This chicken biryani is a rice dish with curried chicken and multiple layers of flavor, topped with lime and coriander.
As a world traveler and taster of every type of food, spices are a big component of my dishes. One of the regions that is best known for its myriad of spice blends is South Asia. Countries like India and Pakistan have developed very intense flavors with combinations of ground spices into what they call masala. This spice blend is at the core of this chicken biryani recipe.
Although you can buy spices blends off the shelf, the intensity of flavors from a fresh ground spice blend from whole spices makes a world of a difference! Furthermore, roasting your spices in a frying pan adds an additional layer of flavor as it releases some of the aromas in the spices.
I’ve largely inspired this recipe from Izzah of www.teaforturmeric.com which does a great job at explaining the various techniques to make a great biryani!
The trick to get a super aromatic masala blend, take whole spices as much as you can and roast them lightly in a skillet. Once fragrant, take the whole lot of spices and grind until you get a powder. Smelling it should remind you of the aromas when you enter your favorite Indian restaurant :).
For this spice blend, I used dry Thai chilis which I seeded, black and green cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, star anise and cloves. Some of the spices might be harder to find, but if you have the majority, you will get the desired fragrant result!
One of the best way of getting tender chicken for your biryani is to marinate it prior to cooking. I really enjoy yogurt based marinades as it really tenderizes the chicken and helps imbue the flavors you mix in with the yogurt.
For this recipe, mix the marinade ingredients with the yogurt in a bowl and leave in the fridge for at least a few hours up to over night for best results.
After this, you will cook your chicken with the marinade and let it simmer as you would with curry chicken. The addition of whole spices, ginger and garlic will add more flavor to the chicken as you let it simmer. Guarantee that the family will smell your dish throughout the house!
Basmati Rice for the biryani
I typically cook my rice in a rice cooker, but this time, I went for a different approach to get it just right.
First you rinse the rice, then you soak it for at least 30 minutes.
Once soaked, you rinse it one last time and cook it in a large quantity of water and once it boils you leave it for around 5-5 1/2 minutes until its just cooked with a little bite.
You drain your rice and reserve to stop the cooking process. Your rice will be ready to be steamed with the rest of the biryani rice!
Steaming your chicken biryani to imbue flavor
I actually really like this technique to imbue flavor to the rice which involves layering rice, spices, your curried chicken and then some more rice. You then top the dish with coriander and lime slices, cover and let the steaming begin!
Once its steamed, you’re ready to serve and dig in.
- 2 medium dried bay leaf
- 4 dried Thai red chili peppers
- 2 2-inch cinnamon stick
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 black cardamom
- 2 star anise
- 6 green cardamom pods
- 2 tsp roasted cumin seeds or black cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp fennel
- 1 cup of whole fat yogurt
- 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 4 tbsp of biryani masala
- 2 tsp of coriander powder
- 1 tsp of cumin powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
- 1/2 tsp of cane sugar
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 3 lb chicken breasts, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 3 1/2 cups of aged, long grain basmati rice
- 3 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 tsp lemon juice or vinegar
- 2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
- 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
- 3 medium dried bay leaves
- 6 whole cloves
- 2 whole black cardamoms
- 6 star anise
- 6 green cardamoms
- 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup of butter
- 4 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 10 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 inch ginger, crushed
- 2 small tomatoes, finely chopped
- 2 Thai chili peppers, chopped
- 10 dried dates, halved
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
- 2 tsp lemon / lime juice
- 2 tsp Rose water
- 2 tsp of lime juice
Layering / Topping
- 1 tsp of garam masala
- 2 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 2 tbsp of water mixed with yellow food coloring mix
- 2 limes thinly sliced
- Roast your Biryani Masala whole ingredients in a skillet until fragrant. Put all the spices into a spice grinder until powdered.
- Combine the marinade ingredients and then add the chicken to it. Use your hands to make sure that the marinade covers your chicken pieces properly. Let it marinate ideally overnight.
- When you are ready to cook, take out the chicken so that it has time to be at room temperature before cooking.
- Rinse your rice thoroughly and then soak it in water for at least 30 minutes. Set the rice aside until ready to use.
- Over medium heat, melt your butter in vegetable oil and cook your onion until golden (15 minutes)
- Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of water. Once the water has evaporated, add your whole spices, garlic and ginger and sauté for a couple minutes until it is fragrant.
- Add the chicken and the marinade and cook for a couple minutes until the chicken is colored. Add the chilis, dates and tomatoes and stir until coated.
- Add about 1/2 cup of water until about a 1/3 of the chicken is covered. Scrape the bits at the bottom of the pan.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.
- While the chicken is simmering, prepare the rice
- Bring 14 cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot.
- Add salt, oil, lemon juice or vinegar and stir. Once everything is boiling, drain your rice and add it to the pot.
- Stir everything and bring it back to a boil. Then let it boil for 5 minutes or until the rice is just cooked with a bite to it. Drain the rice and set aside.
- After 30 minutes from the chicken simmering, remove the cover and if there is still a lot of liquid left, bring the heat up to medium and let the water evaporate.
- Add to the chicken 1 tsp of garam masala and red chili flakes (optional for a spicier result). Turn off the heat.
- Add the rose water and lemon juice and combine.
- To finish, take a heavy bottomed Dutch oven and start layering your dish. Add half of the rice in the bottom of the Dutch oven, followed by the chicken, the other half of the rice.
- Drizzle the colored water and oil on top
- Sprinkle the garam masala
- Add the cilantro and lime leaves on top.
- Add a tablecloth or aluminum foil to seal the pot with the cover.
- Bring the heat to medium until steam builds for a couple of minutes.
- Bring the heat down to a simmer and let the dish steam for about 20 minutes.
I've largely inspired this recipe from Izzah of www.teaforturmeric.com which does a great job at explaining the various techniques to make a great biryani!
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.