Celebrating Mom’s Chicken biryani

Whenever there is a celebration, be it Christmas or Easter, or whenever we have guests in our house, there is one dish my Mom always makes….Briyani. It became so customary, that if Mom makes something else, it is unacceptable. My brother when he was little used to ask: “how come every festival we have is a briyani festival? Why don’t we have a kozhukattai festival or a pongal festival like our neighbors..”. But even he, now that he has grown up, would squirm at eating anything else than briyani on a special occassion.

My cousin is visiting me for the Memorial Day weekend, and what else would make the occassion special than making some of my mom’s famous briyani. Before I go further, I should put a disclaimer here that no matter how many times I have seen her make this, how many times I get the recipe from her, how many times I make this over and over again, it never comes out like how she makes it. I guess thats the magic of ‘Mom’. My mom surely does have magic – she can bring a smile to my face, even when she is angry and yelling at me. Her voice brings the most comfort to me, although she is several thousand miles away. She is the most loving, courageous and confident woman I have seen in my life. Here is to you mom, and the inspiration you have been…..


2 lbs whole chicken cut up

4 cups basmati rice

2 large onions chopped

2 large tomatoes chopped

15 green chillies slit

1/4 cup of ginger garlic paste

1/4 cup mint leaves

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp chilli powder

pinch of saffron food color

6 cups water

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tbsp ghee

1 tbsp cashews

salt to taste


2 cinnamon sticks

4 cloves

4 cardamom pods

1 star anise

4 bay leaves


Wash the basmati rice and soak it in water, before you begin the cooking for the briyani.

In a large pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium high heat, add the dry garam masalas listed in the tadka section. When the whole spices are fried well, add the sliced onion and slit green chillies. Fry well until the onion is golden brown. Add the ginger garlic paste and fry well until the raw smell of ginger and garlic disappears. At this stage, the mixture tends to stick to the bottom of the cooker, keep the stove on medium and keep stirring. Next, add the chopped tomatoes, salt and turmeric powder. Fry well until the tomatoes turn mushy and the oil floats to the top. The key to the flavor of the briyani lies in the above steps. The more patient up until this point, rewards the most flavor.

Add the chicken, chilli powder and coriander powder. Turn to mix thoroughly. Add the 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. My mom actually closes the pressure cooker and let it come to a whistle. But, since the chicken here in the US cooks fairly quickly, this step would over cook the chicken. When the water comes to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer and add the saffron color and the drained, soaked rice.

Let it cook slowly, turning occassionally, until most of the water is absorbed, about 8 minutes. Take care not to break the grains of rice while doing this. Add the mint leaves and 3/4 of the chopped cilantro. When almost all the water is absorbed, put the lid on the cooker, and also put the weight. Let it be on a low simmer for 5 minutes. Switch off and let the briyani rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the ghee in a small pan, and fry the chopped cashews. Open the pressure cooker and top the briyani with the ghee, fried cashews and the remaining cilantro. Serve hot with raita.

The trick to serving up briyani made this way, is to treat it like a cake, serve it from top to bottom: this way you will get a nice distribution of chicken pieces and rice. Because, all the chicken pieces would be at the bottom and the rice would be at the top.

I served my briyani with a spicy egg curry and cool cucumber raita.

I will post the recipe for the spicy egg curry very soon. One more picture of our lunch:

Verdict: The briyani was complex in flavor and was well complimented by the spicy egg curry and the raita. It didn’t live up to my Mom’s, but it was close. My husband and my cousin both enjoyed the special occasion treat.

I am sending this to Celebrating Mom event hosted by Shabitha.

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