December 18, 2007

Malabar Chicken Biryani..

What is a celebration without good food????
Eid, Christmas, New Year, all have one thing in common..lots of mouth watering food and a distinct disregard for the consequences of over eating. Here the holiday season is now officially on and eating is the highlight till Jan 1st. So how many parties do you have planned for next week?(How many did u escape from?)
What is your favorite holiday food? Is it the sweets or the appetizers? I for one thrive on the appetizers and then peck on the main course unless its something very different. And of course dessert rules supreme so have to make some space for that too. But a biryani defies these rules and I have to try it, even if its just one bite.

If we were in Calicut, every weekend would punctuated with a wedding, a birth, a salkaram(party) or whatever..everything being a reason to make a biryani..( eg. every Sunday in my grandma's house!)
So I asked my parents (who missed a whole lot of such events being here with me) if they get sick of it and to my surprise they bashfully refuted it. A good plate of piping hot biryani is always welcome for a Calicut wallah, even if you just had one last week.:) No diets will work there.

I had a lot of requests to post a Chicken Biryani recipe but somehow in my house, since there is more of all the other biryanis being made, this one got left behind. But it is just as good as the other ones so give it a shot. Better late than never, here it is finally. The photo is not complete since I ran out of onions and nuts for garnish but here it is. Also a good mix of masala and rice somehow isin't photogenic! So the final photo is how the biryani should look like before it gets attacked.

Chicken biryani is not fun if the chicken gets dried out and tastes like cardboard. So start with halal small chicken and you are on the right track. Do marinate as much as possible for better taste. If the marination time is more than 2 hours, omit the yogurt in the marinade as it is a meat tenderizer and will break down the meat too much. In that case, add the yogurt when u start cooking. Do not skimp on the ghee-oil while frying the onions for garnish as this is a celebratory dish..not diet food. That oil poured over the rice gives the crucial flavor while dumming or cooking in vapor.
Do not leave the rice in the oven after the alloted time as it will dry out the whole masala and rice.(Spoken from an unfortunate experience.:() Use basmati rice that you are familiar with and not a new sack of rice opened for the occasion. (Another unfortunate experience when the rice got sticky!!)
Do make it in the holidays and let me know.
Eid Mubarak and Merry Christmas!!

You will need:
Serves 6 people with a good appetite.:) or 8 people
Chicken - 1 Small chicken of about 2-3 lbs
Onion – 400 gm or 4 medium ones
Tomato - 200 gm or 2 medium sized ones
Small Hot Green chilies – 100 gm or about 17 in number
Ginger - 50 gm or a 2 inch piece
Garlic pods – 50 gm or 8 cloves(big)
Pepper Powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Plain Yogurt- 3/4 cup (thick)
Fennel Seeds(Perinjeerakam/Saunf)- 1 1/2 tsp
Poppy Seeds (Khus khus) - 1 1/2 tsp
Mint leaves (Pudina) - 1 cup chopped
Cilantro leaves (Malli ela/Dhania) - 1 cup chopped
Curry leaves- a handful
Lemon juice- 2 tsp or juice of 1 lemon.(not lime)
Biryani Masala-1 tablespoon. Recipe is noted below.
Clarified butter (Ghee) - almost 1 cup or 1/2 cup mixed with 1/2 cup oil
Cashew nuts – 20 gm or a small handful
Raisins- 20 gm or a handful

For the rice:
Basmati rice - 1 kg/ 4 cups
Cinnamon (Karuvapatta) - 1 stick of 3 inch
Cloves (Carambu) - 4
Cardamom (Elakkai) - 4
One bay leaf, salt.
Lemon juice- 1 1/2 tsp or juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
Biryani Masala:
Cinnamon 2 inch piece
Cardamom 8
Cloves 8-10
Nutmeg 1
bay leaves- 1
Mace 5-6
Caraway seeds 1 tbsp
Star Anise-1
Dry roast all together and grind to a fine powder.

1. Clean the chicken and cut into medium sized pieces. Wash and drain well.

2. Soak the fennel seeds and poppy seeds in a bowl with water for an hour at least and grind with very little water to a very fine creamy paste. If it still feels grainy, add a tablespoon of grated coconut or a couple of cashew nuts to it to grind it well. Keep aside.

3. Grind together the ginger, garlic and green chilies into a very coarse paste. Pulsing them instead of non stop grinding works better. Chop the tomatoes into cubes and slice the onions. One onion should be sliced extra fine. This one is for the fried onion garnish.

4. Marinate the chicken with the poppy seed mixture, ginger, garlic, chili, and all the other spices and ingredients except the onions, biryani masala and herb leaves. Add salt too and keep covered for two hours at least. Marinating is very important in the case of chicken to help it to absorb the flavors. (But don't marinate the chicken over night as the texture will change. If you have to marinate overnight, omit the salt, lemon juice and yogurt and add that the 1 hr before cooking.)

5. Heat three fourth of the ghee/oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add the garnish portion of the sliced onions and fry, till they turn golden brown and crisp. Add a sprinkling of sugar to speed up the process. This should take about 10 minutes on medium low heat.. Remove the onions and stir fry the cashew nuts on medium heat till it turns brown on all sides. Drain and remove. Add the raisins now and stir till they plump up. Remove onto paper towels. This ghee/oil is used for flavoring the rice so save it.

6. Heat up the remaining oil and add the rest of the sliced onions and saute it till it becomes translucent. Add just the marinated chicken, and saute it on all sides for 3-4 minutes on high heat. Add the rest of the marinade and the biryani masala and the coriander, mint and curry leaves and mix thoroughly. Cook it uncovered on medium high heat while stirring constantly till the visible liquid is reduced to half.
Then keep it covered and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. Check frequently to prevent burning and wait till the oil starts to separate. There should be some gravy left and the chicken should be almost cooked, not-coming-apart cooked. Add water only if there is no liquid for the chicken to cook. Check taste and add more salt or lime, pepper etc if needed.

7. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. Clean and soak rice for 10 minutes. Keep aside. Heat 3 tbsp of the remaining onion ghee/oil and add the whole spices- cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and bay leaves. Sauté for a second and add the drained rice. Stir fry the rice till it turns opaque and add 6 cups water (three fourth of the quantity required for ghee rice). When the water-rice mix comes to a boil, cover and cook on slow heat till all the water is absorbed. This would take about 4-7 minutes.

9. In an oven proof dish, spread half of the chicken masala(it should have some thick gravy)and place half of rice over it. Sprinkle some lemon juice to prevent the rice from sticking. Spread the remaining masala and top it with rice followed by lemon juice. Pour the ghee/oil(leftover from frying the onions) on top of it and sprinkle some garam masala, fried onion, nuts and raisins.

Close it with a layer of aluminum foil , crimp it along the sides and then put the lid and put it in the oven for 20 -25 minutes. Remove and let rest for another 5-10 minutes before opening.
10. Serve with coconut chutney (biryani chammandi), Pickled onions (Ulli surka), Yogurt and Papadam.

Alternately, if you are just cooking a small quantity, when the chicken is almost cooked and the gravy reduced, spread all the half cooked rice over it,right into the saute pan. Sprinkle nuts, raisins and onions and close with a tight fitting lid. Heat a flat cast iron skillet or the Indian Tawa, place the saute pan on it and cook on high heat for 20 minutes and then turn off the flame. Let it rest unopened on the tawa for another 15 minutes and now the "dum" work is also done.
Open and serve the top rice as white rice and mix part of the rice with the masala and serve separately.Enjoy!

Calicut Biryanis are usually made with a special rice called Kaima as the grains are smaller and impart a nicer texture to the Biryani. Kaima is a small aromatic flavorful rice also called "Jeera Rice", it stands apart just like Basmati. Available in all Indian stores here. You could use basmati too if you prefer. The photo below shows the difference in both qualities of rice.

This is a picture of an earlier batch of biryani made with basmati rice and has the requisite onions, raisins and nuts as garnish.


Finla said...

Love the biriyani. I can eat them in heaps.

Shilpa said...

I am going to try this when I buy chicken next time. Feeling like taking a spoonful from the picture :).

Mishmash ! said...

I have heard my mother talking about kaima rice , now only i got to see it :)Luckily my tummy is full otherwise a plate of biryani is all I need to start drooling :D


Anonymous said...

shaheen, very good. I've been waiting for kozhikode biryani for very long time. I requested this recipe long back. thanks for posting it. I'll try it out during these holidays.

thanks again.

JK said...


I am new to this blog.

The dish looks delicious and I would like to try it.

However I have difficulty copying the recipe from your website.

Can you help?


Unknown said...

i cant wait to try it...sure will let u know...

amna said...

ahhh finally you are back in full swing. this biriyani is way too exotic for me to make though :D

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Shaheen this is such a great, finger licking good type of dish
I wish i was your neighbor

Seena said...

Eid Mubarak, Shaheen!

A Calicut spcl resturarnt is here, so we usually get biryani from there..

Anonymous said...

oh wow! right on time.
We are all down with flu, and now it's my turn. Really craving for some good food.

vimmi said...

Will have to try it. Love biryanis. I always cook the rice and then layer it. Should try this soon.

remya said...

wow!!!! our fab malabar hubby like to eat biryani almost everyday....slurrp!!!!! looks delicious....

Shah cooks said...

Happy cook, have some if not the whole heap.:)

Shilpa, do try and let me know.

Shn, i gotto meet ur mom... she knows a lot of the malabar cooking.

rg.. i know, u were one of the first to request it. hope this is detailed enough for let me know.

Jasmine,send me a mail at and i will send u the text version.

Chitra,am waiting for ur feedback.

Nags, its just a lot of writing.. its not hard. finally its just chicken cry and rice. all the notes are to cover if then ..possibilities..

Meeta, u are welcome at my house any day!!:)

seena, u are lucky.. if i had a good restaurant nearby, probably i too will end up buying.Eid mubarak.

RP get better and make it soon.i am sure its not much different from urs.

Vimmi, try this way and the flavor willl change!!

Remya,biryyani every day????? wow!

Pravs said...

Oh biriyani! i am drooling..looks so very good :)



shaheen thanks for this my life only once i got a chance to taste calicut biriyani..still the taste is there on my taste buds..thanks a lot


Sagari said...

biryani looks delecioussssss have to try soon

Anonymous said...

Hi Shaheen, Eid Mubarak !
The biryani looks soo yummy! My family's a biryani freak and i'm gonna try it this coming weekend inshallah after the Eid celebrarions inshallah. Thnx for shring..

Sig said...

WOW! I love Malabar Biryani.... I am getting hungry looking at the pics... I have to look for this rice now!
Eid Mubarak Shaheen!

MR said...

lovely biryani!!!
did'nt know abt the kaima rice very interesting

JK said...


I really like your blog and the recipes and photos are wonderful.

Would appreciate if you could send the biryani recipe to me at

How about future ones? Do I need to write to you as well?

Hope you could consider unblocking the copying function like other blogs do so we can also enjoy your recipes without having to manually write them down.

Have a great week ahead!


Mahek said...

I love the look of your Biryani and also the pot in which it is served
i am sure it will taste great too!!!!

J said...

Happy holidays!

Mythreyee said...

Wish you and your family a wonderful New Year 2008 !

Best wishes and season's greetings.

Rajesh &Shankari said...

Another recipe that I have to try soon.
Happy New year to you and your familiy!

Shah cooks said...

thanks for ur input and comments.

Anonymous said...

when do u add tomoatoes????

Shah cooks said...

Anon.. the chicken is marinated with the tomatoes, so when we add the chicken, the tomatoes are added along with it. Alternately, you could take out the chicken from the marinade and slightly fry only 1-2 tbsp oil and then add the rest of the ingredients.

Anonymous said...

hi shaheen...i was searching 4 a good recipe 4 malabar biryaani...and urs seems really good...could u plz tell me if caraway seeds an sa jeerakam is the same??thanku...

Shah cooks said...

anon, shahjeera is the same as caraway seeds.:)

Anonymous said...

thanku 4 telling abt caraway seeds...will try ur biryani very soon an let u knw yeah...:)

Anonymous said...

thanks for the recipe! We are from an UN contingent in Sudan, and we prepared this recipe for Eid for close to 200 people. It was so delicious and people were surprised to hear that it is from South India. No one had heard about Malabar Biryani earlier. Thankyou once again

Anonymous said...

thanks shaheen,i was searching this recipe for a long and my hubby are diehard fan of time i will cook and surprise him :) thanks for sharing with us.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful recipe with step by step procedure.Good work.
Quick question:By caraway seeds do u mean fennel seeds/perinjeerakam?
Also can i replace biryani masala by garam masala(as i dont have mace,nutmeg at home)

Shah cooks said...

Neela, caraway is another kind of seed. check the google images for it.
also garam masala has jeera and other stuff in it that we don't put in the biryani.. but if u are stuck, for now u could add it. just gives it a different flavor.

asha said...

hey i tried ur mutton & chicken biriyani...& u know wat ..this is de first time it smelled like de resturant really came out well ..& thanks a ton

carvin said...

i have always been a fan of ur dishes.the measurements r always so accurate.Kuddos to u for all the good work!!!!!!!!
a request-can u share the receipe for making cooker biriyani?i have checked a lot of cooking blogs'n it seems to be a thing not tried and perfected!

Sylvia said...

Thanks again Shaheen. Im a fan of your blog. Just recently stumbled on it and can't wait to try out more recipes. The biryani was perfect!

Anonymous said...

Hey there Shaheen,

I have a doubt for the Biriyani Masala. Is it ok if i use the ready to use (Eastern) Biriyani Masala instead?
In that case is the steps same or anything more to be done?

Anonymous said...

Just another thing: how to proceed without using the oven? I intend to do it the traditional way, thats why.

Shah cooks said...

Mala, eastern masala.. i haven't used it but u could try it and see.
tradtional way.. u mean "dum"? Then u just marinate and saute the chicken lightly. Then follow the directions for the mutton dum biryani but reduce the time to just 15 minutes on medium flame and then place the chembu on a tawa on the stove top for another 15 minutes

Anonymous said...

Shaheen, I refer your recipes whenever I need to quantify my cookins for guests, and also to recreate those good old malabar recipes I too grew up with.

Thanks a lot for being such a wonderful host :-)

One doubt in between: Whenever I make chicken Biriyani, it lets out a lot of water, and I get to cook it for almost hours to dry up the water. Most of the times, I have to filter out the still-remaining water. My mom said, poppy seeds make the gravy thick. I dont have any facility to grind the poppy seeds. Any alternatives from your experience? :-(

Shah cooks said...

Anon., chicken does leave out water if its not drained well. u could try sauteing it without the masala and then add the masala and cooking it. or u could add everything and then cook on high heat for the first 10 minutes, to evaporate the first set of water.

instead of poppy seeds, u could use cashews soaked and ground.or just grind the dry poppy seeds in a mortar and pestle and then soak it in water and add to the masala.
do let me know if any of these tips help.

Unknown said...

can u pls post chicken fried rice and vegetable biriyani recipe

seltzer said...

HI Shaheen!!!

Thanx a lot for posting such a wonderful recipe. Basically I am from Pulpally, whenever I visited Calicut, never came back without eating pathiri and kozhi biryani. I never ever thought that I can also make such a wonderful malabar biryani. Thankz a lot to u....It was an impossible dream for me, and that has come true because of ur recipe. THank u so much...

nisha said...

Hai, Thankyou for the receipe.
Nisha Fortkochi

rajish said...

Thank you for posting such a delicious chicken biryani recipe. I have tried this recipe and it turned out very tasty.....bye

Unknown said...

Hi. I am new to blogging. Tried your chicken biryani and it turned up to be a great hit. I have raved about it on my blog. Hope u r not offended. I am still a novice at linking so couldn't link ur receipe to my blog.

Anonymous said...

Nice receipe,but one question that came up during reading...
what is the unit for oven temperature?degree celsius or farenheit.

Shah cooks said...

anon, the oven temp is in Fahrenheit.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shaheen,
I made the biryani today for my friends and everyone loved it. Thank you very much.
You never mentioned when to add tomatoes in your receipes though. I added it with onions for making biryani masala.
correct me if I am wrong.

Anonymous said...

Hello Shaheen...

Im Paru from cochin... I just wanted to say, I made this Malabar Chicken Biriyani and it was fabulous!!! :) :)

I have made biriyani before but it was time consuming and unfortunately partial disasters! lol... I burned the chicken once...

your recipe is quite easy to follow... I scaled down the recipe to half, coz I was using only half kilo chicken... and also I dint have enough time to give it for marination, so I tried a short cut by poking the marinated chicken pieces with a fork and put it on Auto defrost mode in the microwave... :P hah.. It seemed to do the trick.. I guess it worked coz I was using only half a kilo... Im not sure it will work with large quantities.. or will it? :P

But I followed your instructions to the t... and Im really happy to say that it was perfect! Everyone in the family, including my mother, who is not much of a chicken biriyani fan loved it...

I want to thank you for sharing your recipe... :) I have a blog of my own.. its not a food blog...I write just about everything in it... I began writing it recently for personal reasons... and I would love to mention your recipe in it...

? said...

Hi Shaheen,

Was searching for a good Malabar Chicken Recipe but was unable to access your blog for some days. I have bookmareked Shabs' too.
This dish is not a regular one for us; good to see you back.

Tima said...

thanks a lot for your traditional recipe....first time in life i could make the perfect biriyani..............

Anonymous said...

Why this biriyani is not prepared in BOILED RICE??????

Shah cooks said...

xavin, biryani is NEVER prepared in BOILED rice.. always in basmati or kaima rice.

Anonymous said...

I love biryanis especially the Andhra types ie Hyderabad... must try this variation though never heard of malabari biryanis

Rita Thomas said...

My daughter-in-law and daughter wanted me to write out my Kerala Biriyani(as they call it).Now I dont have to write and email them.Your recipe is exactly how I make it which I learnt from my mom in Calicut.I will make it for them on Christmas day in Toronto since since I am with them this year for Christmas.Thanks.

Rita Thomas said...

My daughter-in-law and daughter wanted me to write out my Kerala Biriyani(as they call it).Now I dont have to write and email them.Your recipe is exactly how I make it which I learnt from my mom in Calicut.I will make it for them on Christmas day in Toronto since since I am with them this year for Christmas.Thanks.

Shruthi said...

Hi ! I'm new to your blog. I love Kerala cuisine and was on the lookout for an authentic malabar style biryani. Your's fit the bill and came out good. The biryani spice powder is different and very flavourful. It imparted a very nice aroma to the biryani. Thank you for posting such a lovely recipe. Keep up the good work!