Techniques – #D – Dum Cooking

Dum is an ancient Persian technique where food is infused with flavour by cooking it in one pot and in one ‘breath’. (Dum:breath, Pukht:cook). Dum cooking, once understood, can be extended to cover almost everything. Unfortunately, it is riddled with ritualism and the core principle is buried deep and still lies hidden. This ancient technique of Dum gets supercharged in OPOS, with two simple tweaks. This is responsible for the intense flavours of OPOS dishes.

The principle of Dum cooking is to seal food in a pot with little or no water and let it cook in it in its own juices. The vessel usually used is a heavy bottomed handi, inside which food is layered and the lid sealed using dough. It is usually cooked over a slow fire. When food is cooked sealed in its own juices, it becomes super charged with delicate flavours. This is why harsh spices are not commonly used in dum cooking. They mask the intense fragrance of the dish itself.

The Cooker Biriyani Vs the OPOS Dum Biriyani.

Cooker biriyanis have been popular for ages. They are universally mocked. Mushy, overcooked and ridiculed as porridge, no self-respecting chef would use a pressure cooker for a biriyani. So how did the cooker biriyani morph into the OPOS dum biriyani that outclassed the best biriyanis in Chennai in blind tests? By deeply understanding the technique of Dum. As with many OPOS techniques, the technique of Dum is not new. What is new is the way we have interpreted it and used it. People who claim ‘we’ve always been doing this’ miss this key fact.

In OPOS, we try to replicate the ancient Dum cooking technique. This ancient Persian technique, refined by the Sultans and Moguls over centuries, still remains one of the best ways to maximise flavour infusion. This technique especially excels in cooking meats & rice together, as in a Biriyani. After centuries, this technique is still going strong, virtually unchanged, as we have not invented anything better that can guarantee better textures or flavours – till now!

In this technique, food is layered and cooked in its own juices in a sealed vessel heated from above and below. When cooked with a starch, like rice, this technique causes the starch to dry out, making each grain separate, but juicy and flavourful.

In OPOS, due to the superior seal, a pressure of 15psi (1atm) pressure is built inside the pot. So the temperature of food inside is determined only by the temperature of the pressurised steam. If the pot is heated on high, the steam buildup happens fast and stabilises the temperature at 120 degrees, preventing burning. Thus it is not mandatory to cook on low heat anymore . High heat also meant shorter cooking times. So, the key was to layer food right an cook it in its own juices at high heat, for a short time. In other words, pressure bake it! This is not possible in a normal pressure cooker as they are not designed to be used without water or over high heat. Every drop of added water takes the biriyani towards a kichidi! This loss of texture and overcooking is why cooker biriyanis are sneered at.