Monday, March 5, 2018

Chicken Biryani Awadhi style

Chicken biryani is useless unless each grain of rice has intense flavour of chicken in it in my humble opinion. Else the chicken Tahiri is a much better choice for great flavour and soft cooked rice. I prefer soft cooked rice even in biryani but each grain of rice should be separate and firm too, khila khila as we say in Hindi. Many biryani makers use parboiled basmati rice for biryani because handling raw long grain rice for biryani is a skill and it breaks or makes lumps if not cooked accurately.

chicken biryani awadhi style

Actually cooking even plain boiled rice is a skill that one needs to learn as this is one of the most basic kitchen skill that many ignore. So when all the main dishes are cooked well and the rice turns up either too hard or too mushy, it spoils the whole meal in my opinion. Rice should be cooked well, soft cooked and still each grain separate and khila khila (fluffy) to soak up the flavours of the curry or dal it is served with. All the hotels serve rice which is too dry for my taste and doesn’t really soak up the curry or dal, I skip having rice always when dining out.

For biryani the cooking technique of rice becomes even more tricky and of one is cooking biryani in bulk it really needs a methodical approach and a not a casual attitude. Here I will talk about a homestyle biryani where the rice is cooked in yakhni (the meat stock) and the separately cooked meat is added in layers when the rice is cooked half way. This particular chicken biryani is made with chicken wings as I was planning to make chicken soup and we decided for biryani instead, but I love wings with skin so it was not a bad idea.

Chicken used for biryani should always be with skin to add more flavour to the rice grains I believe.

Also for 200-250 gm rice there should be 500 gm chicken as rice expands almost three times when cooked well.

(3 portions)

500 gm chicken wings
200 gm rice (I used sugandha basmati form Hansali farm)

For the yakhni
4 tejpatta (Indian bay leaves)
2 black cardamoms
4 green cardamoms
1 star anise (optional)
8 cloves
2 sticks of Indian cinnamon
½ tsp salt
600 ml water

For the chicken wings in masala
The boiled chicken wings retrieved from cooked yakhni
2 onions sliced thinly and browned in 1 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 tsp special garam masala
1 tsp red chili powder (or to taste)
½ tsp pepper powder
½ tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp ginger julienne
2 tbsp ghee
Pinch of saffron powder dissolved in 1 tbsp water (for layering)

I like adding a few whole peppercorns to this too, you can also add if you like.


Rinse the rice, drain water and let it soak for 40 minutes or till the yakhni gets ready.

Mix all ingredients for yakhni and cook on very low flame for 40 minutes. Strain the stock and save, retrieve the chicken wings and discard the whole spices. The stock should be 400 ml by now, else reduce it to 400 ml in a thick base handi or pan or add water to make up the volume.

Add the soaked rice to boiling yakhni and let it simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. It will take more time if the quantity is more. You are supposed to cook the chicken wings in masala in these 10 minutes.

Now heat the ghee, add the ginger garlic paste and bhuno till ghee separates. Now add the cooked chicken wings and toss and let it get pinkish brown slowly. Add all the powder spices, ginger julienne and whole peppercorns if using and cook till the spices get aromatic. Add 1/2 cup water and simmer for 5-8 minutes. Reserve the cooked chicken wings in masala till the rice is half done, almost 10 minutes for this quantity.

For this small batch of biryani I just quickly remove half the rice cooking in handi and layer the chicken in masala, cover with the rice taken out, sprinkle with saffron water and seal the pot. For larger quantities you have to be more methodical.

Once the pot is sealed with a tight fitting lid or with the help of dough between the margin of pan and the lid, it can be either baked in the oven or can be placed on a griddle on gas stove for dum cooking. The extra layer of griddle at the base of the pan ensures the rice cooks in the lowest possible heat and the aromas mingle well. It needs to cook on dum for 20-25 minutes and then rest off the stove for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serve the biryani hot with some raita or kachumber salad.

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