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Hyderabadi Biryani

Hyderabadi Biryani is a popular variety of Biryani. The Hyderabadi Biryani is so named as it is seen mainly in the city of Hyderabad, India. The blending of mughlai and andhra cuisines in the kitchen of the Nizam (leader of the historical Hyberabad state), resulted in a dish called the Hyderabad Biryani. It, like other biryanis, is made using Basmati rice which is only found on the Indian subcontinent. The spices and other ingredients remain the same, however the method of preparation involves more time.

There are 2 styles of preparing this variety. The Katchi Biryani is prepared with the Kacci Akhni method (with raw gravy). The raw meat is marinated in curd and cooked only by the dum, or the baking process, which is done with rice. This is a challenging process as it requires meticulously measured time and heat to avoid overcooking or undercooking the meat. In Pakki Biryani, where the meat is cooked with all the accompanying spices and then the rice is simmered with the resultant gravy redolent of mace, ittar and kewra in a sealed vessel with saffron and cardamom. It is accompanied by side dishes like Mirchi ka Salan, Dhanshak and Baghare Baingan.

It is usually accompanied with Dahi ki Chutney, Raita (a yogurt dish) or Mirch ka Salan.

The meat used in the preparation is usually mutton, beef - popularly called Kalyani Biryani - or, less frequently, chicken.

There is also a vegetarian version of the Hyderabadi Biryani in which the place of the meat is taken by a mixture of vegetables such as carrots, peas, cauliflower and potato. The vegetarian version is called 'tarkari' biryani.

The Hyderabadi Biryani version of the mixed Vegetable Biryani is the "Tahiri".

History of the Hyderabadi Biryani

Biryani is believed to have been brought to India by Taimur Lang, or Timur, the lame. The classic biryani originated in the mughal courts after they refined the dish with cooking influences from the Persian courts. The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (1618 - 1707) brought the dish to Hyderabad when he invaded the South and installed his representatives as governors of the southern provinces. One of these governors later became the Nizams of Hyderabad.

Preparation styles

Preparation styles can be broadly classified into two types, Kacchi Yakhni and Pakki Yakhni, based on the major difference in the method of preparation:

In Kacchi Yakhni (with raw gravy), the meat, marinade and rice are layered raw and cooked only by the 'dum', or baking process. This is a challenging process as it requires meticulously measured time and heat to avoid overcooking or undercooking the meat.

In Pakki Yakhni (with cooked gravy), the ingredients are already cooked before baking. One of the recipes goes as follows:



1 kg chicken preferably in 16 pieces and a couple of drumsticks

1 kg Basmati rice

1 cup finely chopped onions

2 tsp ginger and garlic paste

3 tsp chilli powder

½ tsp turmeric

100 g cashew nuts

4 or 5 bay leaves

4 or 5 cloves

2 cm long cinnamon sticks

6 to 10 green chillis ground to paste

3 or 4 cardamom pods

1 or 2 tsp cumin

2 cups mint leaves

1 cup coriander leaves(cilantro)

2 tsp coriander powder

½ tsp garam masala powder

1 cup coconut milk

1 lemon

1 ½ tsp salt (according to taste)

1 cup ghee (clarified butter)

½ cup yogurt

1 cup oil

2 tsp dried coconut powder

few strands of saffron

2 cups finely sliced onions


Make deep incisions on the chicken flesh - deep enough for spices to get absorbed but making them too deep could render the pieces smaller. Mix turmeric, chilli powder, salt, garlic paste, yogurt and half-lemon's juice. Thoroughly apply this paste onto the meat flesh and let marinate for an hour.

Heat about 100 ml of oil. Roast cumin, cloves, cinnamon, depoded cardamom, bay leaves, ½ spoon cumin, 1 spoon coriander powder and finally add onions(2). Wait a couple of minutes to add mint leaves. When onions turn slight brown, add marinated chicken and cook for about 20-30 min. It should NOT be fully cooked at this stage; add garam masala and coconut powder and turn off flame when about ¾ cooked. Gravy should not be much, chicken pieces should look roasted.

Meanwhile, while the chicken is still cooking, prepare the biryani rice. Slightly rinse 3 cups of basmati and add water little less than the volume of the rice itself so that its only half cooked preferably in an electric cooker. Amount of water actually depends on kind of rice at hand and your experience helps to judge it. Also add 1-2 teaspoons of salt to it. Take a few semi-cooked grains of rice and colour them with diluted saffron for garnishing.

You will need a utensil of about 12" (300 mm) base. Place about half of semi-cooked rice in it. Next, layer half of chicken on it again topped by a layer of rice (half of the remaining). One more layer of remaining chicken, finally with layer of rest of the rice on top ends the rice-chicken layering stage.

Heat oil and deep fry half the sliced onions to golden brown. Similarly fry cashew. Garnish the top layer with these two along with 100 ml ghee, coconut milk, saffron rice grains and coriander. Lid the vessel and try making it airtight (but no pressure should build up). Put on high flame for 5 min before reducing it to low flame. The flame should NOT be at the vessel's centre, but on one side of it. Wait for 2-3 min and turn the vessel to heat other next part on its circumference. This way, keep rotating the vessel every 2-3 min for about 20 min. Every time you turn it, carefully disturb the contents by a shake/jerk so as to avoid settling of ghee at the bottom.

Put off the flame and wait for about 10 min before opening. Before serving, mix the medley from the bottom. Serve with boiled egg halves. Enjoy. Rightly and carefully made, its an epicure's paradise.