Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thalassery Dum Biriyani..!!


Biriyani is one word which never fails to make people go drool...Its this absolutely heavenly concoction of pristine white aromatic basmati rice layered with savory rich thick meat/veg gravy ,flavored with saffroned’ warm milk,spices,herbs and ghee fried nuts n raisins allowed to mingle and enhance each other for a long long time ,in a sealed pot..The time.. when wonderful magical things happen inside and when you break the seal,you die and go to heaven and come back..Well,I do….all the time..:)

Though the whole process is lil taxing,then wonderful anticipation and satisfaction when you do each of them and the final result which comes out, that bowl you over ,makes it all worth one..!


I have a few detailed Biriyani recipes in Will-O'-the-wisp..and sometimes I get lazy and uninspired yet gluttonous enough to prepare one-pot biriyanis for quick lunches.But I haven't ever followed a regional recipe strictly and reproduced here.When I saw this Biriyani being prepared by 2 chefs,in a TV program ,I decided its time to try the ever famous Thalssery Dum Biriyani.The program called "Taste of Kerala" in Amrita TV is famous and most Malayali's will be familiar with the witty, effervescent and food-loving host who travels all around Kerala and cooks traditional recipes along with the home-cooks/restaurant chefs/boat house chefs n toddy shop people etc (who are expert cooks with decades of experience) in their kitchen.Many food items that were just secrets of those particular regions in Kerala ,was exposed to food-loving mass through this program..some of them had so funny names that made us laugh,but their origin and reason for those names were tracked backed and discussed with the locals which enlightened viewers..In a nutshell,the program is super awesome and I really regret that I couldn't keep track of all the episodes..I just saw a few..This Biriyani episode had the host in a small restaurant kitchen in Trivandrum ,with 2 chefs from Thalassery preparing this yummy thing.They are specialized in this preparation and they supply only this one item it seems.Anyhow,as they are from Thalassery and they told that they were passed on this recipe from their home,I believe this to be the authentic preparation method.Many of you may tend to disagree with me regarding the ingredients,its amount or even method.So would just like to add for the note of authenticity police that am now way claiming that this is the 100 % exact preparation method.Actually it even varies in the place from home-to-home,am just sharing what I learned from the program and followed in my kitchen..Hope you readers try and like..and if you have any tips or notes to share please feel free to do so too..I am all ears..:).!

You need For Biriyani rice part:

3 C Jeerakasala rice /Basmati rice

4.5 C water

2 inch cinnamon stick

4 cloves

3 crushed cardamoms

1 small star anise

1-2 Tbsp pure cow ghee


For Meat masala part:

Over 2 lbs /1 kg Chicken/mutton(optional marinating with salt,2 tsp chilli powder,1/2 tsp turmeric powder and vinegar)

6 large cloves of garlic + 2.5 inch piece of ginger+10 hot green chillies ground to paste (almost 1/2 a cup of that)

4 large onions sliced (almost 6 cups)

4 large tomatoes

Few curry leaves(optional,but I live on this thing)

2 tsp freshly crushed pepper corns

1/2 Tbsp +1/2 tsp Garam Masala

[- This special garam masala is made from 8 items..Fennel seeds (perumjeerakam),cumin seeds(nalla jeerakam), black cumin seeds (karinjeerakam), cardamom(elakka), cinnamon(karuvapatta), cloves(karayampoo), mace(jathipathri) and star anise(thakkolam) - All of them are roasted and ground.I am not sure of the amount of each they use in Thalassery..But I do the normal way which I use for making my garam masala..Each of them is REALLY strong,so use sparingly and cautiously,else the flavor might just go overboard for you.I normal use more of fennel,cumin seeds and lil of the other ones.Eastern and Periyar brands have some biryani/garam masalas in store.Though I haven't tried any of them personally,I have a feel that Eastern should be good,just in that case you are out of the ingredients and have a bad craving..;) ]

1- 2 Tbsp lime juice

A handful of minced Coriander leaves

3 Tbsp Pure Ghee

For garnish:

Nuts n raisins

Few strands of saffron soaked in warm milk

Lets make Biriyani..!

Make the masala first and then the rice so that the rice remains warm and ready to absorb the flavors when we are layering it..Makes sense?? Ok..So what we do is..

Skin all those onion and veryyy finely slice them and keep aside..I dont have the fine slicing skill set so I solely resort to my kitchenaid for that and he does the job pretty neat.

Grind that ginger-garlic-chilli paste also ok? and slice the tomatoes too..chunk and chunk and so..

Ok..I hope you already cut n cleaned the chicken.They don't marinate in authentic method I guess..I have seen some marinating and frying the chicken before adding in masala too,for Thalassery biriyani..So ,again play as you like.I just marinated,because I was deeply apprehensive that my chicken wont be spicy enough..

So,we are pretty much done with our job..All that's left is flexing your hand muscles for some sauté and stir n lift and aint it??

Take a big kadai/pan and tip no less than 3 tbsp ghee..When it all molten and fragrant,tip in all the onion heap and curry leaves and start working out your arms..

Sauté,saute sauté till its brown.You can sprinkle pinch of sugar to hasten the caramelizing process,but not more.

When all the onions are nice n brown and mushy ,transfer it and keep it warm.These fried onions are called 'Bista' in Thalassery and they use the same for garnishing and layering too..

Into this same pan,add little oil/ghee and add that g-g-c paste and sauté under low heat till it a good way..:)

Pop in those red tomatoes now and again sauté sauté till they are soft n squishy.

Now ,dump in those chicken pieces and keep mixing under high heat till they are no more raw.

Simmer,close with lid and let it cook.No water pls.

Now you need some rest.while that cook, relax and clean up the mess you made or well..order the husband to do so and slump on the couch.

When the chicken is half cooked,dump in those reserved fried onions and mix thoroughly.Now that gives out a heavenly aroma..Inhale..but keep on mixing and a thick gravy will be formed.

Now sprinkle that pepper powder and 1/2 tbsp garam masala(depends on the strength of your garam masala can add a pinch or two more if you want more kick),give a quick stir and close and cook for some more time.

Mean while you can start with the rice.

When chicken is cooked ,open and pour in the lime juice,cilantro and adjust salt/crack of pepper.

Meat base masala is ready..keep it nice and closed till we use it..!

Off to rice..! Tired?? Ok..May be this will keep you motivated..;)


Boil that 4.5 cups of water..Bring it to a rolling boil,and then add the whole spices,as much ghee as you want (:D) and salt to it.

Then ,go ahead and tip in the cleaned drained rice into the boiling water and stir to mix.Let it boil for a minute or two till rice actually comes on top.

Then simmer the heat and tightly close it with lid for few mins ..say 5 mins or so.

Meanwhile soak the saffron in milk and start frying the onions and cashews n raisins

When you open,you should see the top portion of rice dry,still there would be some moisture in it.Switch off..We will finish the cooking along with the masala.

In the video I saw,they never fried the nuts and raisins and also they kinda deep fried all those onions(Bista) in the beginning and used that as gravy as well as garnish.I could never bring myself to tip in half a can ghee n deep fry I fried some onions and nuts n raisins separately for garnish and sautéed onions for the gravy.

Now ready to layer..!

In a deep pan ,smear the bottom with ghee.

Spread a thin layer of rice and top with a layer of chicken and gravy spread evenly.

Again a layer of rice..sprinkle nuts,raisins,onions,cilantro,a pinch of garam masala and saffron milk.

Top with gravy and again rice garnish and move on like that.The last layer should be rice topped with garnish.

In the video,its just rice tipped over the gravy and topped with garnish..gravy and rice atop..simple..But I am just lil crazy and I love layering and the whole concept and visualizing and drooling on that trapped aromas and waiting n all that beautiful stuff...:P..So ,I did it..and I definitely believe it enhances the taste..!

So when all the layering is done cover the pan tightly with a foil ..close and keep a heavy hot thing on top..a pan of boiling water or a hot cast iron grill pan like I did.

Keep it in low heat for 30 mins- 1 hour.

After that time gather all at the home,and break the seal/dum and dance in heaven…:)

When serving,take a wide spatula and dig deep and serve the portions with all the layers..with some nice cold onion-cilantro raita (fine minced onion,chillies and cilantro in whipped yogurt),pickle and papad..!


Verdict: My picky eater other half told that this is the best Biriyani out of the ones I have ever made…and I felt so too..:).I dunno,may be because of the extra efforts the otherwise-clumsy/lazy me took for this one ,trying to make it perfect..Definitely all those ghee fried onions that just blended up to give triple flavor to the base..and the layering and garnishes ,everything played a big role in making this awesome..!..I must say that is absolute must try for all the Biriyani lovers and I AM GONNA MAKE THIS AGAIN & AGAIN..!!

Before I wind up this post,lemme give a quick review of the Zwilling JA Henckels International Fine edge Pro 7 piece Block Cutlery Set that CSNstores sent over to me for review..Hope you remember my George Foreman grill review..:)

I got this in a long time as they needed to make it and then ship me directly from the warehouse.Nevertheless I waited patiently for this gold.There are usually some discussions going on everywhere as to whether to choose Wusthof of henckels..Actually both are leading German brand knifes and the choice solely depends on which one you are comfortable with.You need to hold it to get that feeling.I have tried both brands in shop and Wusthof felt lil heavy for me and the grip was not good for my hands too whereas Henckels just cuddled in my hand..So I went for it..:)


IMG_0786 IMG_0790

..Awesome stuff..!!..Finally I can manage to finely slice some onions and cut through tomatoes without smashing them..:) As they say,the first and foremost resource needed for any cooking enthusiast is a set of fine cutlery.If you have the right piece for the purpose,that not only make the process easy and saves time but adds to the overall quality of the final product too.This 7-piece set is marked for its:

  • Precision, stamped construction for durability through the full length of the knife
  • High quality, German stainless steel blades are durable, stain and rust resistant
  • Black, satin-finished polypropylene handles with triple rivets
  • Fully visible tang construction provides proper balance


    and it Includes:

    • 3" Parer
    • 5" Serrated Utility knife
    • 8" Chef's knife
    • 7" Santoku Hollow Edge knife
    • Kitchen Shears
    • 9" Steel
    • Wood Block

    ..So in short CSNstores just handed over to me an asset for a life time..Thank you once again ..!!

    So readers..its adios for now..catch you all soon again..:)


  • StumbleUpon
    Creative Commons License
    Will-O'-the-Wisp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.