Well known for this special biryani, the Malabar Mappila community takes great pride in its unique flavours and preparation. Flavours change slightly from home to home, but the central ingredients remain the same. Interestingly, jeera rice is used instead of basmati. This dish is considered having originated from the community’s Middle Eastern ancestry.


  • 1 kg jeera samba rice
  • 1 kg mutton pieces
  • 1 kg onion, julienne (¾ cup for masala and ¼ cup for rice)
  • 200 gm green chillies
  • 150 gm sunflower oil
  • 50 gm ghee
  • 50 gm cashew nuts
  • 20 gm raisins
  • Ginger-garlic paste from 50 gm of each
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 bunch coriander
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 1 lime
  • 9 cups water
  • ¾ cup curd


  1. Clean the mutton and keep aside.
  2. In a deep pan, add 2 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp ghee. Add onions and sauté (to hasten the process, later add a pinch of salt).
  3. Add ginger-garlic paste, tomatoes and the meat. When almost done, add the curd and cook till the meat is done.
  4. Clean the rice and keep it aside. In a pan, add remaining ghee and oil. Add the onions and brown them.
  5. Add the cashew nuts and when golden brown, add the raisins. Remove and keep aside once the raisins swell.
  6. Add the rice to the pan and fry till it turns crisp.
  7. Bring water to a boil and add to the rice. Add salt to taste and cook till done. Layer the rice with the cooked meat and sprinkle mint leaves and ghee on top. Heat a girdle on medium flame and place the biryani pot on it (cover with a lid) and bake in an oven for 15 minutes or till the gravy of the meat evaporates. Serve hot.

Excerpted with permission from Eating With History: Ancient Trade-Influenced Cuisines of Kerala, Tanya Abraham, Niyogi Books.

Tanya Abraham

Tanya Abraham

Tanya Abraham is the curator and director of Kashi Art Gallery in Kochi and the founder of the NGO The Art Outreach Society. Tanya was born and raised in Fort Kochi, a town of cultural flavour and antiquity, where her family has been living for the past eight generations. Born to parents of two different Christian communities, the differences in traditions and religious influences always fascinated her. An art curator, educator and writer, she writes on subjects she is passionate about; her previous book was on the history and heritage of her hometown Fort Kochi.

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