Kerala Mappila style Chicken Biryani/ Malabar chicken Dum Biryani

Kerala has always endured as a largely independent and multicultural society for centuries. Talking about food in Kerala it is always the traditional Onam meal, the sadya, that comes to our mind. The Sadya is feasted on a large banana leaf with 26 vegetarian servings of avial, pacchadi, thoran, sambar, papad and pickles. If it’s not the vegetarian sadya, then it’s the famous Parotta and Beef fry on everybody’s mind. Very few people know of the rich Northern Kerala cuisine that is the Mappila cuisine or the Malabar Muslim Cuisine. The Britishers started calling it the Mopila cuisine if we try to refer the old books on regional cuisines of Kerala.

The Arabs were world famous traders of spices, who reached the Malabar region for spices, mingled in with the locals adapting with the new cooking technique using a lot of ghee in place of coconut oil and limited use of spices that brought in a new cuisine known as the Mappila cuisine. It was also slightly influenced by the Portuguese cuisine and also requires a skill set to follow certain recipes.

It has not caught the attention of many because of the closed matriarchal society; every recipe is followed within the home of the local Muslim community. It is one of the oldest cuisines but now evolving widely because of a lot of home vloggers on YouTube, have started vlogging about their daily home cooked meals giving an insight to the underrated Mappila cuisines. It is this cuisine that I have not tried my hands on. I love the pathiri (rice rotis) and chicken curries, the wide variety of pathiris or snacks served in the restaurants, fried or steamed; to top it all my favourite is the lovely Mappila biryani. All these I would devour only when I m in Kerala but the recipe of the Malabar Dum chicken biryani, which has a kachchi style biryani technique, caught my attention that I couldn’t wait to try. Initially I was taken aback because I thought the cooking of raw meat and rice may not work until I saw this video. I chose to give it a try and to my surprise it was an excellent biryani without much hard work and authentic in its own way. 

When making Kerala biryani it was only the Thalassery style biryani that I used to make, cooking the rice and chicken separately, then layering them and giving a Dum (sealed and cooked on a slow fire) garnished with some nuts and raisins as a finishing note to the biryani. The Malabar style biryani that I m sharing is a well marinated raw meat with half cooked rice together in a pot sealed and slow cooked allowing the flavours of the marinade to mix with the rice, perfectly cooking the rice and meat together. It just brings in the light flavours of spices to the perfectly cooked rice and meat garnished with some fried onions and nuts.

There are 5 major things you need to follow before you start preparing this Biryani.

  1. Garam masala or the Spice mix should be prepared at home with good quality picked spices.
  2. Always use a blend of ghee and refined oil together.
  3. Use good quality vessels with thick bottom perfect to go onto your stove.
  4. Choose old aged short grained rice like the kaima or jeerakshala rice.
  5. Fry onions for garnish in ghee just till golden crisp and sprinkle little garam masala onto the crisp fried onions.
Fried Onions

The recipe might seem elaborate but if you carefully follow all the steps you can be an expert in no time. I have prepared this biryani several times thus making it worthy enough to share it onto my page. Please do not skip the quantity of the ingredients or methods and read the recipe well before you head onto the preparation.

Ingredients:-

  1. Onions – medium sized 3 nos sliced
  2. Ginger and garlic– 2 tablespoon chopped.
  3. Tomatoes– 2 nos sliced
  4. Green chilies– few (as per your choice)
  5. Coriander, Mint and curry leaves (together) – a handful.
  6. Curd – half cup
  7. Turmeric – half tablespoon
  8. Pepper powder – half table spoon
  9. Garam masala powder– one tablespoon
  10. Garam masala whole- two tablespoons/few (cloves, cinnamon, mace, pepper and cardamom)
  11. Salt to taste
  12. Lemon juice One tablespoon
  13. Vinegar – one teaspoon.
  14. Rice –2 cups
  15. Chicken – 500gms
  16. Onion– 1 nos thinly sliced (for frying).
  17. Ghee and Oil-to fry
  18. Cashews  and raisins – few
  19. Yellow food color (optional)
  20. Cardamom essence-half teaspoon (optional).

Method:-

  • Wash and clean the chicken. Wash the rice well, drain and keep it aside. Crush ginger garlic and chilies together and keep aside. Chop coriander, mint and curry leaves together.
  • Take a big mixing bowl and add sliced onions, tomatoes, ginger garlic, green chilies, coriander, mint and curry leaves with curd. (Ingredients 1 to 6)
  • Now add all the spice powders turmeric, pepper and garam masala along with vinegar and lemon juice. (Ingredients 6 to 9)
  • Mix well till everything is well combined. Add chicken and salt to taste; keep aside for marination for at least an hour.
  • Take one onion, slice it thinly; fry it till crisp and golden brown. Fry cashews and raisins too and keep aside. Sprinkle little garam masala on it while it’s still warm. Reserve little of the oil and ghee mix to pour over the rice.
  • Take a vessel or a pan to cook rice. Pour in a tablespoon of oil and add all the whole spices to it. Allow to sizzle then quickly add rice and light fry with the whole spices. Add salt and 3 cups of water and boil. Once boiled lower the flame, close the pan with lid and let the rice cook till all the water evaporates. The rice will be half done now.
  • Take the marinated Chicken mix in a Handi or a big pot. Pat the mix well and level it. Add the half cooked rice on top and level it. Pour in the ghee and oil mix. Put drops of yellow food colour and cardamom essence onto the rice. And finally top with the fried onions and cashews raisins.
  • Pat, press and level it well; and seal it tightly with a lid. Cook on a high flame for 10 minutes and then reduce the flame to the lowest and allow it to cook for30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, cut off the flame and allow it to rest for ten minutes. Then slowly remove the sealed lid, mix the rice and chicken slowly to serve. Serve hot with raita and pappadoms.
Mise-en-place for marination
Marinated chicken levelled in Handi
Rice and chicken levelled and layered
Final note of the garnish before the DUM

Read on before you start cooking.

  1. Use a heavy bottom Handi or a Biryani or Rice pot to make this biryani. It should also have a good lid so the pot could be sealed. You can cover the top of the pot with aluminium foil or use flour dough to seal the lid onto the pot. This helps in trapping all the steam necessary to cook the chicken and rice.
  2. Use your hands to mix the marinade as it will help extract flavours and juices from the onions and tomatoes as well. It will create extra water content for the biryani to cook and be more flavorful.
  3. Do not add in any extra water or any liquid to the chicken and rice as the water content from the chicken and marinade along with the steam created in it is enough for the rice and chicken to cook perfectly.
  4. You can create your own garam masala by lightly toasting all the spices and grounding them into a powder. Use all the spice quantity in equal ratio.
  5. You can double the quantity of rice and chicken for this recipe. If cooking with 1 kg chicken double all the ingredients.
  6. You can also use an open pan method to cook the rice by draining off the water but always make sure you only cook it half done. I usually cook the rice with closed pan method as it helps me to control the rice from overcooking. For every 2 cups of rice I use only 3 cups instead of 4 cups of water.
  7. Use only aged rice. I have tried making this biryani with short grain bullet rice and kolam steam rice as well.  Quick cooking basmati rice does not go well with this recipe.
  8. You can also layer the rice with coriander and mint leaves in between. I have not layered it as the marinade had enough of the coriander and mint leaves added to it.
  9. Always press and pat well to level the rice and chicken as it should be packed well before cooking. You can use your hands or use a flat silicon spatula. If you have a very big pot and the rice- chicken is only half the quantity in the pot then you can place in an oven proof ceramic or porcelain plate to cover it in the pot; then seal with the lid as usual. The idea is, this will not create more steam by increasing the temperature in the pot by over cooking the rice and making it soggy.
  10. Food colour can be replaced with good quality saffron strands. Lightly crush the saffron strands and pour in a tablespoon of warm milk or water to sprinkle onto the rice. Cardamom essence gives a nice aroma to the biryani but if you prefer can skip it.
  11. The time mentioned to cook is enough for any quantity but the resting time could be increased by fifteen minutes or more.
  12. Once you open the seal, you might see the top of the rice little firm or not cooked enough. Do not panic thinking its uncooked, its actually cooked and the rice at the bottom are also cooked well. Once it is mixed you can see each grain of rice cooked perfectly.

Following all these steps will help you cook a very good Dum biryani with more flavors and less effort. I hope you all will find this recipe interesting and will help you cook that perfect Dum biryani with more ease.

After Dum …when the seal is opened

3 thoughts on “Kerala Mappila style Chicken Biryani/ Malabar chicken Dum Biryani

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