Curry guides

How to Cook a Great Biryani

Cooking a biryani (or a biriyani) is an art form that is delicate in flavour and elaborate in its nature.

How to Cook a Great Biryani

A biryani is usually cooked for special occasions that requires a little bit of planning. A proper Biryani comprises of layers of fragrant rice cooked with layers of meat (or fish or vegetable) that has either been cooked in an aromatic spiced sauce or has been marinated. This dish results in a wonderful combination of flavours, spices, textures and altogether deliciousness forming an amazing meal in one.

This dish is thought to have originated during the years of the Mogul Raj and would have been served at huge decadent feasts for the courtiers as a symbol of wealth. The dish was brought together using the most expensive whole spices from cloves to saffron and with a variety of different meats to make it look ever more spectacular. The dish would be brought to the table on huge platters topped off with cooked meats stuffed into other meats - a whole goat stuffed with mutton stuffed with quail.

There are many different versions but my understanding is that there are two main theories as to where the Biryani comes from.

Hyderabadi Biryani

The Hyderabad biryani tends to be a mutton biryani that comes from the Hyderabad region in southern India. This is thought that this is a 'true' biryani which layers raw meat (kuchcha) marinated with yoghurt and spices and then layered with partially cooked rice which has been fragranced with a bouquet garnet of Indian spices. This biryani doesn't tend to have any tomatoes. Once layered the meat and rice are cooked together in 'dhum' with mint and coriander leaves and ghee. The dhum technique of cooking uses a traditional cooking vessel that is bell-shaped which is sealed closed with a roti dough. The dish is cooked slowly on burned out coal embers and another hot coal is put on top of the vessel. As the biryani cooks the dough seal starts to dry out which then begins to release steam indicating to the cook that the dish is cooked. Dhum comes from the test used to show whether it is ready. The chef taps the vessel on the side and if it makes a ‘dhum’ sound the biryani is ready to be served.

Lucknow Biryani

The second style is thought to come from the Lucknow region in north India and is known a pukka biryani or a cooked biryani which consists of meat cooked in a thick gravy that again uses lots of fragrant whole spices from cassia to cardamoms and then layered carefully onto partially cooked rice. The layers of rice are topped with caramelised onions, coriander, mint and ghee and the dish is then baked.

Other Rice Dishes


The Lucknow biryani is similar to a pulao but the difference is that the rice and meat or vegetables are cooked together and nor layered. dry and rice is simply added to it.

South Indian Biryani

Similar to a Pulao in that it is cooked altogether rather an a layered meat and rice dish but the South Indian Biryani tends to feature some distinctive spices such as Kalpasi or stone flower which is a lichen that has a very distinctive floral aromatic.

Biryani Recipes

Chicken Biryani

This is a biryani (or biriyani) from Northern India made by marinating the chicken in yoghurt and brought to life with aromatic flavours and a sauce created from some amazing whole spices. 


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