Thalassery Biriyani – Chicken Dum Biryani
This post for Thalassery Biriyani has been in my drafts for a long while now. I make it so often but shooting the photographs and video and getting it all together in the final cut for some reason took a looooong time. I hope you will try this recipe and give me feedback. To my loyal readers and recipe testers. This one’s for you folks! Scroll down for the video.
Thalaserry, a Coastal Town in the Malabar Region of Kerala is home to the origination of many a mouth watering delicacy. The people love their food and love to serve even more. Thalassery Biriyani is one of my favorites (I have tested a LOT of Biriyanis).
This Biriyani is made traditionally with a shorter grain rice known as ‘Kaima’. The scent offered by this variety of rice might be one of the key factors. When I can’t find ‘Kaima’ Rice also known as ‘Jeerakasala’ Rice however, good quality basmati can be used with the same great taste.
Unlike some Biriyani Rice preparations, the rice for Thalassery Biriyani is not cooked in excessive water and drained when 75 % cooked. It is cooked with ghee and spices with a specific amount of water till it is cooked but not overcooked. Then this rice is layered in the’DUM’ – Sealed method of cooking that allows no steam to escape during the cooking process.
Green Chillies is also an essential ingredient to this Biriyani. However the amount of green chillies can be reduced to suit your taste. Try out different varieties of green chillies to give the dish some notable difference each time.
Thalassery Biriyani – Chicken Dum Biryani
Recipe Type: Main / Rice / Chicken
Author: Recipes ‘R’ Simple
Prep time: 20
Cook time: 35
Total time: 55
Ingredients: (please read through the entire recipe before you begin)
For the chicken masala
- 1 kg chicken, skin removed – cut to medium large pieces.
- 3 – 4 Tbsp dalda / vanaspati / vegetable shortening
- 2 cups sliced onion
- ½ cup garlic ( I recommend using the Indian small variety of garlic for this Biryani – it makes a huge difference)
- ½ cup fresh ginger chopped coarsely
- 5 – 8 small green chillies, adjust according to heat preferance and de-seed if you want the heat to be be reduced but do not omit the chillies
- ½ -¾ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 ½ generous Tbsp Special Thalassery Biriyani Masala powder (recipe follows)
- 1 tsp rock salt – rock salt is preferred
- 2 large firm and ripe tomatoes, chopped
- a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
- a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 3 Tbsp yoghurt
- juice of one small yellow lime – about 1 Tbsp
- 2 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
- 2 Tbsp thick coconut cream
- ½ quantity of the ‘bista’ Fried Onions – see method for garnish
For the rice:
- 4 cups Kaima Rice (Jeerakasala Rice)
- 6 ¼ cups water
- 3 – 4 Tbsp ghee
- 3 small sticks of cinamon
- 12 cloves
- 6 cardamom pods – bruised
- 1 small piece of star anise
- a pinch of fennel seeds
- 3 tsp salt – you can use rock salt or table salt
For Special Thalassery Biriyani Masala Powder:
- 3 cloves
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp fennel seeds / aniseed / saunf
- 1 tsp black pepper corns
- ¼ tsp cumin / jeera
- ¼ tsp caraway seeds / shahi jeera / persian cumin
- ¼ tsp nutmeg / jayphal
- ¼ tsp mace / javaitri
- 2 small cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp kasa kasa / poppy seeds
- 2 mild dried red chillies, seeds removed
- a small piece ( a petal) of star anise / chakraphool / thakolam
For the garnish:
- 1 cup oil or ghee for frying the onions.
- 2 cups very finely sliced onion
- large handful of cashew nuts
- handful of golden raisins
- fresh coriander
For the ‘DUM’:
- ¼ cup good quality rose water
- ¹/8 tsp turmeric
- handful of fresh coriander leaves
- a sprinkling of the special Thalassery Biriyani masala powder which is left left over after adding to the masala.
- a little ghee.
- You will need to make a dough of 1- 2 cups of wheat flour mixed with water to make a soft pliable dough to seal the lid of the pot.
For the chicken masala:
- Clean and rinse the chicken pieces. Rub with salt. Rinse again and keep drained.
- Meanwhile, prepare the fried garnish as well as the Special Biriyani Masala Powder. Also chop and sliced the fresh ingredients needed.
- Crush the ginger, garlic and green chillies to a paste using a pestle and mortar for best results.
- Slice onions and chop tomatoes.
- In a heavy bottomed vessel or cooker, add the dalda.
- Heat on medium hight till melted.
- Add the sliced onions and saute while stirring on high heat till softened.
- Next add the crushed paste of ginger, garlic and green chillies.
- Saute till the ginger and garlic no longer emit their raw smell.
- Add the drained chicken pieces and toss well on high heat to coat the chicken pieces well with the sauteed ingredients.
- Once the chicken has turned white (no longer pink) and is thoroughly coated, add turmeric and the special Thalassery Biriyani masala powder (1 ½ generous Tbsp of the ground spice – not all of it) .
- Toss well to distribute evenly.
- Also add the rock salt and the chopped tomatoes. Stir and cook briefly.
- Add the fresh mint and coriander leaves now, followed by the yoghurt and mix till the yoghurt disappears into the mixture.
- Pour the lime juice over the masala.
- When the masala is simmering, cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes.
- Open and add the ghee over the chicken masala. Stir gently.
- Cover again and cook on low for 5 more minutes.The gravy should be starting to thicken and the chicken should be tender.
- Gently remove the pieces of chicken from the gravy using tongs and place on a tray.
- Reduce the remaining gravy by simmering till thickened, stirring continuously so that NO BURNING occurs.
- When the gravy looks right add the coconut cream and stir.
- Return the chicken pieces and coat once more in the thickened gravy to get a wonderful coating on the chicken.
- Turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.
- When cooled down, take half the fried onions (BISTA) and crush them with your hands to form a powdery texture. Add this to the masala as well and stir to mix in.
For the RICE:
- Before you start cooking the chicken masala : Rinse the Biryani Rice once. Drain. Add a good spoonful of salt and rub into the rice. Scrub the grains gently but thoroughly. Rinse again thoroughly 3-5 times till the water runs clear. Keep drained for a while.
- While the Chicken Masala is being cooked, we can start preparing the rice.
- Bring the water to boil in a pot with a tight lid.
- Add the ghee. Stir.
- Add the drained rice and stir.
- Bring back to a boil and add the whole spices and salt.
- Cook covered on low with a tight lid, opening and stirring occasionally from the bottom.
- Cook till the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked.
- Fluff up the rice with a fork.
For the fried garnish:
- Heat oil or ghee for frying the finely sliced onions in a small mouthed wok.
- When hot, add the finely sliced onions and fry for around 8 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the slices stay separate. It may seem at first that the onions take some time to change color, but as soon as they start changing color, they will burn quickly so keep a close watch.
- Drain in and keep aside in a metal spider strainer. This is better than using kitchen paper towel to keep the onions crisp.
- These fried onions are called Bista. Use half of this fried onion to make the ‘crushed BISTA’ – see method for masala.
- In the same oil, fry the cashews till golden and golden raisins till puffed. drain and set aside.
For the fried Special Thalassery Biriyani Masala Powder:
- Add all the whole spices except the kasa kasa, dried red chilli and star anise to a small dry pan. Toast on medium heat, stirring till the spices smell aromatic and are crackling well.
- At this stage add the kasa kasa and stir, followed by the dried chillies and star anise. When these smell toasted as well, remove from heat.
- Grind the toasted spices in a small mixer jar to a powder. Set aside.
- Note that a little powder might be left over after adding to the masala and sprinkling over the dum. Use the next time you make Nadan Chicken Curry.
On to the ‘DUM’ – sealed cooking method:
Now we will cook the chicken masala and the rice together in a sealed, steaming environment.
- You need a pot, large enough to hold both the rice and masala and enough room for some steam to develop as well.
- Mix the rose water with the turmeric and set aside.
- Grease the bottom and sides very lightly with ghee.
- Add the chicken masala first, separating gently the chicken pieces away from the sides of the pot and towards the centre. ( we need this space to scoop out the chicken masala later without breaking up the pieces.)
- Add ¾ of the the fluffed up rice over the masala, making sure the rice is thoroughly fluffed up to begin with ( no lumps ). See Notes.
- Gently press / pat the surface of the rice layer.
- Drizzle over some ghee, and ¾ of the rosewater solution.
- Sprinkle some chopped coriander and some of the biriyani masala powder.
- Top with the remaining rice (reserving a little to be sprinkled over each plating later – optional), drizzle ghee, remaining rosewater solution. Add some chopped coriander and fried onion, raisins and cashews.
- Mould the kneaded wheat flour dough into a thick rope. Press all around the rim of the pot and quickly press down with the lid to seal. make sure there are no gaps where dough does not seal the thin gap between the pot and lid.
- Place the pot over an old flat pan/ tawa on a medium flame and cook on this indirect heat for 10-15 minutes.
- Allow to rest for 10 minutes and later cut open through the hardened dough and open the lid.
- Fluff up the rice on top without touching the chicken masala.
- Remove the rice to another wide mouthed pot / urulli and scoop out the chicken masala and place n the side of the rice.
- For each plate, serve with masala and rice to desired proportions and sprinkle some of the reserved rice over the top to give a more appealing lighter finish.
- Serve with salad and pickle. Enjoy!
- Do let us know if you tried it. We love to hear from you.
Thalassery Biriyani – Chicken Dum Biryani
Try it and let us know – Thalassery Biriyani – Chicken Dum Biryani .
- Rose water is available at most indian grocery stores (do not confuse with rose extract or essence)
- For the fried onion garnish, very thinly sliced onions must be used. It is advisable to use a mandolin slicer.
- Sliced shallots can also be fried for the garnish.
- The fresh herbs used in the biryani(mint and coriander) must be exceptionally fresh – especially mint – if your mint is not really fresh omit it. Using wilted mint will ruin the biryani.
- If we were to double or triple this recipe, the layering of the dum should be in several layers. ie. a layer of masala, followed by a layer of rice and repeat 2 or 3 times. For the quantity in this recipe, multiple layers is not required. However, it is good to layer some spice, coriander, ghee and rosewater solution in between first and second layers of the rice.