Abhi himself is and now have successfully managed to convert me to a Biryani-oholic!!
I can’t even draw parallels to explain our love for Biryani. I was not a very big fan of it, primary reason being I have never tasted the authentic Hyderabadi Dum Biryani. Abhi, on the other hand, have been relishing the famous Biryani of ‘Bawarchi‘ and ‘Paradise’ as he spent considerable amount of years in Hyderabad, India while growing up. His eyes glint with joy even at the mention of Biryani and I can sense his happiness when he gets to eat his favorite dish.
I never dared to cook Biryani until I got married to Abhi. Even before we got hitched, I got to know his love for Biryani. I knew I would be making it for him, but wasn’t sure of the precision. Luckily, I got it just right at the first go itself. My hubby says that now my Biryani come out perfect; aromatic with spices, the meat rightly cooked and the rice grains nestled against each other standing out separate just the way it should be. I get to see his happy dance every time he comes home and smells the Biryani. In fact the Biryani aromas are such that I even got compliments from our American neighbors saying that they love how our food smells. There was one occasion when I made it for our neighbors too and they loved it.
To the uninitiated, a ‘Biryani’ is a dish of aromatic rice flavored with spices atop a mound of cooked vegetables or meat. It is normally accompanied by a yogurt raita (salad) or with a vegetable or meat gravy. It is a magnificent dish prepared with myriad spices, saffron, and caramelized onions. In all its elegance, it is a dish fit to be served on a royal court and the cooking process manifests a perfection of culinary art. Biryani needs no occasion; in fact eating Biryani itself becomes an occasion for us. And for special celebrations, it is always at the top of our food menu without a doubt. We prefer our Biryani the conventional style, which is chock-full of flavor and aroma.
Biryani needs patience and precision; the meat, the rice and the innumerable spices, everything has to be in the accurate quantity and cooked for the right time. I was fascinated to know the Biryani making process, and also by the fact that the recipe differs from one region to another. But the basics remain the same – the scented spices, the layering of the meat and the rice and finally the ‘Dum’ or the steam which combines it all and culminates into this treasured regal recipe.
Now let me explain why it is worth spending an entire blog post over on Biryani. It is a dish that stimulates and teases even before it reaches the plate. The fragrances are subtle yet apparent enough to coax towards the platter of rice and meat. The Biryani whiff hits the second you step through the door, with the aroma of ghee (clarified butter) and crisp fried onions along with slow-cooked chicken in a marinade that mixes with the hot, fluffy, saffron-scented grains. In all its forms, Biryani has become a household name in the Indian subcontinent. Rich and delicious, Biryani in all its glory is loved by all and often ends up being the perfect choice for any occasion!
The reason it is called ‘Dum’ Biryani because it is cooked on low heat (dum) to get all flavors out from the herbs and mix them in meat and rice. I am sharing my version of Hyderabadi Chicken Dum Biryani. Every recipe has its unique taste; some add tomatoes to it, some add onion-whole spice paste and our favorite version is made with pre-cooked basmati rice, fried onions and marinated chicken. This Biryani is cooked by dum style where the chicken and rice are cooked together by placing an airtight lid to the vessel.
HYDERABADI CHICKEN DUM BIRYANI
Yields: Serves a family of 4
For the rice:
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 4 tablespoon oil/ghee
- 2 cardamoms, 4 cloves, 1 bay leaf
- Water to soak and cook
For the fried onions:
- 3 large red onions
- 2 tablespoon oil
For the chicken marinade:
- 2 pounds chicken pieces
- 1 cup yogurt
- 2 inch ginger, 10 garlic, 4 green chilies (grind them together)
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 5 cardamoms, 5 cloves, 1 inch cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, 1 star anise, 2 large black cardamon
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 cup cilantro-mint leaves
- Salt to taste
- Note: Dry roast and powder whole garam masala in a blender, or use store-bought Biryani Spice Mix, available at the Indian Groceries instead. I usually use MDH Hyderabadi Biryani Masala
For color and aroma:
- Saffron strands
- 2 tablespoon warm milk
- 2 tablespoon screw pine/kewra and/or rose water.
- Soak basmati rice in enough water for 2 hours. In a large bottomed cooking vessel, add enough water to cook the rice. Bring it to a boil. Add the soaked rice, ghee, whole spices and cook until 3/4 th done. It will take about 4-5 minutes. Switch off the flame and strain the water. Set the pre-cooked rice aside.
- Marinate the chicken with the ingredients listed under “chicken marinade” for 3-4 hours or overnight. Slice 2 onions finely thin, sprinkle oil and fry for 20-30 minutes, until brown and well caramelized. To the same pan add remaining onions and saute till onions turn translucent. Next add the marinated chicken and cook until chicken is fully cooked.
- Using a 5 litre pressure cooker or any large vessel and coat the bottom of the vessel with ghee. Spoon a thin layer of the gravy from the cooked chicken. Next will be a layer of chicken and then rice. Over the rice layer, spoon some more chicken and gently spread it out evenly. The top-most layer has to be rice.
- Add some of the caramelized onions, top a tablespoon of chopped cilantro, and a tablespoon of ghee. Next drizzle some of the saffron milk. Sprinkle the Biryani Spice Mix. Drizzle a few drops of screw pine/kewra and/or rose water. Cover the vessel tightly.
- Cover the vessel with layers of aluminum foil. I did two layers. Seal them tight along the edges and place a cast iron pan or lid on top.
- Place the vessel on a hot tawa cook on medium heat for 12 – 15 minutes. Switch off the flame and let it rest for 20 minutes.
- Carefully remove the aluminum foil and fluff the rice with a fork. Mix the rice and chicken gently to combine. Serve hot with raita or chicken curry.
Sunday or any other holiday means Biryani for lunch if eating at home. We cannot imagine a holiday without our favorite Biryani.
Photos by Abhi & Suchi