Sunday, September 9, 2012

#230 Dum or Yum --Hyderabadi Murg Biryani

According to the ifood website, the term 'Biryani' is derived from the Farsi word 'Birian' and it is believed to have originated in Persia and migrated via Afghanistan to North India. It could even be traced back to the Arab Traders sailing from the Arabian sea to Calicut, South India where spices were grown in abundance. We know that during the Moghul Empire Aurangzeb assigned the Nawab of Arcot(who loved the dish) to oversee Hyderabad and the Biryani became the royal dish of the Nawabs and Nizams.

It has made history, but today 'Biryani' is an endearing term and is sure to make your eyes sparkle with joy. This popular rice dish has made it's way to the common household, making its appearance on special ocassions or for even a grand Sunday dinner. It is sure to make you feel pampered like a Nawab. A rich rice dish made with lamb, chicken or vegetables, Biryani can be customized anyway to your taste but the cooking technique used is more or less adaptable.There are two types of Lamb Biryani Pre-cooked (Pakki) or Raw(Kachi), referring to the method of cooking used for the meat in the dish. The 'Pakki' refers to a Biryani where the spiced meat is cooked first and then layered with fluffy rice and slowly baked for a final blending of flavors.

 The 'Kachi', on the other hand is raw meat marinated in spices, topped with raw/half-cooked Basmati rice and onions and the entire dish is cooked on 'Dum'(a sealing with raw dough around the edge of the pot to seal in the steam) and slow cooked to perfection. Hyderabadi style Kachi Biryani is often served at weddings and festivals for large crowds. My parents were in Hyderabad for a few years and with my younger daughter 'V' being born there, I have a close connection to the city of Hyderabad, the cuisine and the people.

Although I've made many regional Biryanis in the past, Chicken Biryani still remains a family favorite. I've noticed that the 'Dum' style is the most fragrant of all. The steam being captured inside of the pot it tends to keep flavors trapped during the cooking process, and as you open the lid the rich aroma of the spices hits you and the ghee makes the meat and grain so tender and moist. But, let me remind you that this is not an easy dish to make. It takes pain, love and lots of effort to serve a moist Biryani. With a little extra care like using the best aged Basmati rice and cooking it with the exact amount of water, integrating the freshest spices, a proportionate amount of ghee and chicken can certainly take it up a whole new level. As for the chicken, it must be marinated for at least 6-8 hours before cooking to re-assure all the flavors have tenderized the meat. I've taken the 'Kachi' a little further and added mint, cilantro and green chillis to a fine paste instead of roasted coriander powder thus using 'Kachi' green masala.

Meat and Marinade:
2 lbs Boneless Chicken thighs
2 large onions finely sliced
2 Tblpsn- Ginger garlic paste
3/4 cup yogurt
1/2 tspn turmeric powder
1 tspn fennel powder
5 green chillies slit
1 Tblspn Garam Masala powder
1 Tblspn tomato paste
Juice of 1 whole lemon
Salt to taste

2 1/2 cups Basmati Rice
5 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
3 Bay leaves
3 elaichi
1 star anise
1 cup mint leaves
1 cup cilantro leaves chopped
2 Onions sliced
4-5 cups water
2-4 Tblspn Ghee or Olive oil
Cashew nuts and raisins for garnishing
Salt to taste
1-2 cups wheat flour mixed into a pliable roti-like dough
or use aluminium foil and a heavy weight on top of the pot like so......

1. Wash and drain the chicken. Mix together with all the ingredients for the marinade for about 6 hours (store in the fridge). Take half the mint, chillies and cilantro and make a coarse paste. Add to the chicken.
Meanwhile you can get the rest of the prep done.
2. Slice onions thin, heat the ghee and saute until the onions are well caramelized to almost crisp.
Keep aside.
3. Wash and drain the rice well until there is not water left.
4. Place a saucepan over the fire add 1 tspn of ghee and toss the whole spice in and saute for a minute.
5. Toss in the rice and make sure to coat the rice well with the ghee and toast it slightly for a minute.
6. Turn off the fire. Cool.
7. Take a large, strong bottomed pot with a tightly fitting cover. Place half of the marinated 'raw' chicken at the bottom.
8. Sprinkle some mint and cilantro,caramelized onions and then half the spiced rice over this.
9. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients in the same order and finally the rice.
10.Pour any remaining ghee over the rice.
11.Add a little salt and four cups water in a bowl, mix well and pour this into the rice.
(When adding water make your best judgement as to the measurement)
12.Place the lid tightly over the pot and seal the edges with the wheat dough so tight as to prevent any steam
from escaping the sides.(I've used aluminum foil and placed a heavy weight cutting board as the weight to keep in the steam)
13. Keep over low fire for about 15-20 mins.
14. Now remove from fire. Carefully remove the wheat dough(if using dough as the sealent) which will be cooked now. Remove and toss the bits.
Gently remove the lid. (Experience the lovely aroma!!). Test the rice to see if it is just cooked.
15. Replace the lid and place on a hot oven for about 15 mins to let steam cook the Biryani.
16. If at step 14, the rice is well cooked then you can skip step 15.
18. Step 15 is just to ensure that the chicken is also cooked well.
19. Serve with Mango chutney or raita.


  1. well regardless of which it is I think it looks sinfully delicious and so comforting

  2. I usually make chicken biryani in a pressure cooker, but want to try this method. The way you described the steam and the flavour was very exciting to my taste buds.


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