Chicken Briyani – South Indian


Deepavali/Diwali was always a day I looked forward to as a kid. While we never had a fixed routine, the one thing I do remember was waking up early in the morning, getting dressed in our new clothes, before watching my dad decorate our altar with fresh flowers, lighting the oil lamp and praying.

Some years we would go to my appacci’s (paternal grandmother) house, spend the day visiting my aunts, uncles and cousins, or the occasional trip to temple in the morning if my dad was feeling up to it! And as with all celebrations in Malaysia, some years we would host our own open house or I would visit my friends/family for their open houses. And because we steal bits from every culture, occasionally we would even get ang pows (little packets with money).

The food as usual, was the highlight! From my favourite Murukku to the different cookies (pineapple jam tarts are life!) and of course the show stoppers – briyani and mutton! And by briyani I don’t just mean any briyani, I mean the kind my aunts used to make! Which of course was influenced by the fact that we are Tamil. And while this may not mean much to a lot of you, for me this was a point of much confusion and contention as a child. When we would go to restaurants I would excitedly spot briyani on the menu and order it thinking it would be just like my aunts! What would show up, was never the same, meaning that I would turn to my parents and proclaim a bit too loudly “This isn’t briyani!”- not knowing then of course that there are so many variations of it. Having grown to love all versions of briyani now, this recipe still holds a special place in my heart. And during this very different Deepavali, it will be the closest thing I have to being at home and being part of the celebrations.

Happy Deepavali/Diwali to all you who are celebrating.

Lighting is a real chore during winter!

Chicken Marinade – overnight/1 hour
500gm chicken (bones add flavour so I used thigh pieces and drumsticks!)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1.5 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp garlic paste
1/2 tbsp ginger paste
4 tbsp yoghurt
Salt to taste
A handful of chopped mint and coriander leaves

1 cup rice cleaned & drained
1 Star Anise
4 Cloves
2 Cardamom Pods
1 tbsp of Ghee
1 tsp Cumin Seeds

Briyani itself
1 Cinnamon stick
4 Cloves
1 Star Anise
4 pod Cardamom
1 tbsp Garlic paste
1/2 tbsp Ginger paste
1 Red Onion diced
1 Tomato diced
Handful of fresh mint and corainder chopped
Salt to taste
4 hard boiled eggs
1 tsp Chilli Powder

1. Clean rice and let soak in water for about 10 minutes and strain.
2. Fry briyani spices in oil, then add onions and fry on low heat till translucent.
3. Add ginger and garlic paste, cook till the raw smell is gone and add tomatoes.
4. Once tomatoes have become mushy add chilli powder and give a quick stir.
5. Then add marinade chicken and let simmer till chicken is cooked.
6. When chicken is almost done, in a separate pan heat up 1 tbsp of ghee.
7. Fry the cumin seeds and spices for rice, then add drained rice and coat it in the ghee and spices.
8. Add water to the rice about 1 cup and bring to a boil. The water should just be slightly above the level of the rice.
9. Once rice has come to a boil, turn off the stove and then add the rice to the chicken that has been simmering away.
10. Continue to let this simmer at low heat, so the rice can cook.
11. Make slits on the hard boiled eggs and add to the briyani, together with a handful of chopped mint and cilantro and give it a good stir.
12. Cover the briyani and switch off the stove and let it continue to steam for another 5 minutes.
13. Garnish with fresh coriander/mint and fried onions, serve with some Raita (recipe below)

Cucumber raita

Raita recipe
0.5 Red Onion diced
2 Sprigs of Mint chopped
0.5 Cucumber diced
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp of yoghurt
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

1. Chop onions, cucumber and mint.
2. Add yoghurt, salt and lemon juice – stir well.
3. Fry cumin seeds in ghee (1 tbsp) or oil till fragrant.
4. Top with cumin seeds and give it a good mix and refrigerate.

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