We all crave for a one pot healthy savory dish which can satisfy our taste buds and gives us health benefits. Chicken Biryani is one such dish which is made of succulent chicken marinated overnight with yoghurt and spices and layered over rice to give it an aromatic flavor full of fragrance and taste. Classic biryani can justly be called the crown jewel of Indian cuisine, a dream dish that should not be missed.
Origin of Chicken Biryani
Biryani is said to have Persian origins, but still there are debates regarding the origin of Biryani. It is said to be derived from the Persian word ‘Birinj’ which means rice. It is said to have Mughal influence. It came to India via the Mughals who were food connoisseurs of that era and they preferred eating raw meats cooked for long time over slow heat and then served with rice. The Mughal culinary artists gave it a form of fusion food by combining the spices and flavors of central Asia and India.
We have wide varieties of Biryani available in India which varies region to region. In the North, we have the famous Awadhi Biryani from Lucknow which is very mildly spiced and made on dum pukht, a way of preparation in which rice and chicken are pre-cooked and put on dum with very subtle flavor profile. In the East, we have the famous Kolkata style Biryani with origins from Awadh culinary influence in which a potato is a must which makes this biryani distinct from others.
In the South, we have the famous Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani which is often prepared with raw marinated chicken and rice layered over it and cooked on dum. In the West, we have the Bombay Biryani which is made with plum prune and long grained basmati rice.
Origin is irrelevant if taste is supreme, so let’s hit on the recipe of Chicken Biryani and its preparation.
The spices and condiments used in Chicken Biryani vary in multitude with regions. The common spices that enrich the flavors and make it the hot sought-after Biryani can be listed a below:
- Chicken legs and muscle
- Basmati rice
- Ghee (clarified butter)
- Coriander leaves
- Red Kashmiri chilli
- Raw papaya
- Mint leaves
- Green chilies
- Bay leaves
- Star anise
The premium varieties include saffron. The Biryani masala often sold in markets can be self-made at home using raw spices listed below and stored
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 4 black cardamom
- 20 green cardamom
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 4 large bay leaves
- 4 teaspoons black cumin seeds (shahjeera)
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon mace (optional)
- 4 star anise
The dried raw spices listed above can be pan roasted for 30 seconds and then ground to a fine powder and then you get the expensive sold biryani masala made at home.
The preparation vary with multitude of regions but what we are going to witness is a Chicken Biryani which imbibes the flavors and aroma of a perfectly cooked rice with chicken on slow flame and its going to arouse the palates of your taste buds.
Step1: Marinate the chicken overnight or for 5-6 hours with home-made biryani masala, ginger garlic paste, coriander, cumin, salt, raw papaya (tenderizer), oil, mint leaves, cilantro, yoghurt, red Kashmiri chilli powder.
Step2: Brown onions (Barista) are the essence of biryani. Deep fry the onion slices till its golden brown and then remove the excess oil. Don’t burn the onions.
Step3: Soak the basmati rice for at least 1-2 hours so that it releases the starch and are fluffy like pearls when they are cooked finally. Remove the water and wash it clean before use so that they don’t clump together.
Step4: Heat oil in a thick bottomed vessel and put some raw spices like cumin, bay leaf, cinnamon, black cardamom, green cardamom mace and thereafter, transfer your marinated chicken mixture into it and cook until chicken is 60 percent done and the rawness of meat is gone and the aroma is all over the place. If needed, add some water to it.
Step5: In another large bowl, bring water to parboiled state and then add 2 tablespoons of salt and 1 tablespoon oil to make a saline mixture. Add 2 bay leaves, 1 inch cinnamon, 2 black cardamom, 5-8 green cardamoms, 2 star anise, grated nutmeg, 1 tablespoon shahjeera (cumin), 5-10 black pepper seeds.
After the water is steaming hot, add your soaked basmati rice to it. To get the perfectly cooked rice you must take out the rice when its 60 percent done. To check it, you shall take a sample rice grain, break it and see if it easily tears apart or else, you can see that the water is rolling hot and bubbles have started forming. Drain the excess water and preserve the rice along with spices.
Step6: Assemble the rice and chicken in a heavy bottomed pan. First put a layer of rice and then top it with prepared chicken curry. Add some saffron soaked milk on top of rice layers and then once chicken pieces are evenly distributed add the second layer of rice over it and then top it with sliced green chilies, fried onions chopped cilantro and mint leaves. Sprinkle saffron milk on top and then spread a ghee(clarified butter) over the spread mixture and on sides of the pan. Also sprinkle some water on top and on sides to maintain vapors.
Step7: Put a dum on the biryani. Take some wheat flour dough and roll it out to form a thin layer of circle which can fit the lid of your vessel. Cover the lid of your heavy bottomed vessel and then apply the dough evenly on top of lid so that no air is leaking from the lid or on sides.
Step8: You can cook the biryani on slow flame for 20-25 mins or place it on top of a tawa (thin bottomed vessel) to distribute the heat evenly.
The magic is done, get your plate ready and prepare some salads and raita (yoghurt with onions, cucumber, roasted cumin) and salan (extra gravy of chicken with some added spices and thin buttermilk).
One of the most important steps in Chicken Biryani preparation is opening the biryani. People usually dig their spoon and destroy layered biryani. To cut open a biryani open the lid and then drag your ladle from sides to top of rice. Pull over some chicken pieces and place on top and then this way exposing each layers of Chicken biryani gives you packed flavors and intense aroma.
1) What type of cooking utensil should I use?
It is best to use a wide and thick bottomed cooking pot over the stove.
2) What is a perfectly cooked Chicken Biryani?
The chicken pieces should be tender and the rice like pearls with aroma packed with flavors and it should not clump.
3) Which variant of rice to use?
Choose highest quality aged basmati rice. If you are making with normal rice, then the flavor profile needs to be adjusted with additional amount of spices.
4) What is the difference between biryani and pulao?
Biryani is prepared by layering parboiled basmati rice, marinated or cooked meat/chicken, fried onions, fresh herbs, lemon juice, saffron water, etc., and then steaming it together. The final dish will have fluffy rice grains in a variety of colors from the absorption of spices, juices and saffron. Indian pulao is prepared as a one pot dish. Sautéed onions, spices, meat or chicken, herbs and measured amount of water or stock are all cooked together until well done. The rice grains will have a uniform color from the mixture of spices and juices.
5) What should be the rice to chicken ratio?
The preferred ratio is 1:1 , i.e one portion of rice and one portion of chicken. If you want more chicken you can use a ratio of 1:1.5.
6) How to get best fried onions without burning?
Use thinly sliced onions. Fry them in batches using fresh oil, until crisp and light golden brown. Don’t let it turn soggy or dark brown. Drain on paper towels.
7) How to make sure biryani is not sticky?
If using traditional method then cook rice in plenty of salted water just for 4 to 6 minutes until it is parboiled, making sure the grains don’t get overcooked. Soak rice prior to cooking to make the grains stronger.
8) What is the ideal rice to water ratio?
For traditional method, boil rice in lots of salted water. For 1 cup of rice, use 3 cups of water with 2 teaspoons of salt.
— Manish Aryan
Cooking enthusiast, food blogger, passionate about travel and exploring food cultures across the globe, IT guy with food niche.