Friday, March 22, 2013

Katthal Biryani

Tonight's Menu
Katthal Biryani
Wine Pairing: Full bodied red

Katthal (Jack fruit) Biryani
This recipe was requested by one of my friends. He had this dish somewhere and loved it. I had never heard about it till he suggested I try it out. So here goes.
Jack fruit belongs to the mulberry family and is widely grown in parts of Southeast Asia. It has a thick spiky green skin, a starchy and fibrous flesh, and is a source of dietary fiber. It is rather a pain to prepare fresh katthal since peeling the thick skin is hard and time consuming, though well worth the effort. Here in North America, fresh jack fruit is very rarely available and that too its over ripe and hard. In Asian stores you will find canned katthal in water. I have used this many times and I find it really good. No effort required to peel, just drain and use. See the image below for the brand I buy.

Canned Katthal (Jack fruit)

Ingredients and preparation:
For the Katthal
2 lb Jack fruit (katthal) peeled and cubed into 1 inch pieces or use canned
1 cup plain yogurt beaten well
Kashmiri red chili powder (for color and desired heat level)
salt to taste
1 large red onion chopped fine
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
2 tbsp tomato paste
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder 
1 teaspoon Coriander powder
Dry spices:
1/4 teaspoon each of whole dry cumin and coriander, 
3 whole cloves
1 long stick cinnamon
4 green cardamoms  
1 black cardamoms
Few black peppercorns
1/2 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
Cooking katthal:
  1. Take all the dry spices and lightly toast them in a dry skillet. Let cool and coarsely grind them together in a dry grinder or mortar and pestle. Do not powder them fine, keep them grainy.
  2. To cook the katthal, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. Fry kathal pieces on medium heat till lightly browned. Keep aside. If you are using fresh jackfruit then peel and cube it. Fry on medium heat till lightly browned.
  3. Take 2 tbsp oil in the same pan. Add the coarsely ground dry spices and saute for 5 seconds. Add chopped onion and fry at medium high, stirring constantly till they turn pink.
  4. At this point add the ginger garlic paste and continue stirring for 2 minutes.
  5. Now add the fried katthal pieces along with tomato paste and yogurt, and coat them well with the onion mixture. Fry for 4-5 more minutes. Add all the other spices. 
  6. For the canned jackfruitAdd 1 tablespoon of water and stir well. Reduce the heat a bit. At this point the aim is to infuse the katthal with all the wonderful spices while slowly cooking it. After about 5-7 minutes the katthal 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 katthal should be surrounded by a little bit of gravy. 
  7. For the fresh jackfruit - Add about 1/2 cup water and pressure cook for 4-5 whistles. Remove the lid and cook on high till all the water is absorbed and 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 katthal should be surrounded by a little bit of gravy. 
For the rice
2 cups long grain basmati rice
6 cups water
2 teaspoon ghee
1 teaspoon salt
Cooking the rice:
  1. Wash the rice well with cold water.
  2. Soak rice for 30 minutes. Drain.
  3. Bring the 6 cups of water with salt and 1 tsp ghee to boil. As it comes to a rolling boil add the soaked rice. Stir. Wait till it comes back to boil and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Check the rice grain at this point. It should be only three quarters cooked. 
  5. Remove from heat and drain out all the water. Add another tsp ghee in the rice while hot. Rice is now ready to layer.
Other ingredients
Few strands of saffron soaked in 1 teaspoon of hot water (for 2-3 mins)
2 tbsp dry mint (or 1 cup fresh mint chopped fine)
1 cup fresh coriander chopped fine
2 large red onions sliced, fried till golden brown
½ cup mixed nuts (cashew nuts and almonds) lightly toasted in 1/2 tsp oil
Assembling the Biryani:
  1. Preheat the oven at 375 F. 
  2. In a large greased casserole, start layering.Layer half the rice at the bottom. Top with half the toasted nuts, followed by half the fried onions and half of the mint and coriander. 
  3. Sprinkle saffron water randomly over the rice. Top with half the kathal. Now repeat the layers again.Do not try to mix the rice and kathal together. 
  4. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes till rice cooks completely. 
  5. Give a random light stir to the entire concoction and see the beautiful colors and aromas blending together. 
  6. Serve steaming hot with Raita. 


  1. The Biryani looks really tempting....Wish we had canned jackfruits available here...I would have love to try this

    1. Thanks. You can use the fresh jackfruit instead if available. Only difference is it will take a little longer to cook. I have updated the instructions.