02 June 2012

Chicken Biryani for Two

When I have this dish, I think about the Iranian traders who traveled the ancient trade routes, bringing cooking methods along with them as they made their way toward Pakistan and India ... oh, the spices and goods that passed to and fro along those hidden trails. Biryani is a Persian cooking method that means 'fried' and 'roasted'. That's just what this dish is ... fried chicken and aromatics with roasted rice. I love its spicy heat with cool side dishes and a large dollop of yogurt ...

This particular chicken biryani lent itself well to a small batch when I made it the other evening. Silent Bob had taken off on a long-distance bike trip earlier in the day and I was feeling a bit deserted and blue ... a warm spicy meal made with some leftovers was the best I could muster. I always find it hard to cook for just myself when he is not around ... boo hoo. 

Chicken Biryani for Two
a recipe from Around the World in 450 Recipes


¾ c. basmati rice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small green chili, finely chopped
½ inch length of fresh ginger root, minced
¾ lb. boneless chicken thighs, skinned and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tbsp. curry paste
Generous pinch Kosher salt
¼ tsp garam masala
2 large handful cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
⅛ tsp. turmeric
1 bay leaf
4 cardamom pods, crushed
3 whole cloves
⅛ tsp. saffron threads

Making the Dish:

1. Wash the rice in six changes of cool water. Cover the rice with cold water and let soak for 30 minutes.

2. Heat the oil in a large fry pan and add the onions and fry for about 5 minutes until they glisten and are limp.

3. Add the garlic, chili pepper, and ginger and continue frying for another 2 minutes.

4. Add the chicken and continue to fry for 5 minutes until the chicken is beginning to brown up a bit.

5. Add the curry paste, Kosher salt, garam masala and stir to incorporate the curry paste. Continue to fry at a lower heat for another 5 minutes.

6. Add the tomatoes and gently fold them in. Let the mixture cook for another few mintes. Then, remove from the heat and let it rest.

7. Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.

8. Drain the rice, place it in a deep saucepan, and cover with fresh cold water. Add the turmeric to the water. Bring the rice to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about ten minutes - until the rice is almost tender. 

9. Drain the rice and fold in the saffron threads, bay leaf, cloves, and cardamom pods.

10. Layer the rice and chicken mixture in a shallow, oiled oven-proof dish or pan. Start with some rice, the chicken mix, more rice, the chicken mix and finish with a thin layer of rice. This will get crunchy and crumbly when baked for a bit.

11. Place in the middle of a preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes.

12. Serve right from the oven with a cool salad and some fresh cool melon and cold yogurt...

I made this dish, using leftover rice so the color in the photo does not do justice to the dish. The color of a properly prepared turmeric rice with saffron and spices is much more vibrant ...


  1. Stories of the Silk Road are fascinating. There's such a romance around the production and trade in spices.

    1. I just imagine those first traders were venturing out into 'no-man's land' and trusting that they could exchange information, culture, and goods ... all while carrying a big stick just in case ....

  2. Susan, my new Indian cookbook (660 Curries) has quite a few biryani recipes I'm dying to try. It's one of the few Indian dishes I haven't made yet. Looks fabulous!

  3. I was already starving, but now I am REALLY starving. This looks delicious, and thanks also for the biryani history-lore.

  4. I have been saving a little plastic container of saffron. I wonder if I should break the seal and make this dish. I am not a huge fan of Indian cooking but this looks delicious.

  5. Biryani may be a Persian dish but it got equally popular in India after Mughal rule. This is a lovely dish with a twisted version of Biryani.

  6. Yes, Balvinder Ubi! When I did some more reading on the many versions of Biryani, I realized just how complex the dish can be ... so many different meat and vegetable versions. Perhaps you can prepare a version that you know to help us learn more about the dish! I liked this version very much ... but the rice just wasn't as it should have been!

  7. Wow, this sounds really tasty. I love chicken and rice!


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