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Inspired by the Biryani (which is not beer made by Yanni)

Recently I was lucky enough to have some truly amazing, flavorful, rich and delicious Chicken Biryani.  Instead of pouring curry over the rice and mixing it before eating it, the maker of Biryani cooks the rice in the curry.  This means that the rice is not just covered but infused with the flavor of the curry, while the meat stays moist and draws in the spices.  The result is pretty much heaven, in my opinion.

I’ve included here a recipe that looks really good, but is longer than my arm, so don’t feel bad if you are intimidated.  But understand that the length has less to do with techniques and more to do with the ingredients: many fresh herbs and ground spices, as well as some things you’ll find at an Indian grocer, such as ghee and garam masala.  Ghee, or clarified butter, is butter with the solids removed.  Garam masala is a spice mixture.

So whether you are inspired to make this dish immediately, or whether you are inspired to go order it at the best South Indian restaurant in town, I know your taste buds will not be disappointed.


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For the marinade:

6 chicken drumsticks

Small bunch of cilantro, use leaves and soft stalks

¼ cup mint

2 Tbsp ginger and garlic paste

2 tsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp cream

Salt as needed

For the Curry:

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2-inch chunk of ginger, minced

1 large bunch of cilantro

½ cup mint, fresh

1 cup thick coconut milk

2 cups water/broth

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground turmeric

2 Tbsp garam masala

6-7 whole cloves

2 sticks cinnamon

6-7 whole peppercorns

3 whole star anise

3 dry bay leaves

Salt as needed

For the rice:

3 cups Basmati rice

½ small onion, julienned

3 whole cloves

2 cardamom pods, cracked

1 bay leaf

2 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter, available at Indian food stores)

5 ½ cups of water

For garnish:

Handful of cashews, roasted in ghee


Grind together the marinade ingredients. Make slits on the flesh of the drumsticks, coat with the marinade and let rest for a few hours or overnight.

To make the curry, sauté the onions, garlic and ginger in oil until translucent. Remove from heat and cool. Grind together the cooked onions, cilantro and mint. In a deep bowl, roast the whole spices in ghee until their aromas are released. Return the onion mixture to the pan and cook until the oil starts separating. Add the dry spices and salt, mix and sauté for a few minutes. Add the coconut milk and water and bring to a boil. Add the marinated chicken pieces and cook on medium until the meat is fully cooked. Let the curry cool until just warm.

Meanwhile, prepare the rice. Roast the whole spices in ghee and the sauté the onions in the same. When soft, add the Basmati rice and roast for a few minutes. Add water and salt and cook the rice until just done. Let it cool to warm. Do not touch the rice grains when hot as they are the most brittle then.

When ready to assemble, spread the rice in a deep dish, oven proof pan. A little by little add the curry and gently tossed until it’s just wet. The recipe makes a lot of curry than you need. For 3 cups of raw rice, you will not need more a cup and a half of the curry. Arrange the chicken pieces around the dish, cover with a bit rice, so they don’t dry out. Cover the dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Check in between to see if the biryani is drying out. If so, add more curry and gently toss.

To serve, scoop out the rice into a platter, arrange the drumsticks around and sprinkle roasted cashews over. Biryani is typically served with a simple raita made with diced onions in yogurt.

featured image credit: rashmi1979