Are you suspicious of new to you things? When White Biryani became popular I was a little skeptical because I couldn't understand how something so plain looking could have flavour. I was wrong. In my defense I am a Karachiite and the vermillion hued biryani is our norm and we are very protective of it.
Well folks, I get it now. I get the White Biryani love so hard.
What does White Biryani taste like?
This is a question I had often asked myself. Imagine this: the flavour of a mild white korma amped up with green chilies compounded with the heady aromas of nutmeg, mace, and saunf (anise seeds). Now add to that the herby fresh depth of cilantro and mint. With me so far? Okay. Let's add a few drops of kewra to the mix. While each ingredient is familiar, the way they combine creates something utterly lovely.
Why is White Biryani White?
White Biryani is white because of three reasons.
- One: the onions are sautéed till translucent, no browning required. If you are like me and read that as me saying it's quicker to cook the onions then I'd like to give you a little high five.
- Two: White Biryani is white because there are no tomatoes that would alter the colour
- Three: Biryani gets it's punchy colors from one of two things - saffron or food coloring. This recipe uses neither.
Why is it not just a pulao: what is the difference between a pulao and a biryani?
A pulao is a one pot dish. For example this crowd favorite Hyderabadi Pulao right here. In a Biryani the rice and meat are cooked separately then layered like the Beef Biryani here or the Punjabi Chicken Biryani here.
This White Biryani is cooked in two pots: one for the rice and for the chicken and they're then layered and steamed.
How to Cook White Biryani: Breaking down the steps
Step One: Marinade the chicken in all the marinade ingredients, 30 minutes is fine, more is always better.
Step Two: Saute some onions and whole spices until the edges just start to change colour
Step Three: Add your chicken, saute well, simmer till done.
Step Four: Dry up the masala
Step One: Make a little cheesecloth bag, what we call a "potli" in Urdu for all your aromatics. You can get a cheesecloth or a muslin cloth from the dollar store, your grocery store or on amazon.
Step Two: Boil your rice in salted water with those aromatics until almost done. It should break with a little pressure, but not mush.
Layer as follows - rice, chicken masala, herbs and chilies, rice, lemon juice and a few drops of kewra. Steam for 20-25 minutes and ta-da!
What do I serve with this Biryani?
My two favourite items to serve with White Biryani are a green chutney raita and a kachumbar. For the raita blitz 2-3 green chilies with a few tbsp of yogurt, half a clove of garlic and a little salt. Then add plain yogurt to taste to the spicy green mix. A kachumbar is as simple as dicing some onions, cucumbers, and whatever else you're in the mood for and seasoning with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
Made this White Biryani? Let me know what you think by rating it below and tagging me @flourandspiceblog on Instagram!
- Wok/Saute Pan
- Large pot (ceramic or non stick preferred) for rice
- Cheesecloth/ Muslin cloth for spice bundle
- 2 lb chicken (bone in, 1.5 for boneless)
- For the marinade
- ½ cup yoghurt
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp green chili paste (or ⅔ minced green chilies)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp garama masala powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1-2 small pieces of mace (or ¼ tsp ground)
- grating of nutmeg (a pinch)
- For Cooking
- ½ cup oil
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 2 onions sliced (tennis ball sized)
- 2.5 cups rice (basmati)
- salt (see notes)
- For the Potli/ Spice Bundle
- 3 green chilies
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tbsp saunf (anise seeds)
- 4 green cardamom
- 1 black cardamom
- 1 small piece cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp whole black pepper
- ½ tsp cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 3 tbsp chopped cilantro/coriander
- 2-3 halved green chilies
- squeeze of lemon juice
- a few drops of kewra essence
Chicken Biryani Masala
- Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, add the chicken and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat your pan/wok add oil on medium high heat.
- When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds then the onions
- Saute until the edges start to change color and then immediately add your marinated chicken.
- Stir the chicken well, sautéing until it's all changed color.
- Add a splash of water, bring it to a simmer then turn down the heat and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
- Turn up the heat and dry up the masala, sauteing occasionally, until the oil rises above it, the masala starts to stick to the bottom just a little and the chicken takes on a lovey golden hue. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Wash the rice well, rinsing till the water turns more or less clear, and soak for at least 30 minutes.
- Place all the ingredients listed in the Potli/Rice Bundle category and set aside until ready to cook
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil with the potli in it
- Add the washed rice and cook until the grains of rice will break easily with a little pressure, but not become mushy. For me this is usually anywhere between 7-10 minutes.
- Drain the rice and remove the potli.
- Place half your rice on the bottom of your rice pot
- Gently spoon over every single bit of your chicken biryani masala
- Top with remaining rice
- Now squeeze over a little lemon juice and add a few drops of kewra. Steam on low heat for 20-25 minutes.
- Marinade Chicken, refrigerate until 30 minutes before cooking
- Wash and soak rice
- Make the Potli
- Slice onions
- Cook time: Start the chicken first, boil the rice water and cook rice whenever convenient for you.