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Biryani: From India with Love

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Hi, I just want an Indian perspective on this topic for a couple of questions. I know that Hyderabad biryani was the most recognized biryani and I will be going to Indian really soon. 


Here a Video that I found on YouTube about Hyderabad biryani





1. Why did they put so many ingredients in the process of making it?

2. Why did they put curd in the biryani?

3. Why did they put in white rice on top and not mixed?

4. Why did they pour hot water in the chicken?

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I can't answer all of your questions, but having lived in Bangalore for a couple of years, I'll add a little:


One of the things that boggled my mind about all of the south indian cookery I saw first hand (restaurants, street vendors, and our house maid) was the number of ingredients in most dishes. I've noticed back in the US that most sub-par Indian food tastes 'simplified' or 'generic'. To do it right it seems (to me, at least) to require all of those individual textures and nuances.


The curd is common in cooking any kind of meat in India (or much of the east, actually). I've been told that it tenderizes the meat, helps the flavors to penetrate - I don't know what the truth is but I still do it because it certainly tastes nice.


Hope this gets you a step or two closer to your answers...

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"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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India is a country of different cultures , u can find different folklore , arts , songs , religion etc all amalgamated in one fine land ,apart from these amazing and diverse traditions , we have been blessed with some extraordinary cuisines which have mushroomed with time in different parts. Some of the dishes not originated here but have been given to us by invaders from the east who brought with them the skill and taste.


So when a legend says that Mumtaaz Mahal ( wife of Shah Jahan who made Taj Mahal: one of the 7 wonders of the world ), was once visiting army barracks and she saw the army under nourished so she ordered the chef to cook a complete meal and the chef cooked biryani , we are not surprised. Biryani is derived from Farsi word “Birian” which means” fried before cooking” and cooking style referred is Dum (slow cooking process in a sealed pot).

There are some other legends also saying nomads used to burry an earthen pot full of rice, meat and spices into the pot, and eventually when the pot was dug up, biryani was ready.

Whatever the legends says, we have been blessed with this culinary masterpiece which comes in all different varieties in India, be it Hyderabadi biryani (made famous by Nizams), Kolkata biryani, malabari biryani, and my favourite Awadhi biryani.


Here is my recipe of biryani (Rice with moist and flavourful chicken)





chicken                  1 kg

yoghurt                 ½ cup

salt                        1 tsp

Ginger paste         1 tsp

Garlic paste           1 tsp

Garam masala       1tsp

lemon                    1 tsp


1.       Make a marinade with all the ingredients , smear it on chicken and keep in refrigerator for 2 hours.





Basmati rice ( long grain)         500 gms

Cardamom green                      6 no.

Cloves                                       6 no.

Cinnamon stick                          1 no.

Cumin                                        1tsp

Bayleaf                                      2 no

Clarified butter (ghee)              2 tbsp

Lemon                                       1 no.

Water                                        1.5 litres




1.       Soak basmati rice in water.

2.       In a thick bottomed pan , add clarified butter and bayleaf.3

3.       Stir for few seconds and add remaining spices.

4.       Once the spices are tempered add soaked rice and stir a little

5.       Add water and lemon juice and cook till half done.

*Well I like to cook my rice in ghee and then add water , it gives a good flavour to the rice, if one has to omit little fat then this step can be avoided.




Chicken                   1 kg

Green cardamom     3 no.

Garlic paste             50 gm

Onion sliced            200 gms

Ginger paste           30gm

Red chilli powder    150 gms

Coriander powder   4 tsp

Salt                         To taste

Turmeric                   1   tsp

Garam masala(cloves, mace, cardamom, cinnamon)  2 tsp

Ghee                        100 gms

Cream                      200 ml

Yoghurt                    200 gm



1.       Add ghee (clarified butter) in a thick bottomed pan and add sliced onions.

2.       Cook till onions are light brown, now add ginger and garlic paste.

3.       Cook till garlic’s pungency is removed.

4.       Add marinated chicken and cook for another 5 minutes.

5.       Now add all the masala and yogurt cover with the lid and let the chicken cook.

6.       Once it is 90 % done, add fresh cream and stop cooking.



1.       Take a thick bottomed pan.

2.       Pour a spoon of clarified butter and then lined the bottom with rice .

3.       Now pour chicken curry made on top of it.

4.       Sprinkle finely cut cilantro and mint.

5.       Again repeat the steps 2 times  on top of each other forming a layer.

6.       Once finished rice should b on the top most layer.

7.       Sprinkle some dum masala (fennel , cardamom and cloves )

8.       Now seal the container with a lid and put some weight on top of the lid to entrap the steam.

9.       Put it on a very slow fire and cook till rice and chicken is cooked ( 20 min)

10.   Serve with yoghurt.

Edited by Tom Thomas (log)
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3. Why did they put in white rice on top and not mixed?

4. Why did they pour hot water in the chicken?

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Tom Thomas, your recipe sounds delicious, and your timing is interesting because of another topic that just came up on Hyderabadi Biryani.  Perhaps you could answer that person's questions?

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I love Biriyani! I've only made it one time, it's a very involved process, but the result was delicious. I will try your recipe, it's similar to my sister in-laws (my husband is Indian) but without the cream--that will be an interesting addition---Thanks again for the recipe

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Thank you smithy ..

I hope you will try the recipe and let me know ..




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hi , Thanks for posting the video , it is indeed very informative.

Kitchens in India have different recipes for making biryani, Hyderabadi Biryani has lot of masala , Awadhi biryani is quite subtle, kolkatta biryani will have potatoes in it etc.


But when we say Biryani , it has to be meat and rice cooked in slow process and layered.


As far as your queries goes:

1.) Indian cooking is little complexed , we add lots of ingredients  while making our base gravies , it gives taste and apart from  the health benifits of spices  in masala.


2) curd usually an integral part in making biryani , curd gives body and sourness to the gravy, it also helps in tenderizing the meat.


3) Rice is put on top because , biryani is supposed to be layered.

 more over when the lid opens in front of the guest , the rice on top with colours look pleasing and it holds the mystery inside ( meat, keeps guest interested also)


4) water was required to make chicken gravy , as the rice was also supposed to go in the same vessel as chicken , so he used the water in which rice was boiling , so as to save water soluble vitamins.

a very simple logic is , hot water saves time 


Hope I was able to relate every query of yours.






Happy cooking

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I have made Indian food since I was pretty young, but never well till I had an Indian house-mate in graduate school. We made mainly Northern Indian food - from his area of Kasmir.  We did tandori chicken, potato and cauliflower, saag (with mustard greens part of it if possible - his fathers favorite), dals, etc.  I slowly found out that these dishes were common in most Indian restaurants.  What I came to realize later though was that most restaurants were Northern Indian - and sort of became institutionalized as the sort of Indian food in the US.  But there is a whole lot more out there.  Then fairly recently I discovered Biryani's.  I really started trying my hand at them and they are great dishes - and can make a whole meal, though I like lots of chutneys and pickles too.  But the one thing everyone has told me was that they are layered.  I see sort of fast food versions that are not layered and this does not seem to be a 'real' biryani.   Here's a fish one ( Hyderabadi style) that I've made with great success. It seems complicated, but I threw it together pretty quickly the first time I made it (well after marinating the fish):


Fish Biryani
You want to use a firm fish that will not break down easily.  I have used halibut and catfish, but other fish like tuna, shark, swordfish, black cod, true cod, etc. could work. Fish like tilapia or trout simply will be mush.  Salmon is not appropriate here either. Feel free to use ghee instead of oil.  I like oil for this dish better.
1 medium sized Onion (finely sliced)
Oil to fry
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1/2 inch ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 green chilli
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 Tbs yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
Main Recipe
1 medium sized Onion (finely sliced)
1 Lb Fish fillets in cubes
1 1/2 cups Basmati rice washed and soaked in water
3 Tbs Oil
2 Indian bay leaves
2 cloves
2 Green cardamoms
1 inch cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp caraway seeds (shahi jeera)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 medium onion chopped
1/2 Tbs ginger
1/2 Tbs garlic chopped
2 green chillies (finely chopped)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp garam masala
1. To prepare the marinade, heat sufficient oil in a pan and  fry the onion till golden brown. I fry all the sliced onion (not the chopped!) - from the main recipe and the marinade at the same time here. Drain and place on an absorbent paper. Cool.
2. Grind half the onions and the rest of the marinade spices and herbs together to a fine paste. Add the yogurt and mix well.
3. Put fish cubes in a resealable bag (or a covered bowl) and add the marinade and mix well.  Let marinate for at least a couple hours - or overnight, in a refrigerator.
Main Recipe
1. Heat three tablespoons of oil in a deep pan, add bay leaves, cloves, green cardamom, cinnamon and caraway seeds and sauté for a minute. Add the chopped onion, ginger, garlic, and green chillies and sauté till the raw flavors disappear.
2. Add fish, sauté for a minute on high heat. Add lemon juice and reduce heat. Cover and cook for five minutes stirring occasionally. Remove to a bowl.
3. Heat five cups of water in a separate deep pan. When water boils, add salt, add the rice and cook till rice is three fourth cooked - about 10 minutes.
4. Remove rice with a perforated spoon and spread a little less than half evenly in a large pan with a tight-fitting lid. A little water with the rice is OK, but don't overdo this, just don't drain excessively and you'll be OK. I use the same pan I cooked the fish in. Put fish mixture on top of this.  Cover this will the rest of the rice. Sprinkle garam masala powder on top. Then cover with the rest of the reserved fried onions. Put on lid. If you don't have a tight-fitting lid make some paste with flour and water and put around top and 'glue' lid on to keep it really tight. Heat on medium high heat till steam is seen, then cook on low heat for about twenty minutes. Alternatively you can cook in a preheated oven at 350°F for fifteen minutes. Serve hot. Add more chopped cilantro - and or mint if you wish upon serving.  Lemon wedges are nice too.  I serve it with a raita, a few achar and chutneys too.

Edited by loki (log)

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3. Why did they put in white rice on top and not mixed?

4. Why did they pour hot water in the chicken?3


3... White rice get mixed with other colour and look amazing... marinated chicken is layred underneath everything needs steam cooking and rice are already half cooked has to be on top other wise you would end up with mushy rice.


4... Hot water helps chicked get steam cooked .


You ever tired Hyderabad Biryani?

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