I absolutely love Indian biryani. It’s such a beautiful and comforting dish that is reminiscent of the rice hot-dishes (or casseroles…for all you non-Minnesotans out there) that I grew up eating as a kid–only a million times better! (sorry, Mom!).
Biryani is simply basmati rice cooked with spices and meats (and/or vegetables). There are many different styles and types of biryani, each as unique as the people who make (and eat!) them.
A traditional biryani can take hours and hours to make properly. Maybe someday I’ll have that kind of time to devote towards the absolute perfection of the dish; but until that time comes, I’ve got to take some short-cuts.
And because of the short-cuts I took…my biryani is technically a pulao (it is also close to what most Indian restaurants pass off as biryani in America).
What’s the difference? In a true biryani, each part of the dish is cooked–and spiced–separately. Then after each component has been cooked, they are all layered together; forming a dish with mind-blowing, contrasting flavors. It is simply amazing.
A pulao, on the other hand, is quite easier and faster to cook. All the ingredients are cooked together and the flavors of the dish come together as one. You miss out on the different layers of flavor, but the dish is still quite tasty–and way less time consuming!
- 2 lbs. marinaded chicken breast- diced into 1/2 inch pieces (marinade recipe to follow)
- 2 tbsp. ghee or oil
- 2 1-inch pieces of cinnamon
- 8 green cardamom pods
- 10 whole cloves
- 4 dried bay leafs
- 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
- 2 large onions- sliced thinly
- 10 large cloves garlic- smashed and minced
- 2 inch piece of ginger- smashed and minced
- 3 green chilies, or to your taste (I used Thai green chilies–peeled and de-seeded)
- 1/4 c. yogurt
- 5 roma tomatoes- chopped
- 3/4 c. chopped mint leaves, plus more to garnish
- 1/2 c. chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
- 3 1/2 c. basmati rice
- 1 pkg. Shan Biryani spice mix (or make your own spice mixture)
- 2 tbsp. golden raisins
- 2 tbsp. chopped cashew nuts
- salt, to taste
- 4 c. water –to start. I think I used about 6 cups total.
- 2 lbs. chicken breast- diced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/2 c. plain yogurt- whisked until creamy
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- drizzle of olive oil
- 1 tbsp. Shan Biryani spice mix
- freshly cracked pepper
- salt, to taste
- At least one hour before making the biryani (and up to 24 hours), make the chicken marinade and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use. Also soak the basmati rice in water for at least 30 minutes before beginning the recipe.
- Combine garlic, ginger and green chilies in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture becomes a paste.
- In a large pan (I use a 12″ chicken-fryer that is 3″ deep), heat 2 tbsp oil/ghee over medium high-heat. Once the oil is heated, add the raw spices: cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, clove, turmeric and bay leaves. Cook the spices until they are fragrant and no longer raw. Add the sliced onions to the cooked spices.
- Turn the heat to medium and allow the onions to caramelize. This may take around 30 minutes! —low and slow. Once the onions become sweet and browned, turn the heat back to medium-high and add the garlic/ginger/chili paste. Cook for approximately 2 minutes, or until the garlic no longer smells raw.
- Add the marinaded chicken pieces and cook so they brown slightly–about 2 minutes. You don’t have to cook them completely at this point.
- Add the spice package, chopped coriander leaves and chopped mint. Stir everything so the chicken is evenly coated with the herbs and spice. Cook for two minutes longer.
- Add the tomatoes and yogurt. Cook until the tomatoes begin to break down and they begin for create a sauce. You now have your gravy!
- Add 4 c. water to the pan and stir everything to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and taste to make sure the spices are right.
- After you’ve brought the gravy to a boil, drain the basmati rice and add it to the pan. Stir the rice until nearly all the water is absorbed. Cover the pan and cook the rice about 15 minutes longer–until it’s al dente (add more water, if needed).
- Once the rice is cooked through add a little extra cilantro and mint leaves. Garnish with chopped cashews and golden raisins that have been cooked in a saute pan for a minute in a little ghee. Add sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, or hard boiled eggs if you desire. Biryani is also nice if it’s topped with a few caramelized (or fried) onions.