The Biryani Story

Mughal Biryani
Salmaih Hussain

THE ROYAL BIRYANI: Many Pulao based dishes were served at the royal courts. Seasoned with fried fruits, nuts and decorated with edible gold and silver leaf that were mildly flavoured, was enjoyed by the royal elite.

400g basmati rice, pre-soaked
200g lamb with bones
60 g onions, sliced
1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste
1 tsp coriander, 1 tsp black cumin
Salt to taste, 100g yoghurt
2 tbsp sugar syrup
8 cloves, 2 green cardamoms
2 inch cinnamon sticks
Juice from 1 lemon, 100g ghee
10 almonds blanched, slivers
10 pistachios blanched, slivers
2 tbsp raisins, 5 cherries, sliced
5 dates soaked, 100ml milk
1 tsp saffron mixed with 2 tbsp rose water, 2 silver or gold edible leaf

Cook the lamb with onions, ginger, coriander powder, salt and 2 cups of water. Once the lamb is tender, remove from the stock and set aside. Strain the liquid. Heat a tablespoon of ghee and sauté the cloves followed by the lamb and yoghurt. Add the sugar syrup and the juice from ½ a lemon and continue to cook. Heat ghee in a separate pan and fry the fruits and nuts. Mix in the milk and cook for 5 minutes. Add the milk mixture with the meat and continue to cook. Bring 3 cups water to a boil and add the drained rice, salt, whole spices, saffron, and lemon juice. Bring it back to a boil, reduce heat and cook covered until the rice is half done. In a heavy base pan add a layer of rice followed by half of the meat. Repeat the process and seal the surface with rice. Sprinkle the rose water mixture then cover and cook on low heat for 10 more minutes. Garnish with edible silver paper.

Mutton Kacchi Biryani
Dhaka Regency – Palash Mollah

BENGALI BIRYANI : This has its roots in the Nawabi style biryani of Lucknow. The chefs from Awadhi kitchens brought the signature biryani recipe to Kolkata. With the resources dwindling the chefs began adding potatoes and boiled eggs into the biryani. Nutmeg along with saffron and kewra gives this biryani its signature aroma. 

500g mutton with bones
400g chinigura rice, pre-soaked
500g onions, deep-fried
1 cup yogurt, 1 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp ginger & ½ tbsp garlic paste
4 green chilies, 1 tbsp garam masala
1 cup deep fried onions
1 tbsp rose water, 1 bay leaf
1 tbsp screw pine water
For the rice: 1 green cardamom
1 brown cardamom, 1 mace
For the gravy: ½ tbsp black cumin
½ tbsp cumin powder, 1 tsp nutmeg
½ inch piece of cinnamon, 2 cloves
1 green & 1 brown cardamom
1 pods mace, 1 bay leaf
Par boiled potatoes cut into ¼ seasoned with salt and chili powder
50g ghee, 100g oil, salt to taste
A pinch of saffron dissolved in milk

Marinade the mutton and set aside in a refrigerator overnight. In a pan add sufficient water, salt, 1 tbsp of oil, whole spices and bring to a boil. Add the rice and cook it partially. Drain the excess water and spread the rice out on a tray. Add dollops of ghee on the rice and set it aside.
In a heave base pan, heat the remaining oil with ghee, add spices and fry for 30 seconds. Remove from the stove and mix in the marinated meat. Fry seasoned potatoes and mix with the meat. Place the meat at the base of the pan and add the rice on top. Make holes and pour the saffron infused milk into the rice. Seal the lid using dough and cook on low heat with heated coal on top for one hour.

Pakistani Sindi Biryani
Asiya Rahim

SINDHI BIRYANI: From the Sind Province, Pakistan this briyani uses a generous quantity of yoghurt, spices and chili to enhance the flavours. Usage of kewra instead of rose water is another differentiating factor. Sindhi biryani recipes also use potatoes, prunes and are always garnished with slices of fresh tomatoes and green chilies.

3 tbsp ghee
3 onions, sliced and deep-fried
1 kg mutton with bones, cubed
3 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp crushed garlic
100g yoghurt, 2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp paprika powder
1 tsp ground coriander
2½ tsp ground cumin
2 tsp cumin seeds
10 dried plums, 10 dried prunes
10 cloves, 5 bay leaves
4 cinnamon sticks
14 green cardamom pods
3 brown cardamom pods
2 tbsp Shan Sindi biryani mix
Salt to taste
8 peppercorns, ground
4 long green chilies; 3 left whole, 1 finely sliced
3 medium potatoes, parboiled and cut into half
500g basmati rice, pre-soaked
1 cup of yoghurt
1 tsp saffron, soaked in 1 cup milk & 2 tbsp kewra water
3 medium potatoes, parboiled
1 handful coriander, chopped
1 handful mint, chopped
3 tomatoes, sliced

Heat the ghee in a pan and fry ginger and garlic followed by the meat and fried onions. Next, add the yoghurt, ground spices, whole spices (reserve 8 green cardamom pods for the rice), bay leaves, dried fruits, Sindi biryani masala, salt and pepper. Add the chilies and 350ml water. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Bring sufficient water to boil, add in the salt, the reserved cardamom pods with the rice. When the rice is partially cooked, drain out the water and spread onto two plates equally. Add the saffron milk onto one portion, mix evenly and set it aside. Combine the tomato, coriander, mint and sliced green chilies. Add 1/3rd of the tomato mixture into the mutton curry. Cover and cook for a further 10 minutes.
In a heavy base pan add a layer of plain rice followed by the meat mixture. Add dollops of yoghurt and a sprinkling of the tomatoes and herb mixture. Top it with the remaining plain rice and the saffron rice on top. Cover with the lid sealed with dough and cook on low heat for another 40 minutes. Serve on to a plate and garnish with the tomatoes, green chilies and herb mix.

Hyderabadi Biryani
Zeenath Khan

HYDERABADI BIRYANI: During the reign of Aurangzeb, he installed Nizam-ul-Mulk as the ruler of Hyderabad, as well as a ‘Nawab of Arcot’ to oversee this region. These moves gave rise to Hyderabadi Biryani. A unique feature is that the marinated raw meat with spices and yoghurt is cooked with the saffron infused rice until the meat blends completely with rice.

Garam Masala: Dry roast and blend
¼ tsp black cumin
2 sticks cinnamon
4 green cardamom
3 black cardamom
2 cloves
10 black peppercorns
Piece of mace and nutmeg each
For marinade:
1kg mutton with bones cut into big chunks
1cup yoghurt
4 chopped green chilies
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tbsp red chili powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp garam masala powder
1 cup deep fried onions
½ cup chopped coriander leaves
3/4 cup mint leaves
Lemon juice (1 lemon)
Salt to taste
4 tbsp raw papaya juice
3 tbsp ghee
Rice preparation:
500g Basmati rice
2 cloves
2 cardamoms
1 brown cardamom
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
4 black pepper corns
Nutmeg and mace
Salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp black cumin or caraway seeds
Water as required
1 cup Saffron infused milk

Mix the marinade ingredients with the meat and set aside for 6 hours in a refrigerator.
Rice: Place the whole spices in a muslin bag and add to a large pan of water. Bring it to boil with salt. Add the rice into the simmering water and cook partially. Drain the water, remove the muslin bag and spread it out onto a plate. Add ghee mixed with 1 cup of reserved rice water and pour over the rice. Next, pour the saffron infused milk over the rice.
Place the marinated meat at the bottom of the pan and add the rice over it. Cover with a lid, seal with dough and cook on low heat for one and half hours.

Awadhi Mutton Biryani
Lucknow, Dhaka

AWADHI BIRYANI: During Mughal Empire, Lucknow was known as Awadh, giving rise to Awadhi Biryani. The meat and gravy are partially cooked and then layered with the rice, sealed and re-cooked on low heat. It is also served in a sealed handi. 

1 kg mutton cubes with bones
2 tbsp lime juice
4 cups basmati rice
2 potatoes, cut in half
For meat stock:
2 black cardamoms, 9 green cardamoms
2 sticks of 2-inch cassia, 2 star anise
1-½ tsp black pepper corns
9 cloves, 1 tsp fennel, 1 tsp cumin
1 tsp black cumin, 1 tsp mace
2 bay leaves, 2½ tbsp chopped ginger
1 tbsp chopped garlic, Salt
Garam masala: dry roast and blend
4 cardamoms, 2 inch cinnamon sticks,
few black pepper corns,
6 cloves, 1 tsp mace, ½ tsp nutmeg
For gravy:
½ cup yoghurt, 200ml cream
2 tbsp cashew nut paste
1 tbsp ginger, 2 tbsp garlic
¾ cup friend onions, blended
1 tsp red chili powder
½ tsp turmeric, 2 tsp garam masala
1 bay leaf, 1 tsp sugar, Salt
Ghee, 4 whole green chilies
Garnish: ½ cup fried onions
½ cup saffron infused milk with 2 tsp screw pine essence

Marinade the mutton with lime juice for an hour. Add all the whole spices to make the stock into a muslin bag. Add fourteen cups of water, the mutton and the muslin spice bag into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the salt 5 minutes before the mutton is ¾th done. Remove the mutton and set aside. Simmer the stock until it has reduced to eight cups. In a pan cook rice covered with the six cups stock. Once it is 80% done remove from the stove and spread it out to cool. Add dollops of ghee over the rice and set it aside. Heat more ghee and fry the garam masala powder, ginger and garlic paste. Add chili powder, turmeric and stir in the yoghurt. Mix in the mutton with two cups of stock. Cover and cook under medium heat until the meat is tender. Add potatoes, cream, cashew paste, whole green chilies, sugar and simmer until the gravy is reduced to a cup. Spread quarter of the rice in an ovenproof tray followed by a layer of fried onions and mutton with gravy. Top it off with the remaining rice. Make holes all over and pour the flavoured milk. Add the fried onions over, cover with foil and seal the dish with dough. Bake it in an oven at 180°C for 40 minutes.

Bombay Chicken Biryani
Asma Asad Ali

BOMBAY BIRYANI: Many regional biryanis do incorporate the use of potatoes however the Bombay biryani is most famous for this feature. The meat is cooked before and has more gravy due to the liberal use of tomatoes and onions. The preparation uses a layered method, where half-cooked basmati rice and cooked meat are put on dum-style.

1 whole chicken, cut into eight pieces
3 cups basmati rice soaked for 30 minutes
4 onions, chopped
4 onions, sliced and deep-fried
1 ½ tbsp each ginger & garlic paste
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 ½ cups yoghurt
3 potatoes cut into 4, deep fried
Lemon juice (2 lemons)
Handful of mint leaves chopped
1 tsp black cumin, 2 star anise
½ packet Shan Bombay biryani masala
2 bay leaves, 4 green cardamoms
2 brown cardamoms
¼ piece of mace
4 cloves, 4 black pepper corns
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp coriander powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
For garnish
Deep fried onions, fried nuts, chopped mint leaves
Marinate the chicken with spice powder, ginger, garlic, and salt and set aside for one hour.
Bring water to boil with salt in a large pan. Add rice and cook it partially. Drain the water and spread the rice on a plate. Sprinkle a little salt and lemon juice on the rice and mix well.

Chicken gravy:
Heat oil, add whole spices, chopped onions and fry until fragrant and translucent. Mix tomatoes, yoghurt and simmer until gravy is thick. Add marinated chicken, deep fried onions and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Mix in the mint leaves and the Shan Bombay biryani masala. Simmer until the gravy is thick and oil floats to the surface.
Apply oil at the base of a heavy gauge and wide pan. Divide the rice into three portions and layer one portion at the base of the pan. Spread half of the chicken with gravy over the rice. Place the potatoes and garnish with nuts and deep fried onions. Cover with another layer of rice followed by the chicken, potatoes and garnish. Finally cover the surface with the one-third portion of rice and add garnish on top. Seal the pan with dough and place the lid over. Cook on low heat for 30 minutes.

Mangalore Prawn Biryani
Lola Coutinho

COASTAL BIRYANI: This particular style originated from the Nawayath community of Bhatkal, in the coastal regions of Karnataka. The abundant use of onions, green chilies and tamarind is unique to this region.

1 kg prawns, deveined and cleaned
3 onions, finely chopped
4 tbsp ghee
A few curry leaves
For the marinade:
Lime juice (1 lime)
1/2 cup yogurt
1 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
For the masala:
5 Kashmiri red chilies
4 green chilies, deseeded
8-10 peppercorns
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp fenugreek
12 garlic flakes with skin
1/2 tsp tamarind paste
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
For the rice:
4 cups basmati rice, washed and soaked for 20 minutes
8 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons ghee or oil
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of ginger & garlic paste
3-4 cloves
1 inch piece of cinnamon or cassia bark
2-3 cardamoms
2 small bay leaves
Lime juice (1/2 a lime)
Salt to taste
For the garnishing:
1 medium sized onion, finely sliced and deep-fried
Raisins and cashew nuts, lightly fried
1/2 cup chopped coriander and mint

Marinate the prawns with the required ingredients for an hour in a refrigerator.
Dry roast the chilies, peppercorns, fenugreek, coriander and cumin seeds and grind along with the garlic and tamarind to form a fine paste.
Heat ghee in a wide, heavy base pan and fry the onions until golden. Next, add the ground masala and fry until the oil separates. Add the marinated prawns and cook. Sprinkle some water if the gravy is too thick and remove from the stove.
Prepare the rice:
In a large pan heat the ghee and fry the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaves. Add the chopped onions and fry it until translucent. Next, add the ginger and garlic paste, stir well followed by the rice. While the rice is frying bring the stock to a boil and pour onto the rice. Add the chopped coriander, salt and lime juice. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer in a tightly covered pan and cook it for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice cook further on its own heat for another 15 minutes. Open the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.
In a large serving tray, layer one third of the rice at the base followed by half of the prawn curry. Sprinkle fried onions, raisins, nuts and herbs. Continue the layering and garnish with the fried nuts, raisins and herbs.


Malabar Biryani
Khazana Restaurant, Chef Kamal Warid

MALABAR BIRYANI: This is famous in Kozhikode, Thalassery and Malappuram areas of Kerala. It is characterised by a special kind of rice called khyma and is flavoured with spices, cashews, raisins and egg. The rice is cooked separately with mutton stock and layered at the time of serving.

For the rice:
2 cups kalijira rice or chinigura rice, soaked for 30 minutes
4 cups water
6 cardamoms
6 cloves
Handful of curry leaves
2 medium sized pieces of cinnamon
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp ghee
For masala:
500g mutton
2 onions, sliced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 inch pieces ginger, crushed
4 green chilies
3 tomatoes, sliced
½ tsp garam masala
2 tbsp ghee
For white paste:
3 tbsp coconut, grated
6 cashew nuts, soaked
1 tsp poppy seeds, soaked
For Marinade:
1 onion, sliced
2 tbsp yoghurt
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp pepper powder
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
Boiled egg, fried onions, nuts and raisins

Marinate mutton pieces with all the required ingredients and set aside for an hour. Heat the ghee in a heavy base pan and sauté the onions until they become brown. Add crushed ginger, garlic, green chilies and continue to fry for a few more minutes. Add tomatoes and mix well. When tomatoes are partially cooked stir in the garam masala. After 5 minutes, add marinated mutton pieces and mix well. Pour some water, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Grind the ingredients for the white paste together. Add the white paste when mutton is half cooked. When the gravy becomes thick and mutton is tender remove from fire.
Rice Preparation:
Boil 4 cups of water with half of the whole masala. Heat ghee in a pan and add the remaining whole masala and curry leaves - fry until fragrant. Add the rice and fry for a few more minutes. When the rice starts cracking add flavored water, salt and lemon juice. Cover and cook the rice. Once it is done spread it on a tray and let it cool.
Layering the biryani:
Apply some ghee to a baking dish. Spread one layer of masala followed by a layer of rice. Repeat the same process until all the rice and mutton is used up. Seal the surface with a layer of rice. Drizzle ghee and sprinkle coriander leaves in between the layers. Cover with a foil and spread a wet cloth over the dish. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 30 minutes. Garnish with boiled egg, fried onions, nuts and raisins.

South Indian Vegetarian Biryani
Le Méridien, Chef Ayesha Dewan

TAHIRI BIRYANI: The biryani spread to Mysore by Tipu Sultan of Carnatic. Tipu Sultan of Carnatic hired vegetarian Hindus as bookkeepers leading to the development of Tahiri biryani which eventually spread to Mysore. The vegetarian biryani from the south is also flavoured with coconut milk, which is abundant in the region

1 ½ cup basmati rice soaked for 30 minutes
1 cup potatoes, cubed
1 cup carrot, cubed
½ cup green peas
1 cup paneer, cubed
1 cup onion, sliced
1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste
Handful of mint leaves
2 green chilies, whole
1½ tbsp vegetable biryani masala powder
2 ½ cup coconut milk
1 cup water
4 tbsp ghee
½ cup fried capsicums
1 bay leaf
4 green cardamoms
1 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cloves
½ tsp black cumin
A few pepper corns

Heat ghee in a pan and sauté the spices until fragrant. Mix in the vegetables, onions and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the ginger, garlic, and mint leaves. Next pour the coconut milk and water into the curry. Add biryani masala, salt, lemon juice and bring it to boil. Mix in the rice and the paneer with the vegetable curry. Cover and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes until the rice is cooked. Fluff the rice and serve.

Sri Lankan Fish Biryani
Fariza Cader

SRI LANKAN BIRYANI: For the 7% Muslim’s in Sri Lanka whose ancestors are traced Arab, Indian or Malay and the biryani is seen as the staple festive dish across the community. The use of pandan leaf to flavour the rice and the generous use of spices are unique characteristic of this biryani

1 ½ kg basmati rice, soaked for 30 minutes
1 kg king mackerel, sliced
3 tsp cumin powder, 2 tsp pepper
1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tbsp tamarind paste
Salt to taste
For the gravy: 2 tsp chili powder
3 tomatoes, chopped, 400g sliced onions
150g fried onions, ½ cup oil
1 pod garlic
1 inch piece of ginger
2 inch piece of cinnamon
8 green cardamoms, 6 cloves
Handful of mint leaves
Handful of coriander leaves, Salt to taste
For the rice:
100g sliced onions, 3 green cardamoms
1 inch piece of cinnamon
A 4 inch piece of pandan leaf
A pinch of saffron soaked in ¼ cup rose water
For garnish: Fried onions, Coriander leaves
Fried raisins, cashew nuts and green capsicum

Heat a tablespoon of oil and sauté sliced onions, cardamoms, cinnamon and pandan leaf until fragrant. Add soaked rice and fry for a few minutes. Pour sufficient water with salt and partially cook the rice. Drain and set aside.
Marinate the fish with the required ingredients and set aside for an hour. In another pan, sauté sliced onions, ginger, garlic and whole spices for gravy. When onions are translucent add the chili powder and tomatoes and fry for a few minutes and stir in the fish. Fry the fish slices on both sides with the spice and onion mixture. Pour half a cup of water and let it simmer until gravy is thick. Spread a layer of rice at the base of a heavy gauge pan. Add the fish with the gravy. Sprinkle some garnish. Repeat this process of layering until the top surface is sealed with rice and a sprinkling of garnish. Make holes and pour the saffron infused rose water. Cover with a lid, seal edges with dough and cook on low heat for 20 minutes.

Photos: Abu Naser@Station

Aidha Cader

Staying within the fringes of mainstream cultures, Aidha Cader, ICE Today’s culture connoisseur has inculcated an appreciation for food, history, travel and art beyond her comfort zone.