Chicken Biryani

Serves 8--generously

2 lbs. marinaded chicken breast- diced into 1/2 inch pieces (marinade recipe to follow)
2 tbsp. ghee or oil
2 1-inch pieces of cinnamon
8 green cardamom pods
10 whole cloves
4 dried bay leafs
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
2 large onions- sliced thinly
10 large cloves garlic- smashed and minced
2 inch piece of ginger- smashed and minced
3 green chilies, or to your taste (I used Thai green chilies--peeled and de-seeded)
1/4 c. yogurt
5 roma tomatoes- chopped
3/4 c. chopped mint leaves, plus more to garnish
1/2 c. chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
3 1/2 c. basmati rice
1 pkg. Shan Biryani spice mix (or make your own spice mixture)
2 tbsp. golden raisins
2 tbsp. chopped cashew nuts
salt, to taste
4 c. water --to start.  I think I used about 6 cups total.

Chicken Marinade:
  • 2 lbs. chicken breast- diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 c. plain yogurt- whisked until creamy
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. Shan Biryani spice mix
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • salt, to taste
Mix yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, spice, pepper and salt in a large zip lock bag (or bowl).  Once everything is combined thoroughly, add the chicken.  Toss until chicken is well coated.  
Place chicken and marinade in  the refrigerator until you are ready to cook the biryani.  Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before cooking.

  • At least one hour before making the biryani (and up to 24 hours), make the chicken marinade and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Also soak the basmati rice in water for at least 30 minutes before beginning the recipe.
  • Combine garlic, ginger and green chilies in a food processor.  Pulse until the mixture becomes a paste.
  • In a large pan (I use a 12" chicken-fryer that is 3" deep), heat 2 tbsp oil/ghee over medium high-heat.  Once the oil is heated, add the raw spices: cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, clove, turmeric and bay leaves.  Cook the spices until they are fragrant and no longer raw.  Add the sliced onions to the cooked spices.
  • Turn the heat to medium and allow the onions to caramelize.  This may take around 30 minutes! ---low and slow.  Once the onions become sweet and browned, turn the heat back to medium-high and add the garlic/ginger/chili paste.  Cook for approximately 2 minutes, or until the garlic no longer smells raw. 
  • Add the marinaded chicken pieces and cook so they brown slightly--about 2 minutes.  You don't have to cook them completely at this point. 
  • Add the spice package, chopped coriander leaves and chopped mint.  Stir everything so the chicken is evenly coated with the herbs and spice.  Cook for two minutes longer. 
  • Add the tomatoes and yogurt.  Cook until the tomatoes begin to break down and they begin for create a sauce.  You now have your gravy!
  • Add 4 c. water to the pan and stir everything to combine.  Bring the mixture to a boil and taste to make sure the spices are right.  
  • After you've brought the gravy to a boil, drain the basmati rice and add it to the pan.  Stir the rice until nearly all the water is absorbed.  Cover the pan and cook the rice about 15 minutes longer--until it's al dente (add more water, if needed).
  • Once the rice is cooked through add a little extra cilantro and mint leaves.  Garnish with chopped cashews and golden raisins that have been cooked in a saute pan for a minute in a little ghee.  Add sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, or hard boiled eggs if you desire.  Biryani is also nice if it's topped with a few caramelized (or fried) onions.  
Serve with Cucumber, Carrot and Mint Raita.

Note:  Alternatively, you could partly pre-cook the basmati rice in a rice cooker.  Put 3 1/2 c. rice and 3 cups water in the cooker and turn it on.  Once it is finished cooking, the rice should be under-done; but no longer raw.  If you choose to use this method, add less water to the tomato mix (instead of 4 cups, try adding 1 1/2 c. to start...and a little more as you need it).  If you choose to pre-cook your rice this way, your biryani should be a little "drier" and your rice should not end up mushy once the dish is completed (this can sometimes happen if you cook the rice with the gravy start to finish).

Cucumber, Carrot and Mint Raita
  • 1 c. plain yogurt - whipped until it becomes creamy and a little runny
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 1 grated cucumber
  • 2 tbsp. grated onion
  • 1/2 tsp. chaat masala (optional)
  • salt- to taste
Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Mix well; and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before using. 

Original recipe with photos can be found @