If there is half a soft, near-mushy potato in your biryani, it means you’re eating biryani in Kolkata. And if you’re lucky enough to find yourself to the better biryani joints in Kolkata, you’re probably a little bit closer to food heaven! There are very few foods and dishes which can come close in popularity to a good Chicken Biryani. If you ever come to Kolkata, you’ll see that biryani is more than just a dish. It’s a passion and almost a way of life! Even the most disgruntled Kolkatan (of which there are plenty) would stop frowning and break into a smile upon hearing the ‘b’ word! Either he’d expect to be treated or be doing the treating. Yes, Kolkata Chicken Biryani is powerful enough to make a financially conservative middle-class Kolkatan, delve into his wallet and shell out a decent amount of money for his beloved Kolkata Style Biryani!
There are so many biryani recipes available today. Most of them do not make sense. A biryani is so much more than a Chicken gravy being layered on top of a bed of boiled rice with a few fried pieces of potatoes thrown in here and there. No No NO! Biryani is not a complicated dish to make but it is a clever dish to make with the right amount of spices being introduced at the right time in this dish. You’ll know exactly what I mean by the right time as I guide you through the making of this recipe.
The experience of eating biryani happens before the actual eating. It is the captivating aromas which can activate a hunger within the eater which can only be felt and not explained. When the dish is served, it is the sight of the long grained rice cooked to perfection and the short-lived search for the piece of melting potato which further excites the eater. Then it’s the first spoonful of biryani which completes the most exquisite experience man and food can ever share!
I’ve tried to make biryani for years and I’ve always been unsuccessful. I met and spoken to so many cooks about this dish, the ones who make huge quantities of biryani for weddings, but I guess I’ve either got the recipe all wrong or they’ve deliberately misled me to keep their recipe a secret and safe only with them. But one should never undermine the power of one’s tongue! I trusted the feedback from the taste buds on my tongue gave me and cooked the best Kolkata Style Chicken Biryani I’ve ever made. I simply followed all my culinary instincts and tried to remember all the wonderful flavors I had tasted and enjoyed for so many years.
Before I teach you how to make Kolkata Style Chicken Biryani, here are some important tips which you will need to keep in mind before attempting this royal recipe!
- Use the best quality ingredients. This is a royal recipe so give it that respect! Use only the best. Scale down on the quantities to control costs but do not scrounge on quality!
- Use meat which has some fat on it. The restaurants swear by using meat which has at least 20% fat on it. We home cooks are way healthier but we should use meat with at least 10% fat on it. Lean meat makes lean biryani! Who’s ever heard of lean biryani? Lean biryani is not biryani. Bleh!
- Use Desi Ghee. If you feel like using Olive Oil or any other kind of oil to show how healthy you can make this dish just don’t! Desi Ghee is equally healthy if not more than all the oils available today and if you’re scared of the calories, run it off!
- Do not use artificial colors in cooking. If you are one of the lucky few who can get their hands on natural vegetable colors then go for it. If not then stick to turmeric and chili powder!
That been said, let’s crack on with the recipe!
- Chicken - 500 Grams Medium Sized Pieces
- Basmati Rice - 350 Grams
- Large Chandramukhi Potatoes - 4 Large, Peeled and Parboiled
- Desi Ghee - ¾th Cup
- Ingredients needed for Preparing the Chicken -
- Hung Curd - ½ Cup
- Black Cardamom - 1
- Green Cardamom - 8
- Mace - ½ a Mace Flower
- Nutmeg - ¼th Teaspoon
- Cloves - 10
- Black Peppercorn - 10 to 12
- Caraway Seeds (Shah Jeera) - ¼th Teaspoon
- Saunf (Fennel Seeds) - 1 Tablespoon
- Turmeric Powder - ¼th Teaspoon Dissolved in Water
- Kashmiri Chilli Powder - ½ Teaspoon Dissolved in Water
- Ginger and Garlic Juice - 3 Tablespoons
- Chicken Stock - ½ Cup
- Salt - To Taste
- Ingredients Needed for Boiling the Rice -
- Cinnamon Sticks - 3 to 4 Two Inch Long Pieces
- Green Cardamom - 6 Whole
- Cassia Leaves (Tez Patta) - 5 to 6 Long Leaves
- Salt - To Taste
- Ingredients for Assembling the Biryani -
- Milk - ½ Cup
- Saffron - 1 Pinch
- Kewra Water - 1 Tablespoon
- Meetha Attar - 3 Drops
- Instructions on how to prepare the Chicken -
- Dry roast all the Whole Spices till aromatic. Do not brown them.
- Wait till the spices cool down and then blend them till fine in a food blender or mixie.
- Mix and Curd and the Freshly Powdered Spices into the Chicken Pieces and marinate in the fridge overnight.
- Take the marinated Chicken out of the fridge the next day and allow it to come to room temperature before cooking it.
- Heat up ½ of the Ghee in a large cooking pot and add the Chicken. Add Salt and stir.
- Add a bit of extra salt and not the exact quantity. The salt taste will balance out once the entire dish is assembled together and cooked.
- Add the Turmeric and Chilli Powder and stir well.
- Cover and let it cook for 15 minutes on low flame.
- Meanwhile, finely slice the Onion and fry it till golden brown in some oil.
- After 15 minutes, add the golden brown fried onions and the Ginger and Garlic Juice. Stir well.
- Cover and cook for 5 to 6 minutes more. Do not dry up the gravy as that will be needed later.
- It is important that the Chicken in 75% or 80% cooked. The Chicken pieces will cook completely when the biryani is assembled and cooked.
- Separate the Chicken Pieces from the Gravy.
- Instructions on how to Cook the Potatoes -
- Wash Potatoes and boil in Pressure Cooker for 4 Whistles on high-heat.
- After that, remove the potatoes from the Pressure Cooker and soak in cool water to stop cooking process.
- Next peel and cut the Potatoes in half and add them to the Chicken gravy.
- Simmer the Potatoes on low heat in the gravy for 10 minutes. Carefully turn the pieces of Potato over to ensure even cooking.
- Instructions on how to Boil the Rice -
- Wash rice and then soak it in water for ½ an hour.
- In a large cooking pot, bring enough water to a rolling boil. The water should be enough to allow the rice to boil freely.
- Add the Cassia Leaves, Green Cardamom and Cinnamon.
- Once the water has come to a rolling boil, add the rice.
- The rice has to be boiled till it's 75 to 80% cooked. This is very important for a successful biryani.
- Once the Rice has been cooked to 75 or 80% strain out all the water and set aside.
- Discard the Cassia Leaves but do not discard the whole Cardamom and Cinnamon.
- Instructions for layering and cooking biryani -
- In a large cooking pot with a thick base, add a thin layer of Ghee.
- Add some of the Chicken gravy.
- Next, add a layer of Rice. The next layer should be of the Chicken Pieces and Potatoes.
- Spoon some gravy over this layer and complete the layering process by adding the rest of the Rice over the layer of meat and potatoes.
- Add all the remaining gravy over the last layer of rice. If any pieces of potatoes are left then place them on top.
- Carefully add 3 Drops of Meetha Attar and drizzle the Tablespoon of Kewra Water all over the top of the rice.
- Last but not the least, soak the Saffron strands in the ½ Cup of Warm Milk and drizzle over the top.
- Cover with lid and place something heavy on top of the lid to avoid steam from escaping.
- Do not place this cooking pot on the flame directly but on an inverted thick tava.
- Cook on medium-high heat for 10 minutes and on low heat for 10 more minutes. Then turn the heat off and let biryani stand for 10 minutes before opening.
- Your Biryani is now ready! Enjoy plain!
- Garnish with golden brown onions if you want to. But why wait? Serve and dig in!
It really important that all the elements are cooked just 75 to 80% before they are all cooked together when the Biryani is assembled. This way, the meat, potatoes, and rice all come out perfectly done and none of them are too mushy or over cooked.
Go easy on the Kewra Water. It’s there for a subtle fragrance and not to perfume your dish to high heaven! Same goes for the Meetha Attar. It is the correct balance of these two blockbuster stars which can take your chicken biryani to the next level and beyond.
The intensity of the spices differs from place to place. So know your spices well and then go about increasing or decreasing the quantity of spices given in this recipe.
One more useful pointer – Add a pinch of salt over each layer when assembling the biryani. The salt level in the gravy and meat is never enough to flavor up all the rice and potatoes. Also, add 1/2 Teaspoon of Ghee between the layers. This will allow the rice to cook further evenly and make the biryani just a bit more rich.
Other than the spices, I have mentioned in this recipe, no other spices are used. If you use any other spice in biryani, you will not have a biryani but rather end up with a curry and rice! What you see here is biryani and not curry and rice!
So if you want your biryani to turn up like this please do follow the steps I have mentioned and do not use any other spice and do not over-spice this dish!
Do make this recipe and please do let me know how it turns out for you! Drop me a comment and I’ll be so glad to get back to you as soon as I can!