Thalassery (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalassery) is a place in the Malabar Coast of Kerala. The place is famous for so many things. I have never been a fan of a non-vegetarian course until I met my soul mate. He is a hardcore non-vegetarian. Neither of us is from the place which I am referring to, yet we have got so many thick friends from this place. All of us united by food, discussions on food become the ultimate. And no discussions go without mentioning the Biriyani. The one and only Thalassery Biriyani. Biriyani is thought to be an invention of the Persians. When Mughals came to India, they brought the concept to India. But our Thalassery Biriyani is something different. It has a soul of its own. It is divine, it is serene and it is heavenly.
The rice used to make this biriyani is a special one. A gourmet variety of short-grained rice, which is grown in Wayanad, which gives the aroma of the Biriyani. This Biriyani has touched the culture of the people and is an intimate element in a days chore.
The process is not complicated, but the right ingredients and the right spell, is what it takes to get a complete Biriyani experience.
Lets zoom into the experience. Before getting into these intricacies, let me thank the anonymous creator of this biriyani ages before. Let me thank the numerous recipes available in the net. I have not followed any one recipe, but then have gathered information and has calibrated to the taste which me and my peers love.
The ingredients and the method
For the Garnish
Onion – 4 big, very thinly sliced
Cashew nut – 100 gms
Raisins – 50 gms
Birista or Bista as locally called, is nothing but the fried crispy onions which is an integral part of the Garnish for this Biriyani. Deep fry the sliced onions in oil, till it is crispy and keep it aside. Make sure while frying, that the onions are not crowded, this is very important to get crispy “bista”. So fry the onions in portions as per the vessel you use. Fry the cashew and raisins as well and keep it aside.
For the Garam Masala
Cloves – 10
Cinnamon – 2 inch, 2 pieces
Cardamom – 6
Fennel seeds – 1 Tbsp
Cummin -1/2 Tsp
Shajeera – 1/2 Tsp
Pepper corns -1 Tbsp
Nutmeg – 1/2
Mace –1/2 Tsp
(The nutmeg is the oval-shaped pit, which is the fruit, and mace is the bright red webbing that surrounds the shell of the pit. )
Star-anise- 1 petal
Cuscus – 1/2 Tsp
Dried red chillies – 2
Slightly roast the above ingredients without oil. Cool it to room temperature and powder it to a fine texture. Keep it aside
For the Chicken
Chicken – 1kg ( I used chicken thighs) (Alternatively can use Mutton- but the cooking time needs to be adjusted)
Onions – 3 Big, thinly sliced
Indian Garlic – 1/2 cup
Indian Ginger –1/4 cup
Green chillies – 10 to 20 depending on the hotness required.
Coriander leaves – a handful (Freshly chopped)
Mint – a handful (Freshly chopped)
Tomatoes – 2 Big, ripe
Yogurt – 1/4 cup
Indian lime – 1/2
Coconut milk – 2 Tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 Tsp
Salt to taste
Crush the Garlic, ginger and green chillies in a mortar and keep aside. Saute the onion in 4 tbsp of oil , which you used to fry the bista. Add the crushed ingredients into the translucent onions and saute again. Add the chicken into this , add 2 Tbsp of the Garam masala which we had ground, above and the turmeric and in high flame roast it for 1 to 2 minutes. Make sure the the chicken is not brown.
Add tomato and saute again. Add salt. Add the chopped leaves , Yogurt and lime and cook the chicken, covered for 10 minutes in low flame. Stir this occasionally. Once the chicken is tender, remove the chicken pieces from the gravy. Continue to simmer the gravy to a thick consistency. Add the coconut milk and stir. Add the chicken pieces back. Switch of the flame. Keeping some portions of the bista to garnish, Crush the balance bista and add it to the chicken and mix thoroughly. Keep it aside. Let it cool.
For the Rice
Cardamom – 6
Cinnamon – 2 inch, 1
Fennel seeds – 1 Tsp
Bay leaf – 1
Pepper Corns -1/2 Tsp
Rice (Kaima/ Jeerakashala) – 1 kg (4 Cups)
Water – 6 1/2 cups
Salt to taste
Ghee -4 Tbsp
Wash the rice and drain and keep it aside. Saute the spices above in ghee and add the water and boil it for 2 to 3 minutes. Add salt. Remove the remnants of the spices in the water to make it clear. This will avoid biting the spices when you will be serenely enjoying a mouthful of Biriyani.
Put the rice in the above boiling water and bring it to a boil again. Close it with a lid and keep it in low flame. Keep stirring in between once or twice till the water completely evaporates. This should take around 5 minutes but depends. Loosen the cooked rice with a fork and keep it aside to cool.
Its time to dress up the bride.
Dum means pressure. When making Dum for biriyani , the lid is sealed to the pot by using dough or aluminium foil. This causes the pressure inside the pot to rise due to increase in temperature. This is quite different from pressure cooking, since in pressure cooking the pressure created is huge compared to what we get from a dum.
Pineapple essence – 1 Tsp
Rose water – ¼ Cup
Turmeric – ½ Tsp
Coriander leaves – Finely chopped
Take a big pot with a thick base. Lightly Grease the Pot with Ghee. Layer the prepared Chicken at the base. Sprinkle coriander leaves, layer 3/4th of the rice. Sprinkle little Garam masala and coriander leaves, few drops of Ghee. To this drizzle a mixture of Pineapple essence, Rose water and turmeric (Few drops only) and few bista. Put the remaining rice. Again sprinkle some coriander leaves, ghee and bista.
Cover the pot with aluminum foil or dough. (I used aluminum foil). Close the lid. Make sure that no air goes out. Either keep this inside a pre-heated oven (160 degrees) and bake it for 20 minutes or keep the pot on a tawa or pan in the lowest flame for 15 minutes.
After the above, keep it aside for cooling.
Don’t miss the first smell when we open the dum. After opening the dum, take out the rice and keep it in a casserole. In a serving plate , put some chicken with masala and cover it with rice. Garnish it with bista, fried raisins and cashew nuts, coriander leaves. Can add a boiled egg as well.
As an accompaniment can have raita (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raita) ( yogurt with tomato, green chillies and onion) and Papadam( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papadum).
Dig in a handful, put in a mouthful and close your eyes. Feel the taste buds being tickled by each and every morsel of the rice. The succulent chicken inside your mouth, Scoop the raita and slurp it in, with a bite of the crispy papadam. Heavenly!