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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chicken Biryani

Very very aromatic!
Delicious. A staple at all weddings!
Biryani has many variations and you can make it as complex or as simple as you want. This is a chicken biryani from Lahore Pakistan.

(This recipe will serve 6 ppl)
(Prep time: 1 hour)

Marinade for the chicken

The spice and salt content might seem a bit high. But since the chicken gravy will be mixed with rice it will mellow out.

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs 1 1/2 lbs (cut up to approx 2" chunks)
Black pepper 2/3 tsp
Cayenne pepper 1 tsp
Cilantro/coriander powder 1 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Black cumin 1/2 tsp
No salt!
Salt is added while cooking because adding salt to the marinade will draw out the juices and make the chicken dry. The spices listed above will be enough for a simple basic biryani.

Mix the spices together.
Rub well into the chicken and let it sit on the counter for 30 mins.
The chicken should be at room temperature before cooking.
Heat about 2 Tbs oil in a wide non stick pan.
Use one and a half times the amount of salt you would normally use (I used 1 1/2 tsp for this)
Sprinkle half the amount over the meat and fry quickly for 3-4 mins on high heat (reserve the other half of salt for the gravy)
Take the chicken out of the pan and set aside for now. It will cook fully in the gravy.

For the gravy

Red onions sliced 2 cups
Tomatoes diced 1 1/2 cups
Garlic chopped 1 1/2 tsp
Fresh plain yogurt 1/3 cup
Cooking oil 1/3 cup
(leftover from frying the chicken)
Heat the oil in the same pan used to sear the chicken.
Fry the onions until light golden brown in color.
Add garlic. Fry for 2-3 mins.
Add tomatoes, salt and cover the pan.
Turn the heat to med high and cook until the tomatoes break down. Should take about 5 min or so.
Whip the yogurt with a fork and add it to the pan. Mix well.

Cover and cook for another 10 mins. Use a blender to turn this into a smooth thick gravy.
Add the chicken and cook on med heat for 20 min or until the chicken is fully cooked.
Cook uncovered so that most of the water evaporates. Use a splatter screen to prevent a mess.
The gravy is ready.

For the rice
Boil 4 1/2 cups of long grain Basmati rice in pot full of boiling salted water, like you would pasta.
Add to the water a stick of cinnamon and a few cloves.
The rice should be half cooked, sort of el dente.
Drain out all the water and discard the cloves and the cinnamon stick.

Final step... Layering the Biryani
You will need,
A large, deep pot with a heavy base like a Dutch oven or something similar.
You will also need 1/2 stick of unsalted butter thats about 4 Tbs.
And some saffron strands about 15-20 soaked in approx 2 Tbs lukewarm milk.

This process doesn't have to be perfect at all. Don't worry about making precise layers. It will all be mixed in towards the end.

Spread 1/3 of the chicken gravy at the bottom of the pan.
Now layer 1/3 of the rice over the gravy.
Drop 1/3 of the butter over the rice.

Your top layer would be rice with a dollop of butter.
Lastly, pour down the saffron milk concoction along one side of the pot. The idea is to have some rice colored bright yellow and ofcourse the addition of the wonderful aroma of saffron.
Sprinkle a little water no more than a Tbs over the rice.
Cover tightly with a lid.
Some people find it useful to wrap a moist kitchen towel around the lid before covering the pot to make it air tight.
Cook over low heat for about 30 mins.
The rice will fully cook in the steam created inside the pot.
Mix well!
Goes really nice with a cool cucumber or mint raita!


  1. Black cumin seed is also called as Nigella Sativa. It was first discovered in Egypt. It was used to cure respiratory tract problems, irregular periods, headaches, liver, stomach problems, and skin problems. It have multi-vitamin, multi-mineral properties which aid healthy skin, lustrous hair and shining strong nails. It also cures mouth ulcerations, bad breath, cures pain from insect or animal bites etc.

  2. I meant Bunium persicum when I said black cumin. They are different from nigella seeds (kalonji) they resemble regular cumin except they are darker in color.

  3. First time here nabia.. perfectly written down procedure.. its a key to good coooking... the dish sounds authentic..