Monday, September 20, 2010

Chicken Biriyani - My father's masterpiece dish

 Biriyani is essentially an assembly of long grained basmati rice flavoured with spices, and curried meat, sea food or vegetables. This rich dish is savored all over India though the spices, condiments and the method of preparation vary from region to region.

When I was in Hyderabad, my friends and I visited the Paradise restaurant to eat the very popular Hyderabadi biriyani, which is a must have for everyone visiting the city. We ended up talking, or rather, bragging about the biriyani from our own states. The bengali claimed that their biriyani was the best of all, with its subtle masala and distinctive addition of potato, while the keralite asserted that the biriyani back home, with liberal amounts of ghee and cashew, and sometimes egg, was unbeatable. Ofcourse it was difficult to argue with the hyderabadi, who said that marinated raw meat and rice were cooked together, along with saffron to add to the flavour and aroma of the Hyderabadi biriyani. And I thought it would be childish to say, "You are all wrong folks. My dad makes the yummiest biriyani of all", so I kept quiet. Forgive my seeming lack of modesty, but I have not had a biriyani more delicious than the one my father makes. His biriyani is popular among our family and friends, and he makes it for most of our get togethers. 

I used his recipe to make biriyani at home, and it was an instant hit. So when my folks visited me recently, I decided to make it for them. And to my pleasure, they seemed to like it. A compliment from the master himself is definitely something I am going to cherish.

But making a biriyani is very time consuming, and there are a lot of things that could go wrong. So do attempt one only when you have sufficient time and energy on your hands.


For Garnish and Layering

1 cup ghee for frying, 4 tbsp ghee
1 cup raisins
1 cup cashew nuts
4-5 onions chopped into thin, long slices

For Chicken Curry

1.2 kg chicken cut into medium sized pieces and cleaned

400 grms onion
10 cloves garlic
1 inch piece ginger
12 green chilies

1 tsp pepper corns
6 cardamoms
6 cloves
2 one inch pieces of cinnamon
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tsp shajeera
A pinch nutmeg powder

1½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric powder

½ cup mint leaves chopped
½ cup coriander leaves chopped
A few curry leaves
1 cup curd
Salt to taste

For Rice

4 cups long grained Basmati rice
12 cups water
¼ tsp pepper corns
4 cardamoms
4 cloves
2 one inch pieces of cinnamon
1 tbsp mint leaves
1 tbsp coriander leaves
4 tbsp ghee
Salt to taste



Heat ghee in a vessel large enough to hold the chicken. Fry the cashew nuts and raisins in the ghee, and keep aside. Fry the onions till well browned and keep aside.

Chicken curry

Grind together all the ingredients labeled as 'B' in a grinder adding as little water as possible and keep aside.

Heat the ghee which was used to fry onions, and add  all the spices  labeled  as 'C' in the same order mentioned, and let splutter. The spices are added whole without powdering them so that the chicken gravy does not look too dark. But if you cannot stand biting into a spice, then dry roast them till aromatic, and grind them. And add them with masala powders labeled 'D'.

Add the ground onion paste (B) and saute for a few minutes. To this, add all the masala powders labeled as 'D' and saute again for a minute.

Add the chicken and mix well, so that it is well coated with the ground paste and powdered masala.

After a minute, add all ingredients labeled 'E' and mix well. Cover and cook on a low heat till the chicken is well done, and there is about a cup and half of gravy remaining.


Wash and soak rice for about 30 minutes. Drain off the water.

Boil 12 cups of water. Add sufficient salt to this water.

Heat ghee in a large pan, and add pepper, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and let the spices splutter. Add mint, coriander leaves and rice and saute well on a low flame for 3-4 minutes. To this, add boiling water and bring the rice to boil. Let it simmer till rice is little more than half cooked. Drain off excess water. Spread out the rice on a tray and cool under a fan, so that the rice does not stick together.


Choose a vessel large enough to hold the rice and chicken together. Grease the vessel with ghee. Spread out some rice as the first layer. Top this with some fried onions, raisins, cashew nuts and few drops of ghee. Next spread out a few pieces of chicken along with gravy. Repeat this process till everything is used up, ensuring that the top most layer is rice. You could reserve some of the fried onions, cashews and raisins for garnishing.


Cover the vessel, and seal the lid with metal paper clips. This would prevent the steam from escaping, thus baking the biriyani. Cook on low heat for about 15 -20 minutes.

If you overcook the rice accidentally, then skip the baking process. Instead, layer the rice and meat, and heat in a micro wave oven for around 8 minutes, with your dish loosely covered with its lid.

Hot biriyani is served with raita, pappadam and lemon pickle in my part of the world. Enjoy...!!!


  1. Hi

    You said cook on low flame for 15-20 minutes. I want to know what temperature (C/F) should I bake in the oven (not the microwave).

  2. Hi Ani,
    You can bake at 100 C for about 5 minutes. Then turn off oven and leave it in warm oven for around 10 minutes more. Check if the rice on top is warm and completely cooked. If not, return to oven at 100 C for another 3- 5 minutes.


  3. I would suggest a minor variation.Make few cups of chicken stock with unwanted chicken pieces like wings neck etc,some onion and garlic a few mint and corriander leaves and a teas spoon of biriyani masala .Remove the chicken pieces from the stock.Use the stock to cook the rice.For 4 cups of rice you would need 6 cups of stock.Also add 2 table spoons of lemon juice to keep the grains seperated as well as to add some flavour.Let the rice cook on low flame with a lid on for about 10 minues or till all all the water evaporates.The rice would absorb all the chicken flavours and biriyani will be more flavourfull.


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