Pakistani Biryani Recipes for a Traditional Taste

When it comes to food in Pakistan, biryani is one of the most famous dishes. We look at a few different variations which will provide a traditional taste.

The different spice sets also help to create the layers of flavour

Pakistani biryani is a popular dish in the country and it is usually flavoured rice combined with a blend of seasoned meat, vegetables and traditional spices.

Eastern and Western connoisseurs alike enjoy the dish as it is vastly layered with flavours.

Biryani is derived from the Persian word Birian, meaning “fried before cooking” and Birinj, the Persian word for rice.

Many believe that the dish originated in Persia and was brought to India by the Mughals. It has since become a popular dish all over South Asia.

In the early days, the rice was fried before it was cooked with the other ingredients, giving it a nutty flavour preventing it from sticking to each other.

The basic biryani recipe includes spices, nuts, dried fruits, vegetables, basmati rice and meat of any type.

As time has gone on, modifications have been made to the recipe depending on the region.

DESIblitz presents some delicious variations which are popular in Pakistan.

Chicken Biryani

Pakistani Biryani Recipes for a Traditional Taste - chicken

Chicken biryani is seen as one of the most classic recipes as the level of flavour remains strong throughout the meat and rice.

This recipe uses two sets of spices which are added at different times during the cooking process which gives it more complex flavours.

The different spice sets also help to create the layers of flavour which develop in every mouthful.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg boneless chicken thighs, chopped
  • 1 kg basmati rice, washed
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 4 Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste

Spice Ingredients 1

  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Cardamom
  • 2 Cloves
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tbsp turmeric powder

Spice Ingredients 2

  • 2-3 Bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • A pinch of nutmeg

For the Garnish

  • 1 Medium onion, sliced and fried
  • 3 Green chillies, cut lengthways
  • A bunch of mint leaves
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • A few drops of yellow/orange food colouring (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pot then add the chicken and cook until browned. Add the onions, tomatoes and ginger-garlic paste and cook until everything has fully cooked and is fragrant.
  2. Add the first set of ingredients, stir and leave to simmer until the chicken is tender. Pour in half a cup of water if needed.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan boil the rice in some water and add the second set of ingredients.
  4. Cook until the rice has partially cooked then strain the excess water.
  5. In another pot, layer half of rice then pour in the chicken mixture. Spoon on the remaining rice and add the garnishes.
  6. Cover and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

Mutton Biryani

Pakistani Biryani Recipes for a Traditional Taste - mutton

Although chicken biryani is considered a classic, the mutton variant is a much more hearty meal.

It is a luxurious dish filled with mouthfuls of flavour. From the soft rice to the meat, it is just layers of exquisite taste.

This particular recipe includes chopped nuts for added texture. It is a dish which promises to be a crowd-pleaser.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg mutton, chopped into small pieces (preferably on the bone)
  • 2 Onions, finely sliced
  • 4 Tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 kg rice, washed and soaked

Spice Ingredients 1

  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Cardamom
  • 2 Cloves,
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tbsp turmeric powder.

Spice Ingredients 2

  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 Star anise

For the Garnish

  • 1 Onion, thinly sliced and fried until crispy
  • 3 Green chillies
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • A few drops of orange food colouring (optional)
  • Cashew nuts (optional)
  • Almonds (optional)

Method

  1. In a pan, heat the oil then add the mutton and cook until it has browned. Add the onions, tomatoes and ginger-garlic paste, stir and cook until everything has cooked through.
  2. Add the first set of spices as well as one cup of water and cook until meat has fully cooked and is tender.
  3. In a separate saucepan boil the rice and add in the second set of spices. Half cook the rice then remove from the heat and drain any excess water.
  4. Place half of the rice into a deep pot then spread the mutton. Add the remaining rice and garnish.
  5. Place the pot onto a low heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Egg Biryani

Pakistani Biryani Recipes for a Traditional Taste - egg

A delicious vegetarian alternative which is highly enjoyed in Pakistan uses egg.

Even though there is no meat, the inclusion of egg makes it just as filling and just as flavoursome as the spices are absorbed into the eggs.

The eggs add their own unique taste to such a famous South Asian dish.

Ingredients

  • 6 Boiled eggs, peeled and halved
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 Large onions, chopped
  • 4 Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • ½ cup yoghurt
  • 1 kg rice, washed

Spice Ingredients 1

  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Cardamon
  • 2 Cloves
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tbsp turmeric powder

Spice Ingredients 2

  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • A pinch of nutmeg

For the Garnish

  • 1 Onion, finely sliced and fried
  • 2 Green chillies, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • A few drops of yellow/orange food colouring

Method

  1. In a pan, heat the oil and add the onions, tomatoes and ginger-garlic paste. When the ingredients have softened and are fragrant, use the back of a spoon to mash them.
  2. Pour in the yoghurt and add spice set 1. When the ingredients have fully combined, reduce the heat and bring to a simmer.
  3. In a separate saucepan, boil the rice in water then add the second set of spices. Partially cook the rice before draining out any excess water.
  4. Assemble the biryani by layering half the rice at the bottom of a deep pot. Spread over the yoghurt mixture and some of the eggs.
  5. Spoon on the remaining rice. Top with the rest of the eggs and garnishes. Place on medium heat for 20 minutes.

Fish Biryani

Pakistani Biryani Recipes for a Traditional Taste - fish

While there are various biryani dishes to try out, fish biryani is unlike any other.

The fish has a far softer texture than any other meat and it fully immerses itself within the layers of rice.

This is also one of the more versatile recipes as it gives you the freedom to use fish that you like.

Ingredients

  • 1½ kg fish (use what fish you like), chopped into medium-sized pieces
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 4 Tomatoes, chopped
  • 3-inch piece ginger
  • 2 Green chillies, chopped
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 kg rice, washed

Marination for the Fish

  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp carom seeds
  • 2 tbsp garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Spices

  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 chicken stock cubes

Method

  1. Marinate fish and set aside for at least three hours, ideally overnight. When ready to use, fry on medium heat until cooked through and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, fry one onion and place the remaining onion, tomatoes, ginger and green chillies into a blender and blend into a paste.
  3. Add the paste to the deep frying pan and mix well. Add the spices and cook for around three minutes.
  4. In a saucepan, bring the rice to a boil then pour into the frying pan. Cook on medium heat until all the water has evaporated.
  5. Gently add the fish, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Daal Biryani

Pakistani Biryani Recipes for a Traditional Taste - daal

This may be one of the more obscure biryani dishes but it still packs the same intense flavours as the traditional variants.

This recipe has minced mutton but the star ingredient is the lentils as their mellow flavour balances out the intense spices so that it does not become too overpowering.

While the recipe calls for whole masoor lentils, you can replace it with other lentils if you prefer.

Ingredients

  • 250g whole masoor lentils, soaked
  • 250g mutton mince
  • 1 kg rice, soaked
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 4 Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 Potatoes, cut into fours

Spice Ingredients 1

  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cardamom, 2 cloves
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tbsp turmeric powder

Spice Ingredients 2

  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • A pinch of nutmeg

For the Garnish

  • 1 Onion, finely sliced and fried
  • 2 Green chillies, halved lengthways
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Cashew nuts

Method

  1. In a saucepan, partially cook the soaked rice along with the second set of spices before draining the excess water and setting aside.
  2. In another saucepan, boil the potatoes until tender then drain the water and set aside.
  3. Heat some oil in a pan then add the mince and quickly fry. Add the onions, tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste and cooked potatoes.
  4. Add the first set of spices and mix well. Allow the mixture to fully cook before reducing the heat. Add half a cup of water if required.
  5. In a separate pot, boil the lentils until slightly soft then drain. Fry with salt and garlic then set aside.
  6. Assemble the biryani by layering half of the rice then adding the cooked mince. Evenly spread the lentils before spooning on the rest of the rice.
  7. Top with the garnishes then place on a low heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Vegetable Biryani

Pakistani Biryani Recipes for a Traditional Taste - veg

A vegetable biryani is known for its variety of textures that are present.

The choice of vegetables will make a difference in the type of texture that you want to achieve.

They also soak up the intense spices used, however, close attention needs to be paid to this recipe as the vegetables need to be soft but also have a slight bite to it.

Eyes away from cooking could lead to mushy vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 2 Large carrots, cut into 1-inch slices
  • 500g peas
  • 2 Potatoes, cut into fours
  • 2 Bell peppers, chopped (optional)
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 4 Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 kg rice, soaked

Spice Ingredients 1

  • 2 Cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Cardamon
  • 2 Cloves
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tbsp turmeric powder.

Spice Ingredients 2

  • 2-3 Bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Cinnamon stick

For the Garnish

  • 1 Onion, sliced and fried until golden
  • 3 Green chillies, halved
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Method

  1. Heat oil in a pan and add the vegetables. Stir-fry then add the first set of spices. Cook until the vegetables are tender.
  2. Partially boil the rice in a separate saucepan along with the second set of spices. Once done, drain the excess water.
  3. Layer a deep pot with half of the rice then pour in the vegetable mixture. Top with the second layer of rice and finish with the garnishes.
  4. Allow it to simmer for 20 minutes.

With just a few adjustments in terms of spices, this classic savoury dish is modified to individual taste.

Due to its assorted flavours, biryani is recognised as one of the main dishes within South Asian cuisine and in countries like India and Pakistan, it is still a luxurious dish during festivities.

These are just a few variations from the plethora of biryani recipes.

More than 50 types of recipes are known in the subcontinent and abroad. At least 15 are well known in Pakistan.

Cooking Biryani is an art. Not only does it demand a perfect ratio of spices and ingredients. It also attracts food lovers with its physical appearance and decadent taste.

Z. F. Hassan is an independent writer. He enjoys reading and writing on history, philosophy, art, and technology. His motto is “Live your life or someone else will live it”.


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