A favourite rice dish which figures prominently in local Muslim feasts is the Buriyani, a rich and delectable dish made with fragrant basmati rice cooked in ghee with meat (usually beef or chicken) and potatoes, spiced with various condiments, scented with rose water and coloured yellow. It may also be embellished with green peas, cashew nuts and raisins.Buriyani has its origins in Moghul India. The very term itself is of Indian origin and has derived from the Hindustani biryani. Abul Fazl in his 16th century treatise on Moghul India, Ain-I-Akbari gives biryan as a meat dish made from sheep with ghi and spices such as saffron, pepper and cuminseed. He also mentions a rice dish known as duzdbiryan made of rice, meat and ghi. The term biryan from which biryani evidently derives is a Persian loan in Hindustani meaning ‘fried, roasted, broiled, parched, grilled’.The earliest reference to its use in Sri Lanka is perhaps an advertisement placed by Kamal Pasha Hotel of Maradana in 1923 in Crescent magazine of Zahira College where we read of ‘buriyani rice’ and ‘fried fowls’ being offered by the hotel, suggesting that the dish would have been introduced from India for commercial purposes and that it was only later that it gained currency as a domestic dish. Elsie Cook (A Geography of Ceylon.1931) noticed the dish figuring among local Muslims a few years later. She says “Their mode of cooking rice, with sultanas and fat, making a dish called burriana, has become characteristic in Ceylon”.

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