Dum style Spicy Chicken Biryani is probably one of the most popular recipes to come out of the Indian subcontinent. Known as a dish introduced by Mughals, this definitely IS a royal dish, that is made on occasions of happiness or sadness in brown households. The biryani today has definitely evolved, the most traditional style is of layers of rice, curry and garnish. Which is what this biryani is! It is also called dum style biryani.
I think I am probably the 1 millionth person posting about a basic biryani recipe I swear by. I don’t blame you if you are skeptical about it, especially if you’ve tried biryani recipes before that didn’t pan out. But I will tell you this, if there is one thing people of Karachi, Pakistan know how to do, its make a Delicious biryani! and rest assured, this is a Karachi classic biryani which will not disappoint.
A typical Dum biryani has these layers:
1. A curry with some sort of protein, known as korma. This one has a Chicken korma
2. A layer of parboiled rice
3. Garnish layers with at least 1 layer containing food color.
Here’s how to make a traditional Dum style Chicken Biryani
Preparing the Chicken Qorma
I know looking at an entire rainbow-sque ingredients can seem a little daunting for new cooks. But I promise you! I will walk you through the process, and its wayyyy easier than it looks. I’m using my own biryani spice mix for this recipe but incase you feel intimidated by it, you can use boxed spices as well. (all substitutions mentioned at the end)
Start by blending yogurt and green chilies together in a blender and setting it aside.
Then add oil, mint leaves and sliced onions in a pot and fry it at medium flame. Take your onions to that beautiful golden brown color and then remove about 1/2 cup of the onions to use later for garnish.
NOTE: You can use pre-fried onions as well, skip this step and directly add mint leave in oil to fry them. And continue recipe as is.
As soon as you take the small amount of the fried onions out, add 1/4th cup of water in the pot to stop the onions from frying any more. Then add your spices and tomatoes. Saute them a lil bit. Add more water and cover to let tomatoes soften up. It will take roughly about 5 mins
After your tomatoes have softened up, simply use a hand blender and blend your qorma base to get a smooth mix. This will give your qorma a smooth masala, plus blended masala becomes more in quantity too.
You can now add the remaining ingredients. This includes; chicken, dried plums aka aloo bukhara, chicken cube, garlic ginger paste and the yogurt and chili paste. Mix everything and that’s it! Cover your chicken korma and let it simmer for 15 to 20 mins at medium flame.
NOTE: Raw chicken should always be sauteed in oil first when adding to curries and gravies. Biryani is one of the few dishes where it is ok to add raw chicken to a masala base.
After 15 to 20 mins, your korma will look like this. Now we are going to add 2 ingredients that add the “biryani fragrance” to our biryani. Kewra water and a mace and nutmeg powder (jayfil javetri). You can also only add the kewra water incase you don’t have the latter.
TIP: You can also remove all the oil from your Chicken korma at this point if you want to.
Preparing the Rice
The rice in biryani with cooked chicken are always par-boiled, for a lack of better term. In reality the rice are boiled but they are boiled for a smaller amount of time and left a little harder than parboiled rice. I am using long grain basmati rice, which is the perfect choice for biryani. You wash it twice with water, drain it and then finally soak it for about 20 mins. It roughly takes about 2.5 to 3 litres of water to 3/4kg to 1kg rice.
Get the pot ready to boil water, along with all the ingredients shown in the picture, including whole spices, salt and vinegar.
NOTE: Always boil the water at high flame and let the water start bubbling before adding rice.
Add your pre-soaked rice into the bubbling hot water. It will take a couple of minutes for the water to start boiling again.
Start noting the time once your water starts boiling again. It roughly takes between 3 to 4 mins for the rice to be “parboiled”. Keep an eye on your rice and ideally, don’t multitask right now.
NOTE: You want your rice to be semi-cooked. Check a grain of rice. It must be able to break from the centre but not get mushed up when you press on it.
Strain your rice with a wide strainer and get ready to assemble your biryani.
Assembling the Biryani
The ingredients for assembly as pretty straight forward. You can skip the tomatoes if you want to. There are no lemons in this biryani. For the amber color, I mix the color with milk for easy color distribution.
- Start layering but adding 1/3rd of the rice on the bottom. Doesn’t have to be accurate, just do it with approximation. Don’t worry if some of your rice have clumped together, that’s a good thing.
- Then use 1/3rd of all of your garnish and spread it over your rice (except the color)
- Now layer half of your chicken qorma evenly all over the rice.
- Repeat till you get to the top. Add a layer of food color mixed with milk on the top in the form of a cross. And the usual garnishes.
Cover your pot with foil first to reinforce a proper seal, and then put your lid on. Put a simmer ring or a tava underneath your pot when you put it back on the flame. Turn on the flame at high for 5 mins and then at medium low for another 10 mins.
PRO TIP: Foil helps in sealing the pot properly to allow steam to be created inside the pot. You can also use a dutch oven instead or keep some weights on tops of your lid to make sure the seal is reinforced.
Remove the lid from the side slightly to check if there is steam in your pot. If you see steam, keep the lid back and turn off the flame. Let your biryani rest for 10 minutes and then open to serve.
Use a wide spatula or a flat slotted spoon or a plate to mix the biryani. Serve with raita and salad.
Subtitutes and Remixes
- Spices – You can skip the home spice mix and use boxed as well. For this recipe, I would recommend using half a packet of Shan Bombay biryani masala and half a packet of Shan Sindhi Biryani masala.
- Heat – This recipe is definitely spicy! Reduce the level of green chilies and red chili powder to reduce heat, but don’t skip either of them completely.
- Potatoes – For potato lovers, here’s what you need to do:
– Use 1 kg rice instead of 3/4th kg
– Increase salt and red chili powder, each both by 2 tsp each ) or to taste
– Add potatoes and chicken together while cooking.
– Increase 1 tomato and 1/4th cup yogurt in the Qorma
- More quantity – It’s always good to know your rice to chicken ratio in case you want to double your quantities
For every 1 kg chicken, use 3/4 kg rice.
For every 1 kg chicken + potatoes, use 1 kg rice.
- Garnish – You can skip the tomatoes and reduce the coriander and mint, according to your liking. But definitely include mint and fried onions in your garnish