Thalassery Prawns Biriyani

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Thalassery prawns biriyani is my second recipe under the Thalassery biriyani category. You can read about Thalassery chicken biriyani here. Most of what is mentioned in the earlier blog holds good here too; the preparation style, the taste, the richness, the aroma :-). The only thing that is changed here is the method used in making the dum, I have used dough here instead of an aluminum foil that we used in the earlier recipe.

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)

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  • Prawns - 1/2
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Red Chilli powder - 1 tsp
  • Salt - 1 tsp
  • Lemon juice - 1/2 tsp
  • Ginger paste - 1 tsp
  • Garlic paste - 1 tsp
  • Biriyani masala or whole Garam masala - 1 pinch

For preparing the items for garnishing

  • Oil - 50 mlDSC_0325 (Medium)
  • Cashew nuts - 1/4 cup
  • Raisins - 1/4 cup
  • Onion - 2 cup, sliced fine lengthwise
  • Salt - 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander leaves - 1/2 cup, finely chopped
  • Mint leaves - 1/2 cups, finely chopped
  • Saffron - few strands, soaked in  tbsp of milk
  • Ghee - 2 tsp
  • Biriyani masala or whole Garam masala - 2 pinch

For making the masala

  • Ginger - 2 tbsp, crushed
  • Garlic - 2 tbsp
  • Green chillis - 4, chopped
  • Onion - 2 cups, sliced lengthwise
  • Tomato - 1 cup, chopped
  • Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Biriyani masala or whole garam masala - 1 tsp
  • Coriander leaves - 1/4 cup
  • Mint leaves - 1/2 cup
  • Lemon juice - 1 tsp
  • Curd - 1/4 cup
  • Salt - to taste

For preparing of ghee rice

  • Cardamom seeds - 6 nos
  • Cloves - 6-8 nos
  • Bay leaves - 2 nos
  • Cinnamon - 2 nos, about 2 inch in length
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Onion - 1 cup, sliced lengthwise
  • Rice - 2 cups
  • Salt - to taste
  • Ghee - 1/4 cup


Marinating the prawns

Use a medium sized bowl, add the prawns, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, lemon juice, biriyani masala (or whole garam masala), ginger paste, garlic paste and salt. Mix everything thoroughly and leave it aside for at least 30 minutes.

You can refer to oats prawn to get help on cleaning the prawns. Additionally for this preparation, the shell and head of the prawn need to be completely removed.

Preparing the items for garnishingDSC_0135 (Medium)

Heat a pan on medium flame with 50 ml of oil in it. When the oil is hot, add cashew nuts; roast well till they turn golden brown in color. Remove them from the pan and keep aside. Now add the raisins, roast well till they start to pop. Remove them from the pan and keep aside. Add the finely sliced onions along with a pinch of salt. Saute the onions well till they turn golden brown. Remove the onions from the pan and keep aside.

Preparing the prawns masala

We need to continue using the same pan for preparing the prawns. With the pan still on medium flame, add the marinated prawns to the oil. Fry the prawns for about 3 minutes. Turn the prawns and allow the other side to get cooked, may be for another 2 minutes. When well cooked, remove the prawns from the pan and keep aside.DSC_0322 (Medium)

Next step is to prepare the masala. We might need to add another 2 tbsp of oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, add crushed ginger, garlic and chopped green chilli. Saute well. Add the sliced onions along with salt. Saute the onions till they start to become soft. Now add the chopped tomatoes. Saute well till the tomatoes turn to a mashed state. Once the tomatoes are in a mashed state, add pepper powder, red chilli powder and biriyani powder (or whole garam masala). Stir the contents for sometime so that everything is nicely mixed. Next add the coriander leaves and mint leaves. Continue to stir the contents to get everything thoroughly mixed. Add lemon juice and curd. Continue to stir and saute the contents till we get a thick paste. Our masala for the biriyani is now ready.

With the heat still on medium flame, add the prawns that we fried earlier to the masala. Mix well so that the prawns are fully covered by the masala. Turn off the flame. Cover the pan using a lid and keep it aside.

Preparing the rice

Take a medium sized bowl with water and soak the rice for about an hour. DSC_0136 (Medium)Drain all the water and keep the rice aside. Next heat a pan on low flame, and add ghee to it. When the ghee is hot enough, add cardamom seeds, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon and cumin seeds. Roast everything well for about 30-45 seconds till you get a nice rich aroma of the spices. Now add the finely sliced onions. Saute well till the onions turn golden brown. 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 separated and has a nice glossy coating of  ghee.
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 4 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.

Making the Dum (Sealed slow cooking)

Dum essentially involves cooking on very low flame with the contents nicely sealed. DSC_0329 (Medium)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. For this recipe I have used a dough.

Take the pan with the prawns and the masala that we prepared earlier. Take half of the sauteed onion from the step Preparing the items for garnishing and spread it uniformly on the prawns paste. Mix them well. Next divide the cooked rice into 3 equal halves. Spread 1/3 of the rice uniformly above the prawns paste. Sprinkle a bit of sauteed onions, cashew nuts, raisins, 1/2 tsp of the soaked saffron, few coriander leaves and few mint leaves on top of the rice. Repeat the process twice with the remaining 2/3 portions of rice to get the second and third layers. Finally sprinkle 2 tbsp of ghee along with a  pinches of biriyani masala (or whole garam masala).DSC_0332 (Medium)

Now for securing the pan for dum. Mold the kneaded wheat flour dough into a thick rope, press it around the rim of the pan and quickly press down with the lid to seal the pan. Make sure there is gap between the pan and the lid.

Heat a flat pan on low heat, and place the pan with the rice on top of it. Allow the contents to get cooked in this indirect heat for about 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Keep the pan closed for about 10 minutes and then open up the lid. DSC_0334 (Medium)You might need a knife to cut open the dough as it would've got hardened now. Transfer the rice to another vessel without disturbing the prawns and the masala at the bottom. Use a spatula to mix the rice well so the rice gets nicely mixed with the garnishing items. Yummy Thalassery prawns biriyani is now ready. For every serving of the biriyani, add proportionate amount of prawns masala. You could additionally garnish it with some raisins, sauteed onions and cashew nuts. Serve it hot with salad, pickle and coconut chutney. Enjoy your biriyani 🙂

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