9 Tips to elevate your chicken biryani to the next level
After cooking biryani rice for some year for my customers, I have learned and discovered the important points to take note while preparing it. Please read the note below before attempting the recipe. I hope all this tips and observation I have gone through so far will help you to produce the best biryani.
1. The choice of meat (if you do not want chicken biryani)
You can use either chicken, mutton or beef. Cut the meat into large chunks with bone-on. The bone adds flavor to the rice while cooking, and it can make the rice to be much tastier compared to by using boneless meat.
2. Marinate the chicken overnight for best result
The ingredients of the marinade differ slightly from different region and countries. However, there is similarity among all the versions. They all contain yogurt, either lime or lemon juice and a range of ground spices.
Marinate the meat for at least half a day, preferably overnight if time is allowable. Since the meat pieces are thicker than fillets, therefore the spices required more time to penetrate into the center. Long marinating time is necessary because a good chicken biryani should have meat that is flavorful for every bite, not just on the surface.
3. Use fresh spices that are aromatic
You should use ground spices for better marinating effect. Nowadays, many grocery shops provide ready-made ground spices. If you only manage to get the spices in a whole piece, ground it with a spice herb grinder before using it.
The aroma and spices lost over time. Buy the amount that you need or the smallest amount that is available. Always store the spices in the cold and dry place, away from light.
3. Plain yogurt is the best
Use plain yogurt (common sense). Most of us have yogurt with fruit flavor in the refrigerator, but they will affect the taste of chicken biryani.
4. Ghee is better than butter (for authenticity)
Gheeis purified butter, which is the preferred oil for biryani and other Indian dishes. You can use unsalted butter as the substitution if you do not want to buy a large can of ghee, which you may not use it in future.
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5. Do not oversight the importance of fried onion
Fried onion is an essential ingredient to prepare biryani. Slice the onion paper thin, and separate them by using your hand. Deep fried the onion slice in vegetable oil over low to medium heat. Stir the onions occasionally to ensure even browning, until it turns golden brown. Drain away the excess oil.
You will notice the aroma of fried onion is entirely different from raw onion, which is what we need to cook chicken biryani.
6. Use coriander and mint leaves for the freshness
Coriander and mint leaves add freshness to the rice. You can either use the whole leaves or give a few rough chops. However, please do not substitute with other leaves as to preserve the authenticity. Use either one of them if the other one is not available.
7. Never compromised basmati rice with other substitutes
Basmati raise is the long grain rice suitable to prepare biryani. Since it is less sticky than other types of rice, every grain of rice is well defined and separated from each other. That is what it should be for a good biryani rice.
Medium and long grain rice is stickier and therefore will not produce the beautiful texture as basmati rice. The reason behind the selection of basmati rice is similar to use Arborio rice for risotto, in which it is explicitly for such purpose.
Cook the rice separately
You can shorten the time to cook the rice by soaking the basmati rice in water for 45 minutes before boiling it. After that, put the soaked rice in a large pot of boiling water, with the amount of water at least three times the volume of the rice.
Add some salt to the water, much like cooking pasta. You can also add some cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaf into the water to add some flavor to the rice. I find that you can omit this step since the spices from the marinade the chicken will eventually absorb by the rice during cooking.
Stir the rice occasionally to avoid it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. You will notice that the rice grains slowly become larger and whiter, which indicates that the rice is cooking. You need to cook the rice until only half done, which takes about three minutes.
How to check if the rice is half-cooked
Remove a grain of rice from the boiling water and place it on a flat surface. The rice is half-cooked if you can break it into half by pressing it with your fingers. When this happens, remove the rice from heat and drain away the water. The half cooked rice is ready to cook together with marinated chicken.
You may wonder why is it necessary to half cook the rice. The rice is laid on top of the chicken in the pot and cooked over very low heat. That means the chicken will get the heat first from the stove earlier than the rice on top. Pre-cooked the rice for three minutes will solve this problem, in which the chicken and the rice will reach the desired doneness at the same time.
8. The right way to cook biryani rice
If you have seen the traditional method of making chicken biryani, you will be amazed that the chef uses the chapati dough to seal the edge of the cover. He will seal the edge of the lid with chapati dough (or any bread dough) to prevent steam from escaping from the pot.
What if you do not have any bread dough?
If you do not have the chapati or bread dough, seal up the edge of the lid with a piece of kitchen towel. The whole purpose is to let the steam inside the skillet to cook the chicken, which is the best way to keep the steam in the pot.
You need to use very low heat to cook the biryani. The yogurt at the bottom of the pot can burn fairly quickly over high heat.
Place the pot in a saucepan or tawa
The traditional method of cooking biryani is to put the pot on a tawa (a flat, dish-shape frying pan) or a saucepan. The heat from the stove will be further away from the pot and is partially insulated by the tawa. This method is useful if the is still too high even you have adjusted it to the minimum.
Let the steam to cook the rice and the meat. Cooking with steam in an enclosed utensil produce the best biryani rice.
Cook the chicken biryani over very low heat for about 40 minutes. You will start to smell the aroma of the biryani after about 20 minutes. Do not open the lid until the end.
After 40 minutes, switch off the stove and let it stands for another 10 minutes before serving.
9. Use saffron to improve the flavor and aroma
saffron is an expensive herb, which renders fragrance to the biryani. You can do without it if you do not have saffron.
You can add a few drops of coloring to the rice, but I prefer the natural color. You may I want to add a few drops of red coloring if you want since the base color of biriyani rice is bright yellow.
In 1/2 cup of warm milk crush a pinch of saffron strands and put some whole strands. Wait till it turns yellow. Pour onto the rice before cover the pot with the lid.
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