Chicken Biriyani Kannada Style

Running a series of non-vegetarian Kannadiga recipes has always been on my to- do list but some how it has not materialized. So going one recipe at a time rather than a series is perhaps more doable. Karnataka has a long history with vegetarianism. Jainism was very popular a few thousand years ago. Chandragupta Maurya is supposed to have died of Upavasa Sallekhana Vrata i.e fast unto death in Karnataka. Very small towns in Karnataka has Jain Basadis- temple. Jainism obviously meant vegetarianism. Subsequent Hari-dasa tradition, Veerashaiva movement all promoted vegetarian way of life. So Karnataka used to have a large population of vegetarians. But we do have non vegetarians and a repertoire of recipes. I am not really familiar with the non-vegetarian cuisines of say coastal, north or Malnad Karnataka. My familiarity ends with the plains- the Bayaluseeme.

In the Bayaluseeme area, I have noticed two distinct styles of non vegetarian cuisine one Muslim and the other Hindu style. By calling it the Hindu style I am referring to the cuisine of "Hindu Military" restaurants (I am yet to eat in one!!) and the classic Gowda style dishes like Saaru, Chops, Sukka.
After my sojourn to Lucknow I realize that the Sunni Muslims from our region did learn a lot from their cousins in Lucknow.  Think of chats in Karnataka, we have peas, they have peas too.. No Eid is complete without Muzzafar back home. Well no prizes for guessing! Muzzafar is a classic Awadhi dish. So does their Biriyanis. Muslim cooks do it the Dum - Lucknow style albeit using a lot less number of spices, much more heat and lot less rich than their Awadhi cousins. Food has always traveled well and will keep traveling.

Kannada style Biriyani draw a lot from Lucknowi Pulaos. But it is also way simpler than the rich,fragrant, refined and delicate Awadhi Biriyani just like the Kannadiga herself, very simple. The Biriyanis I tasted in Lucknow( all chicken, no meat for me yet) in the famous Tunde Kababi, Wahid Biriyani and a bunch of other not so famous but still delicious Biriyanis opened my eye to the amazing world of Biriyanis. It is indeed an art to cook Chicken and rice together and infuse the goodness into each morsel. How exquisite the Biriyani was. So much of flavor in each bite. I find the Hydrabadi style rich,royal but also spicy. I love that too, just that I have never been to Hyderabad so reserving my comments to a later day. Biriyanis in other cuisines, sorry I don't consider them good enough for kind words here. Kannada style is simple, unpretentious and very satisfying.
This is my Mother's recipe. She is a pure vegetarian and has never tasted her own Biriyani which have gotten rave reviews everywhere and every time she has made them. I sometimes find it strange that she should be able make the perfect Biriyani without ever having tasted it. But then she tells me that it is like making a Prasada, you just do not have to eat it to know it.

Like a true blue Kannadiga she makes sure to throw in handfuls of Methi leaves, so much so that one of her guests in Tamil Nadu, a doctor who was very fond of her biriyani used to call it herbal Biriyani. So here is Amma's herbal chicken Biriyani. Yes it is off white in color... again keeping with the simplicity of Kannadigas.

We will need,

Rice 3 cups preferable Basmati (rice cups)
Oil about 1/3 cup (enough to cover the bottom of the biriyani pot by 1/4")
Cardamon 2
Bay leaf 2
Star Anise 1 Chicken  1lb cubed, washed and patted dry
Onion 1/2 sliced
Garlic 1 whole head
Green Chillies 18
Ginger 2.5inches

Fenugreek greens 1 bunch, trimmed cleaned and stalks discarded
Coriander a fistful washed and chopped
Mint a scant fistfull washed and chopped
Cloves 6
Cinnamon 1"
Lemon juice and Salt to taste

  • Wash rice in several changes of water and soak it in clean water.
  • Heat oil in a Handi. Throw in the Cardamon, bay leaf and star anise. Once they are fragrant, throw in the chicken. Brown it carefully all over.
  • Throw in the onions, a generous pinch of salt and saute for a few more minutes. 
  • Combine the chillies, garlic and ginger in a food processor and pulse it into a paste.
  • Throw the paste into the chicken. Stir well. Saute till the spices smell fragrant.
  • Throw in the Fenugreek, Coriander and Mint. Saute for a few more minutes till the chicken is almost cooked.
  • Add about 6 rice cups of water to the chicken. Adjust salt, lemon juice. The water should be a tad bit more on the saltier side, the addition of rice brings down the level of salt later.
  • Cover and bring the water to a gentle boil. 
  • Drain the rice well and throw it into the Handi. Stir gently and cover. Cook for about 20-30minutes on medium heat. Turn off the heat and keep it covered for another 15 minutes or so.  
  • Serve warm.


Emily said...

HI Smitha! The biriyani looks very nice, I'm sure the methi gives it a great aroma. My Hubby is from Hyderabad so biriyani is a staple, and while it is definitely spicy it's very flavorful not just hot. While in Hyderabad we ate a lot of it and it has spoiled me; but I did come back with an arsenal of recipe ideas which I'll be posting soon. :)

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