Chicken biryanis are no longer a lot of hardwork. This was not always the case.
There used to be a time when cooking a biryani at home meant someone special was invited or something special was happening in the house. We would wake up in anticipation of the big day. “Today we are having biryani for lunch”- I would tell this to anybody who would care to listen. Then my father would go the market with the grocery list, of course, accompanied by me. See, it’s different in India. You have to travel a bit to get good quality Basmati rice.
“What?”, you say,”You don’t stock the biyani rice?We usually just buy a big bag from Costco.”
Ah! yes! But Basmati rice is quite expensive in India and unless you are really rich, you usually just buy enough for that one meal of biryani. A few years ago, there weren’t that many supermarkets. So you had to stop at one shop for the rice, another one for the chicken and then another for the herbs and lemon. It would take atleast an hour or more to get back home after a round of shopping.
Of course, things are different now and you can get all you want at any one of the many super markets that are popping all around. Sure is convenient but then you miss the walk in the chantha ( market), with all its varied smells and great display of veggies.
If Mastercard used this theme they would have said:
Biryani rice Rs. 50
Fresh chicken Rs.100
A walk in the chantha ( market ) Priceless
Making chicken biryani is a breeze after coming to the US. Take a few cups of rice from the Costco rice bag. Cut up the chicken in the freezer. Use the herbs that you have stored in the fridge. Chicken biryani is ready in an hour or so. And this is exactly what I did last Friday – actually Satish did go to the store for chicken.
I have had a brief touch with Malabar cuisine. My mother once worked for some time in Kozhikode. She stayed there for a few months or so. We went to visit her once and I had some amazing food at one of my father’s friends. I was convinced Muslim hospitality was the best. There was a whole table of food and all their relatives were in the house to welcome us. Made us all feel real special! I was really young but this episode is still clear in my memory.
Once you have made biryani you will see that it is more of a method than exact measure ( except for cooking the rice).
Here are some pictures to get you inspired.
Cooking the rice:
Soak the rice in water for 30min or so prior to cooking. Drain off the water.
Add ghee( a must for authentic taste), cloves, cardamon and cinnamon. Add the rice. Stir well. Add water and salt. ( For 3 cups of rice, I used 5 3/4 water). Cook covered. When all water is evaporated, shut off the flame and keep covered for a few more minutes. In the meanwhile avoid stirring. You can fluff with a fork after it has finished cooking
Cooking the chicken
Layering the rice and chicken
Frying herbs to decorate the top
Also fry onions, raisins and cashews.
Bake for 15- 20 minutes.
Serve warm with raita, achar, ulli surka and pappadam.