My mother was a prolific cook and would regularly rustle up food from diverse cuisines. I learned a lot from her, including this recipe, which is very close to my heart. It is a kachchi biryani in that raw chicken is layered with rice and cooked together in dum, as opposed to a pakki biryani, where the meat is cooked first and then layered with rice. This biryani demands time and toil from its maker, but it is worth the effort.

  • Serves


  • Cook Time


    Including time for marination


  • 500 gm chicken

For Birista (Golden Fried Onions)

  • 3 large onions, thinly sliced
  • Refined oil
  • Salt

For Marinade

  • 200 gm yogurt, whisked
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp shahi jeera
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
  • ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • ¼ tbsp Kashmiri red chilli powder
  • ¼ tbsp garam masala powder
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black peppercorn
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 green cardamoms, 4 cloves, 1-inch cinnamon, 1 bay leaf (powdered together)

For Rice

  • 500 gm long-grained Basmati rice
  • 2 lt water
  • ¼ tbsp lemon juice
  • ¾ tsp shahi jeera
  • 2 star anise
  • 1-inch cinnamon stick
  • Salt to taste

For Bouquet Garni

  • 4 cloves
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • 1-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 strand mace
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ metre Muslin cloth

For Layering

  • 30 gm raisins, fried
  • 30 gm cashew nuts, fried
  • 20 ml hot milk
  • 15 ml Kewra water (Screw Pine Water)
  • ½ gm saffron strands
  • 3 tbsp hot ghee
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp cardamom powder
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 2 green chillies, slit

For Sealing Handi

  • 1 cup of kneaded dough


For Birista

  1. Apply salt on the thinly sliced onions and keep aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Squeeze out the water completely from the onions and deep fry in oil, until they are golden brown.
  3. Transfer to absorbent paper and set aside.

To Marinate Chicken

  1. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients listed under ‘For Marinade’.
  2. Toss in the chicken and a third of the browned onions, crushed. Give it a thorough mix.
  3. Cover and keep aside for 2 hours.

For The Rice And Layering

  1. Clean, wash and soak the rice for 30 minutes.
  2. Soak the saffron strands in hot milk for a few minutes.
  3. Prepare a ‘bouquet garni’ – a French word for a bundle of herbs – with the mentioned whole spices. Pack the spices into the muslin cloth and tie it into a small potli.
  4. In a handi, lay out the bay leaves to create a bed at the bottom. Next spread the marinated chicken evenly on it.
  5. In another deep, heavy-bottomed pan, heat 2 litres of water along with the bouquet garni, followed by shahi jeera, star anise, cinnamon stick, lemon juice and salt to taste. Bring it all to a good boil.
  6. Add the rice and cook until half done. Take out half of this half-cooked rice using big perforated spoons, that so the water drains out and immediately spread it evenly over the marinated chicken in the handi.
  7. Sprinkle a quarter cup of hot rice water on this rice layer.
  8. Next scatter the following on the rice layer: half of the coriander leaves and mint leaves, half of the remaining fried onions, a little saffron steeped in milk, some of the melted hot ghee, fried raisins, cashew nuts and cardamom powder, along with one chilli.
  9. Allow the remaining half rice to cook until al dente or 70% done. Immediately strain and spread it out in the handi, making the topmost layer.
  10. Scatter the remaining coriander leaves, mint leaves, golden brown onions, saffron steeped in milk, kewda water, melted hot ghee and another chilli.
  11. Cover with a tight lid and seal with kneaded dough.
  12. Keep the handi on a high flame for 15 minutes.
  13. Place a hot griddle underneath the handi and keep it on dum for another 20 minutes.
  14. Finally, switch off the heat and let the biryani rest for another 10 to 15 minutes before taking the lid off.
  15. Serve hot with your favourite raita.

Notes: a. Laying out the bay leaves at the bottom of the handi ensures that the biryani does not stick to the vessel. It also imparts a beautiful flavour to the rice.

b. Adding lemon juice to the rice while cooking prevents the grains from sticking and keeps them pristine white.

c. Ensure that you take out the bouquet garni and discard it.

Reetu Kugaji

Reetu Kugaji

Reetu Kugaji is a chef, food blogger and a consultant to the food and hospitality industry.

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