Friday, October 1, 2010

Chicken Biryani with Raita

One of my most favorite of the Mughlai dishes is Biryani. A complete meal on its own this dish pleases both adults and kids alike. It infuses a number of different flavors all at once and gives you a truly royal experience. Layers of long grain basmati rice (steamed or fried) are baked together with curried meat or vegetables resulting in an intensely flavored dish.

The name Biryani is derived from the Persian word birian which means “fried or roasted” and has its roots in the Persian cuisine. There are many legends regarding its movement to the Indian subcontinent. Some believe it was brought to India by the Muslim merchants and travelers and made popular during the Mughal rule in cities like Lucknow, Hyderabad and Kashmir.  Some believe it traveled across the Arabian Sea with the Arab travelers. Some believe it was devised as a dish to feed a large army and was cooked in a large earthen pot sealed with dough.
In India almost every community has its own version of the Biryani and each one is as royal as the other. As it evolved different ingredients found their way into this dish. Now you can make Biryani with lamb, chicken, beef, egg, shrimp and even fish. For a vegetarian version a blend of vegetable can be substituted for the meat. It is served with a side dish of Raita which helps cool the palette.
Spice box
This recipe calls for many dry whole or powdered spices. I have listed the ingredients in the order of their use while cooking.
For the chicken curry
2 tablespoons canola oil
Dry whole spices:
½ teaspoon each of whole dry cumin and coriander, 
5 whole cloves
1 long stick cinnamon
4 green cardamoms and 2 black cardamoms
2 pieces mace
Few black peppercorns
1 large red onion chopped fine
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
2 lbs chicken thighs cut into small pieces (Biryani is always made with bone- in chicken)
Dry ground spices:
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder 
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
Salt to taste
Red chilli powder (for desired heat level)
¾ teaspoon amchur (dry mango powder)
1 teaspoon dry mint
½ cup plain yogurt beaten well
For the rice
2 cups long grain basmati rice
3 ¾ cups water
1 teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon whole zeera (cumin seeds) 
Few strands of saffron soaked in 1 teaspoon of hot water (for 2-3 mins)
Cooking the chicken:
  1. Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan.
  2. Take all the dry whole spices and coarsely grind them together in a mortar and pestle.
  3. Add these to the pan and let them spatter for 30 seconds.
  4. Add chopped onion and fry at medium high, stirring constantly till they turn pink.
  5. At this point add the ginger garlic paste and continue stirring for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken pieces and coat them well with the onion mixture. Fry for 2 more minutes.
  7. Add all the dry ground spices and 1 tablespoon of water and stir well. Reduce the heat a bit. At this point the aim is to infuse the chicken with all the wonderful spices while slowly cooking it.
  8. When the chicken is about ¾ done then add the yogurt and put up the heat. Continue cooking while stirring making sure nothing burns.
  9. After about 5-7 minutes the chicken will be almost done. The best way to tell is when you see the entire concoction leaving oil from all sides. At this point remove from heat. There should not be too much liquid in the pan and chicken should be surrounded by a little bit of gravy.
Cooking the rice:

  1. Wash the rice well with cold water. 
  2. Place the rice and measured amount of water in a pan and soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Place the pan on high heat and add all the other ingredients to it except saffron.
  4. Bring to boil and simmer covered for 6-7 minutes. Check the rice grain at this point. It should be only three quarters cooked, while most of the liquid should be gone from it.
Assembling the Biryani:
  1. Preheat the oven at 350 F.
  2. In a large greased casserole, layer alternately rice and chicken curry starting with rice. 
  3. Take the saffron water and sprinkle randomly over the top layer of rice. Do not try to mix the rice and chicken together.
  4. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes till rice cooks completely.
  5. Serve steaming hot with Raita.

Cucumber, tomato and onion Raita (Find the recipe here)


  1. Yummy Yummy Yummy!! thats all that comes to my mind..Good job Girl!!.....Keep them comming..... :) luv, Monica

  2. wow you are a good cook. let us try your cooking. biryani or any thing.