02 March 2013

Kerala Fish Biryani

Biryani's are my favorite when it comes to weekend cooking. And there is a long list of to-be tried biryani's. I made Mussels Biryani one weekend but it got over soon and nothing was left for me to photograph. I don't like my people waiting for me to finish my photography to eat. :) But I will surely post it. I have tweaked the recipe to suit our palette. Everyone enjoyed it at home. The only change I would like to make next time I make it, is to remove the fish bones fully and make smaller pieces so that we don't have to worry about biting into them while eating. 

Recipe for masala adapted from here

For marination and frying:
King Fish  / Ayakkora - 1 kg sliced
Kashmiri Chilly Powder / Piriyan Mulaku Podi - 1 tsp
Turmeric Powder/ Manjal Podi - 1/2 tsp
Biryani Masala - 1 tsp* See notes 1
Salt - 1 tsp
Lemon Juice - of 1 large lime
Oil - 1/4 cup for shallow frying

For the ghee rice:
Short grain rice / Jeera Rice / Neychottari - 4 cups
Ghee - 1/4 cup
Water - 8 1/4 cup
Cloves/ Grambu - 3
Cinnamon/ Patta - 1" three pieces
Cardamom/ Elakka - 2
Mace/ Jatipathri - 2
Fennel Seeds/ Perumjeerakam  - 1 tbsp
Star Anise/ Thakkolam- 1
Nutmeg /Jathikka - 1/4 piece

For Masala:
Onion - 3
Tomato - 2
Coriander Powder - 2 tsp
Biryani Masala - 1 tsp
Pepper Powder - 1/4 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/4 tsp
Yoghurt - 1/2 cup
Fish Fried Oil - 1 tbsp
Bay Leaves - 2
Oil - 3 tbsp
Salt - as required

To be ground to a fine paste:
Mix 1:
Onions - 3
Ginger - 2 (2'' pieces)
Garlic - 10 cloves
Green Chilly - 5
Coriander Leaves - 1/2 cup (tightly packed)
Mint Leaves - 1/4 cup (tightly packed)

Mix 2:
Cashew - 4
Fennel Seeds - 2 tsp
Khus- Khus - 1 1/4 tbsp
Water - 1/4 cup

Onion - 1 cup thinly sliced
Cashew - 1/2 cup
Kismis - 1/2 cup
Coriander Leaves - 1/2cup tightly packed
Pudina Leaves - 1/2 cup tightly packed
Garam Masala - 1 tsp

Ghee -  1 tbsp to coat the biryani vessel
Oil - for deep frying onions
Rose water - 20 ml


Step 1: Marination

Cut the fish into medium size slices. Wash and drain out all water.
Marinate the fish for 1/2 hour. * See notes 2

Step 2: Preparation of Ghee Rice:
Wash and strain the rice.
Measure 8 1/4 cup water in a pan and boil it along with the spices - Cloves, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Mace, Cumin Seeds, Star Anise and Nutmeg. Add  salt.
In the meantime, in a  non stick pan heat the ghee.
Fry the cashews on low flame till they turn golden brown. Switch off the flame. Add in the kismis. Stir and fry till they bloat up. Transfer them to a plate lined with kitchen roll.
Switch on the flame. In the same ghee fry the rice for 5 minutes. Keep stirring.
Strain and pour in the boiling water into the rice. Stir once slowly. * See notes 3
Check salt and close tightly. Lower flame to medium low. The rice will be done in 10-15 minutes. You will see craters formed on top. 
Switch off the flame. Fluff up the rice after 2-3 minutes.

Step 3: Frying the fish
Heat oil in a flat large pan. 
Fry the fish on medium high flame till it is slightly golden browned. It should get fried fully.
Fry on both sides. Transfer it to a plate lined with kitchen roll.* See notes 4

Step 4: Preparing the masala:
Transfer the khus-khus into a small sieve. Hold it under running water to wash it. Soak it.* See notes 5
Chop the onions into thin slices. Ginger and garlic  into small pieces
Heat oil along with the fish fried oil in a medium size pressure cooker. Tip in the onions. Fry them till they turn translucent. 
Make a fine paste of mix 1 ingredients.
Add it to the onions in the cooker. Saute till the raw smell is gone.
Make small pieces of 2 slices of the fried fish. Add it to the onion mixture.
Meanwhile grind the mix 2 - cashew, fennel seeds and khus -khus into a fine paste by adding very little water. After it is ground to a fine paste add the remaining water pulse again. Add it to the masala in the cooker. 
Add the bay leaves.
Pour in the yogurt. Check salt. Let cook on slow flame for 5 minutes.
When the masala is thick, add the fried fish slowly coating each fish with the masala.
Cook on low flame for 5 minutes. Switch off.

Step 5:Preparing the garnish and Layering
Heat oil in a small kadai /wok.
When the oil is hot fry the onions.* See notes 6
Transfer it to a colander. 
Chop the mint leaves and coriander leaves fine.
Use the same pan used to make rice. Grease the base with little ghee.
Switch on the flame to low.
Put a layer of the fish masala at the bottom.
Now a layer of ghee rice. 
Sprinkle garam masala, cashew, raisins, coriander leaves, mint leaves and fried onions.
Continue to layer in the same way sprinkling rose water in each layer over the ghee rice.
Once done close the pan with tight fitting lid and place a heavy object or an inverted mortar on it.
Let it cook for 15 minutes on very low flame. Remove lid and check if you can see steam coming up from the top layer. Switch off the flame.
Start serving from one side of the pan.
Serve it with mint chutney, raitha, pickle and pappad.

1. I used Nirapara Biryani Masala. You can use any brand available in Indian Stores.
2. If you are marinating the fish longer keep it in the refrigerator.
3. I like to cook the water for the ghee rice with the spices and then remove them before adding to the rice. I prefer not to bite into these spices while having the biryani. You can avoid the straining if you prefer to see the spices in the biryani.
4. Make sure you do not over fry the fish as it will not absorb the masala later.
5. You have to wash the khus- khus thoroughly as there will be impurities in it.
6. For frying onions make sure you slice it very thin. I slice it in my Philips Food Processor (HL 1659) which makes it so easy to slice it real thin and evenly, all in seconds. Stir once you see the tips of the onions start to turn golden. You have to be on the watch as it will get burnt easily. Once it turns golden remove and transfer to a colander.
7. This is a little spicy biryani. Please adjust the spice level as per tolerance level.


  1. Wow wat a flavorful,super delicious and drool-worthy briyani.

  2. Yummy Biryani.

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  3. one of my favs... now im craving some badly!

  4. omg very tempting dish its inviting me to grab the plate...

  5. Briyanis are my favourite that too with sea food, am drooling here..Just had my dinner eventhough your clicks makes me hungry again.

  6. Delicious and flavorful Biryani.. Looks fabulous..

  7. I have never tried fish biryani!! Looks delicious!!


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