Thalassery Dum Biriyani

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Thalassery Biriyani originating from the city of Thalassery has an incredibly rich mix of many exotic spices, giving it an unforgettable taste. This form of biriyani is very popular in the northern part of Kerala, especially on special occasions like weddings. We also belong to this same district, and needless to say I have had this dish numerous times, but am never tired of having it again! If you are a foodie, this is one recipe you cannot afford to miss :-).
Unlike the norm, this form of biriyani does not use Basmati rice.  Thalassery biriyani uses a unique, fragrant, small-grained, thin rice variety named Kaima or Jeerakasala, which is also called biriyani rice in Kerala. You can read more about this dish here. Since I could not get hold  of this variety of rice, I have used the regular basmati rice for today's recipe.

Ingredients (serves 3)

For preparing the rice

  • Basmati Rice (or preferably Kaima/Jeerakasala) - 3 cupsDSC_0126 (Medium)
  • Onion - 2, sliced fine
  • Bay leaves - 1
  • Cinnamon - 1
  • cloves - 3
  • Ghee - 3 tbsp
  • Cashew nuts - 2 tbsp
  • Raisins -  2 tbsp
  • Cardamom - 2

For chicken marination

  • Chicken - 250 gms (5 big pieces)DSC_0130 (Medium)
  • Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
  • Chilli powder - 1 tsp
  • Curd - 1 tsp
  • Oil - 1 tsp
  • Pepper - 1 tsp
  • Salt - 1 tsp

For Chicken preparation

  • Marinated chicken - 5 pieces
  • Onion - 3 medium sized, chopped
  • Tomato - 2 medium sized, chopped
  • Ginger paste - 1 tbsp
  • Garlic paste - 1 tbsp
  • Green chilli - 3, crushed
  • Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
  • Coriander powder - 1 tsp
  • Pepper powder - 1 tsp
  • Biriyani masala or whole garam masala - 1 tbsp
  • Mint leaves - few
  • Coriander leaves - few
  • Oil -  2 tbsp
  • Salt - to taste

For garnishing

  • Fried onions - use the onions mentioned under preparing the rice
  • Carrot - 3 tbsp, grated
  • Mint leaves - few
  • Coriander leaves - few
  • Fried cashew and raisins - use that is mentioned under preparing the rice
  • Saffron -  pinches, soaked in milk


Rice preparation

Take a medium sized bowl with water and soak the rice for about an hour. Drain all the water and keep the rice aside.DSC_0135 (Medium) Next heat a pan on low flame, and add ghee to it. Once the ghee is hot, add the finely sliced onions. Saute well till the onions turn golden brown. Take out the sauteed onions from the pan and keep it aside for later use. Next add the cashew nuts and stir well till they turn light golden in color.Take them out of the pan and keep aside for later use. Now add the raisins to the hot ghee, stir them gently till they start to pop. Remove them from the pan and keep aside for later use.

With the pan still on low flame, add cloves, bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon to it. Continuously stir the contents for about 30-45 seconds till you get a nice rich aroma of the spices. Now add the rice. Mix everything well. Continuously stir fry the rice on low flame for about 5 minutes or till every grain of rice has a nice glossy coating of  ghee. Turn off the heat.DSC_0136 (Medium)

Next the rice has to be cooked. In case you prefer using a rice cooker, transfer the rice into the cooker pot. Add water to the pot such that the level of rice is about 2 centimeters below water. Place the pot in the cooker, cover the lid and turn it on and wait till the rice gets cooked. In case you are not using a rice cooker, transfer the rice to a pan, add 6 cups (double the number of cups of rice). Bring to a boil. Stir once. Reduce heat to minimum and cover the pan with a lid. Leave a little gap, else water will boil over. Rice will be done when holes appear on the surface and water has been completely absorbed.

Chicken marination

Take the chicken pieces in a bowl. Add turmeric powder, chilli powder, curd, oil, pepper powder, salt to it. Mix the contents well so that the chicken pieces are uniformly covered with the spices. Cover the bowl and leave it aside for about an hour.

Chicken preparation

Heat a big sized pan (enough to take the chicken pieces and the rice) on medium flame, add oil to it. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced onions. Stir well. Add a bit of salt and saute the onions well till they turn transparent. DSC_0141 (Medium)Next add turmeric powder, ginger paste and garlic paste. Give a nice good stir. Now add green chillis, tomatoes. Allow the contents to cook for about 5 minutes on medium flame. When the tomatoes are cooked, add coriander powder and mix well. Now add the chicken pieces along with pepper powder. Give a thorough mix and close the lid and allow the contents to get cooked for about 5 minutes. Now open the lid, add salt to taste. Add biriyani masala powder (or whole garam masala powder). Add 1/2 cup of water, mix everything well and close the lid. Allow the contents to get cooked for about 20 minutes. Open the lid, add mint and coriander leaves. Turn off the heat.

Making the Dum (Sealed slow cooking)

Dum essentially involves cooking on very low flame with the contents nicely sealed. And it also involves multiple layers. There are many options to seal the contents tight. You could use a foil to cover the rim, use a thick clean kitchen cloth or make a dough and stick to the rim of the pan. I have used an aluminum foil along with a paste made of all purpose flour.

Take half of the cooked rice and place it evenly on the chicken prepared in the earlier step. Sprinkle half of fried onions, grated carrot, raisins, cashew nuts, mint leaves, coriander leaves and saffron on to the rice. This makes the first layer. Next add the rest of the rice evenly on top. Using a spoon, give a gentle press to rice. Add the rest of the fried onions, grated carrot, raisins, cashew nuts, mint leaves, coriander leaves and saffron on to the rice.

DSC_0145 (Medium)DSC_0147 (Medium)

DSC_0149 (Medium)DSC_0153 (Medium)Place the aluminum foil on the rim of the pan. Apply the flour paste evenly on the foil around the rim of the pan. Quickly press down with a lid to seal. Ensure there is no gap between the pan and the lid. Now heat a flat pan on medium flame and place the sealed pan on the flat pan. Cook the contents on this indirect heat for about 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat.

DSC_0155 (Medium)Allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Open the lid and remove the dough. In its traditional form of serving, the chicken and rice is not mixed. Instead the rice is either moved to one side of the pan or transferred to another vessel. And for every serving of the biriyani, proportionate amount of chicken masala is added. Serve it hot with salad, pickle and coconut chutney. Enjoy your biriyani 🙂DSC_0186 (Large)

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