My new favorite holiday dish is …

AS A CHILD, HOLIDAY dinners were quite special. Mom was an excellent cook and baker. We dined at many of the all-American meals: turkey, roast beef, ham, chicken (with dumplings!). But hands down, my favorite meal was her spaghetti and meatballs.

Sherry’s briani, with side dishes of cucumber and tomato salads.

But my favorite fare has been supplanted by a dish you might have never tried. It’s a Mauritian specialty called Briani, or sometimes Biryani. It hails from Persia, and took a rather circuitous route to Mauritius via India and Africa.

Sherry, who grew up on the tropical island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, has mastered this feast, which can be made with chicken, beef or fish. It includes potatoes, basmati rice, hard-boiled eggs and many savory spices from that region: nutmeg, cloves and curries. Depending on the cook, it can include yogurt and mint as well.

The history of this dish is intriguing: it originated in Persia as a type of stew for the army. In the 1600s, it made its way into what is now India (at the time, it was the Mughal Empire, or Mogul Empire).

From there, it was adopted and adapted by fishermen, who brought it to Mauritius. It is often associated with Muslim celebrations, but we had it on Christmas Day. I’ve written before about Mauritius and its culture of inclusiveness among many religions in this blog titled “The True Melting Pot,” so this seemed quite appropriate.

If you do a Google search on briani, or biryani, you will find many recipes.

And, perhaps, one of these days, we’ll get Sherry to “open-source” her version.


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