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The slobby student’s guide to making authentic biryani

Written by Food

If anyone knows how to make authentic Pakistani biryani, it’s me. The international student that ate it almost weekly before moving to the UK for Uni, and then had to call his mum up and have her guide him through the process of making home-style biryani. I’m now disseminating this arcane knowledge to all of you, in the hopes that at least one of you will try this recipe and like it. The recipe doesn’t require any specific measurements, since most students with their shit not together do not own measuring sets. If you do, good on you but I don’t.

The first thing you do is gather your ingredients, naturally. For this, you’ll need:

  • 1-2 big onions, preferably red (they’re purple though, don’t know why they’re called red)
  • 1 diced chicken breast (you can forego this if you don’t eat meat, the recipes still good)
  • 3 tomatoes, a few cloves of garlic, a lemon if you’re feeling fancy,
  • some oil, (enough to coat a normal-sized frying pan)
  • a thingy of yogurt (full fat, preferably)
  • 2 cups of rice, (use more or less dependant on how much rice you want to eat, although be aware to adjust the amount of masala used proportionally unless you want really spicy or really plain biryani) and finally, the Crux of the recipe
  • Authentic biryani masala. Not that one from Tesco, you need to venture into the halal/Asian food markets of your city and bring back the imported biryani masala, preferably National brand. You could theoretically use any Masala you want I guess, but I’d use the authentic stuff.
Image: Muslim Taseer

Now firstly, coat a pan with oil, enough to fry onions in. Put it on medium heat and while you wait for it to heat up, cut up the onions and garlic (thin) and dice the chicken.

When it’s moderately hot, turn the heat further up and put in the onions and garlic. Let them saute for a while before putting in the chicken.

Fry the chicken until it looks white, cooked almost enough to eat without salmonella poisoning but with minimal browning.

At this point, cut up your tomatoes and place them in the pan, mixing them around to make sure they’re fried enough to shrivel up and dissolve.

Next, add a few spoons of yogurt, and a bit of the biryani masala in, enough to get some color on the yogurt. mixing it in until you start to get a bit of substance to your curry, keep mixing and cooking it, and slowly add in more yogurt and masala until you have an amount you’re comfortable with.

Remember the yogurt makes up most of the substance of the mixture.

Ideally, for a serving that serves 3 (yourself 3 times, be honest, you’re cooking alone), you should have used a whole thingy of yogurt and anywhere from half a packet of masala to a full one, depending on how much spice you can handle/how brown you are.

Keep mixing it periodically and leave it on high heat to cook/dry up. Refer to the pictures to see what it should look like.

At this point you should get a saucepan, fill it with water and boil the rice in it, using 2 parts of water for each part of rice.

I don’t think I need to tell you how to boil rice. When it’s soft, shift your attention back to the curry.

It should be reasonably dry, but make sure you’ve mixed it properly to avoid burning of the onions and the chicken. It’ll look like a heavenly, colorful concentrate, and you may be tempted to just eat it as a karahi.

Now you must lower the heat, dry out the rice, and dump the rice into the pan the mixture is cooking in.

Mix it well and thoroughly, until the rice is sufficiently yellow, and you’ve eliminated all hints of whiteness in the rice. You may add some more masala to the rice to give it more color, it’s up to you.

Keep mixing, and then cover the pan for a while minutes to allow it to steam up, if you really want a heavenly dissipation of flavor, but in all honesty I usually don’t wait that long and just eat it right after mixing.

The steaming is essential if you’re cooking a large amount in a handi though, but you’re not, you’re a slobby student eating alone.

After it looks good, rejoice, you’re done! You’ve made some good, spicy biryani, If the spice is too much for you, eat it with yogurt to neutralize the flavour. If you want the fully authentic Pakistani experience, serve with 7up or sprite.

That’s all!

Last modified: 13th June 2020

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