The name 'Andhra' itself projects a 3D picture of spices and chillies, making foodies with a spicy tongue drool! Andhra cuisine is the most hottest among Indian cuisine that contains an array of exotic aromatic and pungent spices, lots of chillies and tang that makes the dishes mouth watering yummy. I am a fan of Andhra food, especially the Hyderabadi/Andhra Dum Biryani and the Chicken Roast Andhra Style. Legend has it, that able chefs serving the Nizams of Hyderabad developed this cuisine mixing Turkish, Arabic and Mughalai delights with Telangana and Marathwada spices, and the the Reddys mastered this cuisine over a period.
Till the mid Seventies, Andhra style biryani in Bangalore was made mostly in Military Hotels like Naidu's in Balepet. Then Hotel RR opened in Gandhinagar, being the first of its kind serving Andhra meals on plantain leaf, a variety of chicken and mutton specialties catering to the floating population around Majestic area, especially those who came from nearby towns for trading or watching a movie at the Santosh, Nartaki or Sapna theaters. I first tasted their biryani in 1980. Then came 'Annapoorna in Gandhinagar 6th cross where I found the biryani even better. RR spread their wings and opened RR Brigades, while Annapoorna opened their branch 'Annapoorna Galaxy' near Galaxy Theater on Residency Road. Then entered Nagarjuna, Amaravathi and Navayug. Today Bengaluru is flooded with Andhra style restaurants and fast food joints serving authentic Andhra Style Dum Biryani.
Mangaloreans had their own favourite hangout for Andhra food in the Eighties, when RR opened Plantain Leaf restaurant in the basement of Hotel Hilltop on Court Hill under franchise. That didn't last long, as the Mangalorean crowd either was too conservative about Andhra food or the management failed to sustain due to their own reasons. Now I heard Andhra House in Bejai is still open almost after 5 years of its existence, though I am not happy with the stuff they serve. It is not authentic Andhra style food as per my experience. There is a restaurant in City Center Food Court that makes Andhra Biryani and that is very spicy and somewhat better than Andhra House biryani.
So, now you all know that I am an Andhra Food buff! Any guy who can withstand the craving for relishing authentic Andhra Biryani for many years with patience can very well become a recluse, or try and find a way out himself how to make the biryani at home. Being born with a sensitive tongue that yearns for delicious goodies, I obviously decided to go with the second option and started browsing through google search for authentic Andhra style biryani recipes. I saw many recipes but each one lacked something or the other. I also found youtube videos of restaurants preparing Andhra style biryani and that helped me understand the scientific approach towards 'Kachcha Dum' style of making biryani. Chef Sanjay Thumma of Vahchef also demonstrates how to make Hyderabadi Biryani following dum style but the ingredients he uses are mostly hinted for the Westerners. We in India especially in the South like out biryani spicy, hot and perfectly done. So I followed the recipe by Vahchef, altered the ingredients and method much, followed the restaurant style cooking as per couple of youtube videos and arrived at my own recipe, that is a superhit at its very first edition!
I had promised two families that I would make something special for them at the weekend. We also had plans to give biryani to couple of close friends. Since the number of pax expected to relish the biryani reached almost 14, we decided to cook Chicken biryani with 2 or more KGs of meat. Now, the first step in dum cooking was finding proper vessel for that. A thick bottomed aluminum haandi(pot) is used by the Hyderabadis for making biryani. Restaurant chefs also use 'Biryani Thopu', a bigger vessel that holds huge quantity of rice and meat. I had purchased a vessel that's sufficient to make biryani with almost 5KG meat, at a shop on Market Road here some years ago, but never used it. I had also bought a matching lid for that thopu, so that the lid can be sealed properly during dum. I decided to use that for dum. Then there was a bigger question. Which griddle or skillet can we use for keeping under such a wide vessel! Then I found a large aluminum griddle that Meena had bought for making dosas. The biryani thopu fitted properly on that. You can see in the pictures how to set the vessel for dum. Making biryani requires big gas burners like in restaurants but with some idea, you can also use the home gas stove to make it as perfectly as in restaurants. I have succeeded with added patience that my parents have gifted me by inherent genes! If you also have some patience and keen observation, you can also make wonderful Andhra style biryani at home.
Next, let me narrate some scientific explanation about dum cooking. Dum cooking ensures uniform cooking of meat and rice under controlled steam pressure that builds up in the vessel placed on slow fire with the extra thick plate underneath the vessel acting as thermostat. Meat doesn't get charred, nor does it get shattered into tiny bits, rice grains swell up slowly and remain firm, at the same time soft and light. To get the right results, keep the rice cooking for just 5 minutes in boiling water 4-5 times the volume of rice and then fish it out with a mesh ladle and layer it over the semi-cooked meat. Rice is cooked in salty water with added oil just like we do in the case of noodles to retain the rice grains intact. Bay leaves are added to water as per my idea to give a good aroma to the rice and is trasferred along with the half cooked rice and spread over the meat. As you fish out cooked rice from the boiling water after 5 mins till you complete it, rice will cook almost in a range of 50% to 75 %. The first layer of 50% cooked rice touches the meat and oil underneath, while the 70% cooked rice is layered above that. This will result in perfectly uniform 100% cooked grains of rice. All the aromas of the added spices get sealed in the biryani during the dum process. Dum is opened just before serving the meal and biryani remains hot for hours without any need for re-heating!
As long as spices are concerned, Vahchef explains the same thing I had in my mind. Many restaurants avoid adding whole spices to biryani, as whole spices that you may suddenly bite, can be annoying while enjoying the meal. Besides, if you powder the spices, it needs just 1/3 the quantity as against the whole spices you may add to the dish, cutting down the cost considerably! Vahchef recommends the spices to be coarsely powdered without roasting them but I prefer roasting them a bit, as they turn crispy and get powdered easily in this coastal humid weather of Mangalore. There's nothing like hand pounded spices but since it is time consuming and laborious, I did that in the dry griding jar on my mixer.
Oil and ghee are used in equal volumes in making this biryani. Chicken is cooked with oil, while ghee is drizzled on the rice while laying for dum. The combination simply tastes heavenly. I prefer refined sunflower oil. Volume of oil and ghee can be between 40 and 50Ml each per Kilo of Chicken.
Choosing the right rice is also strategic. I used Jeera(Jeerak Samba) or short grain aromatic rice that's best suited for Andhra style Biryani. Traditional Andhra Biryani contained Nellore short grain rice in the olden days but now universally they use basmati rice, since basmati is available in abundance, is also cost effective and yields more volume of cooked rice. However, basmati grains break easily while jeera grains are firm and masalas are well coated and aromas are well infused in the rice grains during dum cooking.
Chicken should be cut into large pieces, at the most 10 pieces per kilo of chicken meat. Avoid adding neck piece, liver, gizzard and other waste parts, as biryani better be made with only fleshy pieces with bone intact. While serving the biryani, scoop out a piece of meat along with the masala and the spiced rice sticking to it on, to the plate, top it with the upper layer of rice and a lemon wedge. As side dishes, you can serve Hyderabadi Mirchi Ka Salan or Kachumabr Raita and one or two dry dishes like Chicken '65, Andhra Chilli Chicken or Andhra Roast Chicken. Andhra biryani can be best relished on a plantain leaf.
I have given the recipe for 1KG chicken or mutton meat. You may multiply the ingredients according to your requirements if you want to prepare and store the masala powder. Add lesser quantity of masala powder and reduce up to 50% if you feel the aroma is too strong. My spice level is much higher than many! Make this biryani following the step by step method carefully but confidently, and you will never fail. Dine like the Nizams of Hyderabad. Treat your guests royally. Marinating chicken for 10-12 hours makes the meat soft and it melts in your mouth, says Vahchef and I vouch for each word, each superlative he uses in his video, shown at the end of the recipe.
1. Broiler Chicken without skin - 1KG fleshy meat cut into 10 biryani size pieces
2. Salt - To taste(I used 1 1/4 Tsp per KG of chicken and 2-3 Tsp while cooking rice)
3. Red Chilli powder - 2 Teaspoon
4. Turmeric powder - 1/2 Teaspoon
5. Coriander powder - 1 Tsp
6. Cumin powder - 1/2 Tsp
7. Ginger-Garlic paste - 2 Tablespoon
8. Brown Onion - 2 big onions sliced thin and fried with oil till crisp and golden.(reserve a handful of brown onions for garnishing over rice)
9. Tomatoes - 4 big cut into wedges
10. Mint Leaves - A handful(4-5 sprigs) chopped
10. Mint Leaves - A handful(4-5 sprigs) chopped
11. Coriander Leaves - A handful(50Gms) chopped
12. Green Chillies - 6 diagonally cut
13. Lemon juice - 1 lemon
14. Refined vegetable oil - 50Ml+1 Tsp
15. Plain Yogurt - 20 Ml
16. Jeera(or Basmati) Rice - 500 Gms
17. Bay leaf - 2
18. Melted Ghee(Clarified butter) - 50Ml
19. Chapati batter a handful - For sealing the vessel lid for dum.
For the Biryani Masala Powder:
Bay leaf - 1
Cloves - 6
Cinnamon - 2" stick
Green cardamom - 3
Green cardamom - 3
Star Anise - 1
Mace - A pinch
Shahjeera - 1 Tsp
Fennel Seeds - 1 Tsp
Black Cardamom - 1/2
Black Peppercorns - 1 Tsp
Marata Moggu - 4
Kasoori Methi - 1 Tablespoon
Dry roast the masala ingredients till crispy. Coarsely powder in a mill and keep aside.
Marinate chicken with ingredients 2 through 13 along with biryani masala powder for 10-12 hours in the fridge, reserving one tsp of masala powder for sprinkling on the rice during dum.
Wash rice thoroughly and soak with 1 liter water for 10-15 minutes, drain and keep aside.
Heat the biryani dum vessel on the stove, add oil.
Once the oil heats up, drop the marinated chicken pieces along with the marinade in the vessel.
Add plain yogurt, mix and check for salt.
Allow to fry for 2-3 mins and then flip all the chicken pieces over.
Heat the griddle on high flame and transfer the dum vessel on it.
Side by side boil 3 liters or more of water in another vessel.
Add 2 Tsp salt, 1 Tsp of oil and 2 bay leaves to the boiling water.
Add the washed soaked rice and allow to cook for about 5 mins.
By this time, the rice will have cooked 50%.
Fish out as much as the cooked rice as you can along with the bay leaves, drain out the excess water and layer the rice over the chicken pieces in the vessel.
Last remaining rice will be 70% cooked and this can be laid on the surface of the previous layer of rice.
Sprinkle remaining biryani masala powder and handful of brown onions over the rice, drizzle ghee and saffron all over.
Line the inside groove of the cover lid with an even strip of chapati batter, close the lid on the vessel and press firmly all around to seal the lid.
Place a heavy weight or a vessel over the lid.
When the contents of the vessel starts to sizzle(feel the tremours on the vessel with built in dum or steam), simmer the flame and allow to cook for another 15-20 mins.
By this time the chicken as well as the rice will cook perfectly.
Switch off the flame and leave the vessel sealed.
Just before serving, open the lid, scoop out some masala drenched rice and a piece of chicken from the bottom of the vessel on to a half dinner plate, top with plain biryani rice, place a lemon wedge over it and serve with side dishes like Raita, Hyderabadi Mirchi Ka Salan and any dry Andhra style dish.
That way a sumptuous dinner can be served just like in any good Andhra style restaurant!
Vahchef Sanjay Thumma explains how to make Restaurant Style Chicken Biryani