Biryani Recipe (Part 2) – Spiced Rice Is Nice!
The difference between Biryani and Pulao (Pilaf in English) is that in pulao, the Basmati rice is usually cooked in the meat/vegetable seasoned broth. Depending on the local cuisine, pulao may also contain dried fruits, fish, meat and vegetables. Overall, pulao uses lesser amount of spice mix as compared to a biryani dish and the spices are usually kept whole (not powdered).
The most important and frequently used spices and flavourings in Indian cuisine are whole or powdered chilli pepper (mirch, introduced by the Portuguese from Mexico in the 16th century), black mustard seed (sarso), cardamom (elaichi), cumin (jeera), turmeric (haldi), asafoetida (hing), ginger (adrak), coriander (dhania), and garlic (lasoon). One popular spice mix is garam masala, a powder that typically includes five or more dried spices, especially cardamom, cinnamon (dalchini), and clove. Each culinary region has a distinctive garam masala blend—individual chefs may also have their own. Goda masala is a comparable, though sweet, spice mix popular in Maharashtra. Some leaves commonly used for flavouring include bay leaves (tejpat), coriander leaves, fenugreek leaves, and mint leaves. The use of curry leaves and roots for flavouring is typical of Gujarati and South Indian cuisine. Sweet dishes are often seasoned with cardamom, saffron, nutmeg and rose petal essences. ~ Wikipedia
Difference between Biryani and Pulao:
Pilaf or Pulao, as it is known in the South Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, is another mixed rice dish popular in Indian, Pakistani and Middle Eastern cuisine. Opinions differ on the differences between pulao and biryani, and whether there is a difference between the two at all.
According to Delhi-based historian Sohail Nakhvi, Pulao tends to be (comparatively) plainer than the biryani and consists of either vegetables or meat cooked with rice. Biryani on the other hand contains more gravy (due to the use of yakhni in it), is often cooked for longer (hence yielding more tender meat or vegetables) and with additional condiments. Pratibha Karan states that while the terms are often applied arbitrarily, the main distinction is that a biryani comprises two layers of rice with a layer of meat (or vegetables) in the middle; the pulao is not layered.
Colleen Taylor Sen lists the following three distinctions between biryani and pulao:
1) Biryani is the primary dish in a meal, while the pulao is usually a secondary accompaniment in a larger meal.
2) In biryani, meat and rice are cooked separately before being layered and cooked together. Pulao is a single-pot dish: meat and rice are simmered in a liquid until the liquid is absorbed. However, some other writers, such as Holly Shaffer (based on her observations in Lucknow), R. K. Saxena and Sangeeta Bhatnagar have reported pulao recipes in which the rice and meat are cooked separately and then mixed before the dum cooking.
3) Biryanis have more complex and stronger spices, compared to pulao. The British-era author Abdul Halim Sharar mentions this as the primary difference between biryani and pulao: the biryani has a stronger taste of curried rice due to a higher amount of spices.” – Wikipedia
Biryani Rice Ingredients: (Serves 8)
1kg Basmati Rice (I used India Gate, same brand as the one I cooked in Melbourne).
4 – 5 litres Water to boil the 1kg rice (just like cooking spaghetti).
Salt, to taste (guideline use 1½ – 2 tablespoons Sea Salt).
2 short sticks Cinnamon.
8 Green Cardamons, slightly cracked.
2 teaspoons Black Cumin/Caraway Seeds (Sa Jeera).
2-3 Bay Leaves.
My family members puzzled me when they said eating biryani is a “dangerous” treat. I later found out that they detest “accidentally” biting into some of the whole spices i.e. cardamons and cloves which are not easily spotted like the cinnamon bark or star anise.
Solution: Put whole spices into a small muslin cloth and knot it like how you would bag a bouquet garni. Remove the bag when rice is cooked.
1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil (I used Ghee).
A few strands of Saffron, pounded to get around ¼ to ½ teaspoon. Soaked saffron in warm water (you may use milk).
1 tablespoon Rose Water (made by distilling rose petals in water and extracting the flavours).
Variation (Bombay-styled Biryani):
2 teaspoons Kewra Water (flavours extracted from the Pandan Leaves) to be added to the pre-soaked and drained biryani rice. For local Singaporeans and those who know what Pandan Leaf is, you may also use 5 pandan leaves, washed and knotted, and stick them into the rice (like cooking Hainanese Chicken Rice).
Chopped Coriander Leaves, Mint Leaves, Fried Shallots/Red Onions and sliced Green Chillies. Some folks like to add fried cashews and raisins/sultanas to their biryani/pilaf. All amount according to your personal preferences.
Soak the raw Basmati rice in lukewarm water for an hour (I managed 30 minutes and it was fine). Drain away water after 1 hour.
In a huge pot of hot water, add in the whole spices and salt, and let it boil for a few minutes. The water must be well seasoned with salt, like cooking pasta. Taste for correct amount of saltiness before adding the oil/ghee.
Bring back the water to a fast boil and add in the drained rice.
Boil rice for on high heat for about 2-4 minutes (depending on the raw or partial-cooked chicken method). Drain away water when rice is cooked.
Layer rice over the marinated chicken masala (see assembly methods below). Garnish with rice with ingredients from “Garnishing”.
Combine the liquid extracts (saffron, rose water, kewra water) and sprinkle onto the rice.
Raw Chicken Method:
Put chicken directly into the Handi pot in a single layer and gently pressed them against the pot. Add in the 2 minute parboiled Basmati and garnish. Seal pot and cook the biryani for 5-10 minutes on medium-high heat, reduce flame and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Put a tawa griddle (or flat bottom pan) and continue to slow-cook for another 15-20 minutes on low heat.
Partial-cooked Chicken Method:
Spread a thin layer of 70% cooked rice onto the bottom of a Handi or heavy bottom pot. Place chicken and its oily paste in a single layer and top up with the rest of the rice. Seal the pot and cook the biryani on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Place the sealed pot onto a tawa griddle (or flat bottom pan) and reduce heat to low, continue to slow-cook for another 20 minutes.
When biryani is done, Do Not Open the lid immediately but let it stand covered for 10 minutes.
Fluff gently (like folding cake batter) to combine the chicken and rice. Serve Biryani hot with Raita or plain yoghurt on the side.
Cucumber Raita Recipe:
1 English Cucumber (those used in sandwiches or Chinese chicken rice).
1kg tub Greek Yoghurt (natural flavour).
Pinch of dry-roasted cumin for that nutty, peppery flavour, optional.
Mint Leaves, Lemon Juice, Salt and Coarse Ground Black Pepper, optional and to taste.
Remove the core/seeds with a spoon and coarsely shred/julienne the cucumber. Not necessary to squeeze dry but discard excess liquid.
Place shredded cucumber in a large bowl and mix in the yogurt.
Season according to taste.
Keep in fridge till needed.
Takes away the “heat” of the Biryani.
Happy cooking, eating and bonding! 🙂