that are a result of its unique recipe. Instead of using turmeric and chilli powder as most biryanis do, this recipe relies on a more subtle mix of spices, curd and one key ingredient that gives it its distinctive colour and flavour — milk.

Fauzan Khan, part owner at Chicha’s, a restaurant specialising in Hyderabadi specials says Safed biryani has been a part of their catering (daawat) menu. He adds, “ This biryani is available commercially only at a handful of places in Hyderabad; we are one of them. Appreciators of this biryani are not fans of spicy, masala biryanis. I won’t say fans of this biryani are niche; but it caters to the taste buds of those who love fragrant, flavourful food and don’t really care for the hotness. Once someone appreciates this biryani, they will come back for more.” 

With frequent orders for the entire degh (a big utensil in which big orders of biryani are sent) of the biryani for house parties by their regular customers Chicha’s decided to make the biryani part of the regular menu.

sofiyani biryani

sofiyani biryani | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Having tasted safed biryani, one knows it is definitely not an amalgamation of various dry spices. It is mild, white, but not white like mere steamed rice.  Chef Amjad Lala, popular for his biryanis and Hyderabadi signature dishes, says, “Sofiyani biryani is definitely not the everyday biryani sold across town, which is probably why lovers of this biryani are also not so common. This biryani is not new; it is was always cooked on special occasions. The accompaniment with this biryani is a white korma. This is my made-to-order menu. I love making this biryani because of the fragrance and the extra care needed to retain its white or safed look.” 

According to Fauzan the mutton version is more popular. He explains, “The fat from the lamb adds fluffiness to the rice. As it cooks in dum with the meat, the juices released from the meat further enhance the flavour.” 

Chef Vignesh Ramachandran, chef partner at Once Upon a time at Hotel Green Park says they named their sofiyani biryani safediya pulao. Their special menu of Hyderabadi specials features this biryani along with a few other specials like marag and korma. Vignesh says, “Our regular dum ka biryani is a top seller. When I learnt about the sofiyani or safediya biryani, I couldn’t wait to put it on the menu for our Deccan speciality, a tasting menu that features signature Hyderabadi dishes. The biryani is refined for those who are not continuously asking for double masala and more spice. Even though we call it pulao, it is made in dum style. For me, this biryani’s subtle flavours is the winner.” 

Vignesh added “While I was researching about Deccan delicacies I read that safediya biryani was cooked during special occasion. I also heard, that the Nizams used to enjoy this biryani in full moon nights. It is however not documented anywhere.”

Will this biryani go through the biryani-pulao debate? “Why debate and waste time when you can eat and relish the food in that time,” says Fauzan. 

So just dig in.

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