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Posted by on Dec 30, 2013 in Celebration, Grains | 0 comments

Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani

Does your family have festive food tradition?

As I was reading about the Christmas tradition around the world, delectable spread of food on Christmas Eve and the following day resonated often.

We spend Christmas day, with  house full of  family, at my in-laws ranch. However Christmas Eve, it is just us,my husband,our two little children and a sweet yellow lab 🙂 We have consistently attended the Christmas Eve service; though I do not recall prepping special food  on Christmas Eve.What a miss,come to think of it.This Christmas Eve morning I woke up with desire to cook. Long and slow cooked traditional festive Indian food precisely. I remember my mom spending day in kitchen cooking several delightful dishes. Whole family hovered around the kitchen.

I chose Chicken Biryani, one of our family favorite.

Let me admit,my yummy biryani eating experience has always been through friends. My mom cooked (veg)Pulao/Pilaf.Another widespread notion in India  is, no one cooks the biryani quite like Muslims. Biryani has been known as the food of Nizams and Mogul Nawabs,back in the days.Richness of the dish speaks for itself.I can affirm that from my experiences. So it is no surprise that on every Eid festival, one of my papa’s friends will bring us Biryani.

First time I observed the process of biryani cooking was at my friends’ home. All I remember was a big pot “a degchi”, sealed with dough was set to cook at low and slow heat for long time,what seemed like forever.I could not wait for that pot to be opened. Heaven.


Some Biryani facts that  i have learnt

  • “Kacchi” biriyani and “Pakki” Biriyani are two ways to cook it.”Pakki”(means “cooked” in Hindi) is quicker method in which meat is cooked and then added in layer with rice. “Kacchi”(means “raw” in Hindi) is long method.Marinade raw meat is cooked with layer of rice, low and slow.
  • Traditional biryani calls for very long list of spices.I can assure you that each one of these spices are must to get the exact taste of biryani else you are eating chicken with rice, tasteful but not biryani. You can get biryani masala available in Indian store which packs the long list of ingredients in a tablespoon.I mostly have individual spices, so I grind it as I need it.
  • I cook biryani both ways, depending on time and occasion. However, depth of flavor is much more intense in long and slow cooked version then fast, in my opinion.
  • The process may seem long and time consuming but the same very reason makes it worth making and worth sharing with dear ones.


  • Biryani is often very spicy.So it is served with “Raita”, a cool yogurt sauce. However when I cook for my family,i keep the heat bar very low and some of us here do not like ‘Raita’.
  • If you want to amp up the heat,add dry Indian chili to biryani masala.Also add Indian/Thai green chili sliced to the mix while cooking.I added bit of cayenne in marinade only.
  • Traditional slow cooked biryani is cooked in sealed pot.”Dum’ biryani it is called.“Dough” is used to seal the edges of the lid and the pot.I have sealed it once that way and it worked great however cleaning the dough after ward was painful. So I did what I have noticed Afghans do with their “Qabili Pilau “.I cover the pot with kitchen towel. Then put the lid on the towel and fold the hanging end of the towel to the top. Make sure towel ends are not hanging near the stove, loose ends can catch fire.
  • In India,chicken drumsticks ,bone-in chicken ,mutton is commonly used.Many times biryani is served,topped with boiled egg I leave that part out.Yellow color of the biryani comes from turmeric powder.I used it in marinade but not in rice.You can if you want to.


I adjusted my biryani following this recipe more or less.

Verdict : This was possibly the best biryani i ever cooked.My whole family agreed with it.I had cooked enough for 3 meals and it was well devoured.

Chicken Biryani


  1. 3-3.5 lbs boneless chicken thighs cut in cubes
  2. 2 Onions finely sliced
  3. 1 cup milk
  4. 1/2 tsp saffron strands
  5. Ghee(clarified butter)
  6. 1/4 cup cashew and raisins each
  7. Cilantro or mint leaves for garnish
  8. Marinade
  9. 1 cup yogurt
  10. 5 cloves garlic crushed
  11. 1 tsp ginger grated
  12. 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
  13. 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
  14. Juice of 1 lemon
  15. 2 TBsp salt
  16. Biryani Spice
  17. 1 TBsp coriander
  18. 8 cloves
  19. 1″ cinnamon bark(Spicy Indian)
  20. 5 cardamom pods
  21. 1 tsp shah jeera(available in Indian stores)
  22. 1 tsp black pepper corns
  23. Biryani assembly
  24. 3 cups Basmati rice
  25. 8 cups water
  26. 4-5 cloves
  27. 3-4 cardamoms
  28. 1″ cinnamon stick
  29. 2 bay leaves
  30. Salt


  1. Grind all the spices listed under Biryani masala.
  2. In a bowl,add chicken,marinade ingredients and ground biryani masala.
  3. Let it marinade it for 4-6 hrs at least.
  4. Soak saffron strands in milk, let the saffron dissolve.
  5. Meanwhile,in a pan,saute the onion in ghee until caramelized and take it out.
  6. In a same pan,add handful of cashew and raisins to plump it up.
  7. Soak rice in cold water for at least 30 mins.
  8. In a big pot,add water,bring it to boil.
  9. Add cloves,cardamom,bay leaves,cinnamon stick ,salt to the boiling water.
  10. Add rice to the boiling water for 2 mins.Remove it from the heat.
  11. Drain all the water immediately.
  12. In another big pot,add ghee,enough to coat the bottom of the pot.
  13. Add half of the chicken.Top it with half of the rice.
  14. Add a layer of caramelized onion,cashew,raisins,half of the saffron infused milk and tablespoon of ghee.
  15. Add rest of the chicken.Repeat the same process.
  16. Add rest of the rice,onion,milk,raisins,cashews and tablespoon of ghee.
  17. In the end,you can put the lid on it and seal it with dough OR cover the pot with kitchen towel,put lid on the top.
  18. Turn the heat to lowest possible setting.
  19. Let it cook for 1 hour.
  20. After 1 hour,turn the heat off.Let it sit for 30 mins.
  21. Open the lid.
  22. Serve it warm with raita.




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