Bombay Biryani

Servings : Serves 4-6

There are a thousand and one biryani versions, and am sometimes hard put to select just ONE that is a favourite. Here is one more version that is incredibly flavourful and simple enough for anyone to pull off with flair!

Ingredients for Masala

  • 1 chicken, cut up into pieces (or 1 kg mutton/goat or lamb pieces)
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, roasted and crushed
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 4 large onions, sliced thinly and fried until golden
  • 1 cup plain fresh yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree/paste
  • 3 green chillies
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped (leaves and stems)
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 4 medium tomatoes, washed and chopped up
  • 1/2 cup oil (or as needed)

Ingredients for Rice

  • 500 gm basmati rice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • yellow or orange food colouring
  • 1 tsp saffron threads, crushed and soaked in 2 tbsp hot water (optional)


First, clean the meat/chicken and drain away or pat-dry any excess moisture. Blend the yoghurt, fresh coriander, tomato puree/paste, ginger, garlic, green chillies and a small handful of the fried onions until smooth and pour this over the chicken. Add the salt, red chilli powder, garam masala and cumin powder. Mix everything well, making sure each piece of meat/chicken is well coated. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or up to overnight.

When ready to cook, make sure to remove the meat from the fridge about half an hour before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature.

Heat the oil in a pan (I normally use the same oil that was used for frying the onions as it will infuse more flavour into the biryani), then add half of the remaining fried onions (reserve the other half for layering later). Next, add the chopped fresh tomatoes and cook until they are soft and mushy. Then add the marinated meat along with all its marinade and cook on high heat to seal the meat quickly. Keep stirring regularly until the meat changes colour slightly, then turn the heat down to low, cover and cook until the meat is tender. With chicken you may not need to add any water as it will release some water during cooking and chicken normally cooks through relatively fast, but if need be or if you find the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan, you can add a small splash of water. With mutton/goat/lamb, you will need to add about 2 cups of water and cook until the meat is tender and most of the liquid is gone.

Taste and adjust for salt then set this mixture aside. Deep fry the quartered potatoes on low heat until they are tender, drain and add them to the cooked meat masala.

Next, wash and rinse out the rice and then soak for about 30 minutes. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add the bay leaf, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, salt and oil. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add the pre-soaked rice and cook until it is about three-quarters cooked (al dente). Drain away all the excess water.

Now you can begin the layering. In a heavy-bottomed pot, add a layer of rice followed by a small sprinkle of food colouring, then some of the meat mixture, some chopped mint and coriander, more rice, the remaining fried onions, some more colour and saffron liquid, more meat mixture. Keep going until all the layers are done, top layer will be of rice. Cover with a tight fitting lid, seal the pan and then place it on very low heat for about 20 minutes. If your pan does not have a heavy bottom, be sure to add a chapati pan or tawa under the pan to reduce the chances of your biryani sticking or burning.

Once done, open the pot and carefully fluff up the biryani. Gently scoop out onto a large serving dish and sprinkle some fresh chopped coriander over the top. Serve with raita and kachumbar plus some chilled fresh fruit juice.

Enjoy! 🙂

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