Murgh Biryani (Daring Cooks August '13: Biryani)

I started off my college career at a small college just outside of Philadelphia.

While away at school, I worked part time at a local "fine dining establishment". (I'll give you a hint - it's the home of the Whopper.) It may not have been very high brow, but I learned some pretty good lessons during the two years I worked at a fast food restaurant.

Working the drive thru late night on the weekends was definitely eye opening. There are some interesting people cruising around looking for fast food late at night. Being quick on your feet and a sharp wit were definitely keys to survival.

My partner in crime during those late night shifts was my friend Raneesha. 'Neesha was one of those people who was just fun to be around. Even when we were stuck doing some of the crappier tasks - like cleaning out the shake machine or washing sinks full of dishes, she was able to keep things light. I didn't mind the shifts when it was just her and me working - we totally rocked the night scene.

As a college student living several hours away from home, home-cooked meals were a highly prized commodity. Every once in a while, 'Neehsa would have me over for dinner at her parents house.

Because 'Neesha's family was from India, dinners at her house were always a treat. Tray after tray of food would appear at the table - each one filled with sights, smells and tastes that were foreign to my Northeastern New York upbringing. I am pretty sure cardamom never showed up in our boiled ham dinners growing up... It was love at first bite.

This month's biryani Daring Cooks challenge brought me back to those family dinners at 'Neesha's house.

A layered dish of rice and chicken - infused with spices like cardamom, turmeric, coriander. Each component is infused with flavor individually and then cooked together at the end to create a fusion of flavor. Perfect for scooping onto hunks of na'an and shoveling into your mouth.

Not that I know anything about shoveling food into my mouth. Nope, nothing at all...

Peace out.

Murgh Biryani (Spiced Chicken layered with rice)
Adapted from How to Cook Indian by Sanjeev Kapoor
3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped, divided
1 cup plain yogurt
2 ½ tsp kosher salt, divided
6 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped, divided
3 tsp red chili powder, divided
1 to ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken , chopped into 1 to 1 ½ inch pieces
6 green cardamom pods, pods broken and seeds bruised, divided
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks (~1 ½ -2 inches long)
2 bay leaves
 1 ½ cups basmati rice (soaked for ~1 hour)
3 Tbs neutral oil (canola, vegetable)
1 Tbs ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
4 medium tomatoes, chopped (~½  – ¼ inch dice)
1 Tbs fresh cilantro, chopped
Pinch saffron threads (~1 tsp packed)
½ cup milk, warm
2 Tbs fresh mint, chopped
3 Tbs butter, cut into ½” cubes
Place yogurt in a medium sized bowl. Stir in 1/2 of the ginger, 1 tsp salt, half of the garlic, and 1 1/2 tsp chili powder. Mix well. Stir in the chicken pieces to coat. Cover bowl with plastics wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate - one to two hours.
Place rice in a medium bowl and cover with cool water. Let soak while chicken is marinating.

Fill a medium sized sauce pan with five cups of water. Add half of the cardamom pods, half of the cloves, one of the cinnamon sticks, the bay leaves and 1 tsp of the salt. Bring to a boil. In the mean time, drain the soaking rice. Once the water is boiling, add the soaked rice to the boiling water. Cook at medium heat until the rice is just short of being cooked through (about 3/4 done) - it should have a little bite left. Drain and set aside (pull out the cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaf, etc if you can).

Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the three Tbs of cooking oil. Once the oil is hot, add the remaining cardamom, the second cinnamon stick, and the rest of the cloves and let cook for a minute or two - until they become fragrant. Add the onion. Sautee until lightly golden (~5-7 minutes). Add the rest of the ginger and garlic, the coriander and turmeric, the rest of the chili powder, the garam masala, the chopped tomatoes and a half tsp salt. Sautee another five minutes. Cover the pan and cook two more minutes.

Remove the cover and add the chicken to the pan. Sautee over high heat for ~five minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup water. Reduce the heat to low and let the mixture simmer for ~10 minutes - the chicken should be cooked through at this point. Stir in the cilantro.

Dissolve the cilantro in the warm milk.

Spoon the cooked rice on top of the chicken mixture and spread evenly to cover. Sprinkle the saffron milk, mint and butter over top of the rice. Place a layer of tin foil over the pan and then place the cover on top of that to form a tight seal.

Place the covered pan over low heat and cook for ~15 minutes.

Serve hot and enjoy with some warmed na'an and lentils.

This post participates in The Daring Cooks. Grace, one of our talented non-blogging Daring Kitchen members, was our Daring Cooks’ August hostess who shared with us some of her family’s tried and true Bengali Biryani recipes – all of them delicious and all of them prepared fresh from our own kitchens!


  1. Nice background story. I love the smells to. Your Murgh Biryani looks great.

  2. Haha I am not surprised, my house constantly smells like curry too :P
    This dish looks utterly delicious, so full of flavour!

    Glad to be back!
    Choc Chip Uru

  3. YUM. Glad it worked for you. I don't know what went wrong when I made Madhur Jaffrey's biryani, but it took all day (which would have been fine if it turned out well), and the rice was gummy. Maybe I didn't have the exact right kind. I don't know. Yours looks deeeelicious!

  4. I love when food connects to memories as it did with your biryani.

  5. Cher, what a nice post - it is really amazing how food can evoke so many wonderful memories - I have never eaten Biryani before but it sounds wonderful and looks quite delicious too!
    Have a nice Wednesday!

  6. Yum, Cher! What a wonderful dish full of flavor. And a great memory of a great friend.

  7. This looks delicious. I've never made it, so I'll have to try now!

  8. Cooking any curry instantly makes my kitchen (and house) smell so amazingly good, I know exactly what you mean! This looks great. And funny ... we've all had "those jobs," eh? Glad those days are over!


Post a Comment

Hi - Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to hear from you!

Due to the high number of weirdo SPAM comments I have been receiving, I have turned comment moderation back on for the time being... Comments may show a slight delay.