Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Biryani, pilav, plov, pulao, paella are all the siblings of one mother - rice cooked with vegetables, spices and optional meat. Biryani must being having Indian "father" - full of Indian spices, with veggies, meat and extra something, biryani is one-meal dish that will satisfy everyone.

Blog's Category: International


August's challenge on The Daring Kitchen is biryani. I heard of biryani before but never cooked it.
But.. when I started to cook, it was like deja vu moment - hah, I made it before many times... Indeed, I cooked it in a slightly different form as plov or as paella. That's interesting that each cuisine has its own authentic recipe of rice cooked with vegetables and/or meat. It may even be Italian risotto or Chinese fried rice! All these rice dishes are folk's favorites and really, it's one-meal dish, one-stop-shopping, never boring, conveniently cooked to last few days and leftovers of which are always welcomed. What a versatile meal!

Indian biryani has many variations but common for all of them is using mint, specific biryani spices, fried onion and saffron, besides of course rice. You will find numerous recipe all over the internet. Mine, below, is adjusted to my family taste. It does not include common biryani spices such as cinnamon and star anise.

I have made two large dishes of biryani - one with tofu and one with chicken. Both were barely enough for a two days for our family of four. Which one was better? It seems like the tofu one - our family's carnivores were seeing sneaking into tofu pot...which, no wonder, was emptied the first.

I like the visual appeal of biryani - its rice grains are bi-color, sometimes tri-color. They take on the tint of the nearest ingredient - yellow from saffron, orange from tomato or brown from fried onion. Along with a "natural" snow-white grains it creates beautiful melange rice effect.

What is it?

Biryani uses basmati rice which is drier that other rice when cooked. So biryani takes a lot of sauces and accompanying products. Precooked components, half-cooked rice, meat in a sauce, some vegetables, fried nuts and dry fruits, are assembled in layers into deep baking dish. It's seasoned with fresh mint, cilantro and soaked saffron threads. Dish, tightly covered, finished up in an oven.

Taste Description

It's a festival of powerful flavors - just review the ingredient list. Impossible to describe each of them - all together they will make you want to have biryani for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Be aware of a dangerous Night Biryani Urges... just kidding... but you will love it :)
Personally, I was not too kin of mint in here but surprisingly, mint flavor was not assertive, rather giving light undertones of freshness. Looks like, fried onion, is the most welcomed part of biryani - splurge on it!

How to Serve

We lo-ooved biryani the next day - flavors have developed even more!. But it's awesome right from an oven as well.

Tofu Biryani

  • 4 c basmati rice
  • 1 pack of firm tofu
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tomatoes, finely chopped (or processed)
  • 3 large onions
  • 3-5 chili peppers (optional)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cashew pieces
  • 1 cup golden raisin
  • 1/2 tsp saffron (optional)
  • 1 cup of milk or water (optional, to soak saffron)
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 1 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh cilantro chopped
  • about 1/2 cup olive oil or ghee

- Warm up cup of milk or water and add saffron. Leave it to soak.

- Rinse rice thoroughly. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Add cardamom, cloves and rice. Cook rice in a boiling water until it's almost done but still undercooked - it will take about 5 minutes. Drain rice and set aside.

- In a skillet with a one tablespoon of olive oil, cook cashews and raisins, stirring, until golden-tan. Set aside.

- Cut block of tofu into flat slices and pat them dry with a paper towel, pressing on them gently to absorb all excessive moisture. Less moisture means less hot oil strikes during frying your tofu on a skillet. Then cut tofu into not bigger than 1" cubes, pat dry again.
Fry tofu in olive oil, on a skillet, until crisp and golden. Break two eggs in a separate bowl, whip them and add to the skillet with a tofu, stir quickly to coat tofu pieces with eggs. Cook stirring for a minute or so. Turn heat off. Set aside.

- In a skillet with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, cook 1 chopped onion and whole chili peppers until onion just starts to get some tint. Add garlic, cook for a minute, stirring. Add chopped/crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar, bay leaves and cumin. Cook, stirring for about 10 minutes. Add yogurt and about 2 cups of water. Cook stirring for another 2 minutes. When done, set aside.

- On a skillet with a bit of olive oil, cook remaining 2 onions, sliced, until they turn golden-brown. Set aside.

- Now the fun part, assembly. Mentally divide rice into three parts and all other ingredients into two - there will be 3 layers of rice and two layers of other components. Layer ingredients in the following order:
             - On a bottom of deep oven-proof dish, put layer of rice. It's your choice if you want to remove spices (cardamom, cloves) from your rice. I did removed just cardamom leaving cloves in a rice;
            - fried onion here and there;
            - pieces of tofu;
            - some tomato sauce here and there;
            -.cashew and raisin;
            - fresh mint and cilantro;
Repeat layers one more time. Then make one final layer of rice and sprinkle rice with a saffron liquid.

- Cover tightly with a foil or oven-proof lid and pop it in a  preheated to 360F oven for about 40-60 minutes. When done, remove from oven, let it stay for 20 minutes or so. Uncover.. Enjoy!



I didn't have saffron, so I used dry safflower. It's not the same thing in regard of flavor but safflower gives the same nice yellow-orange tint I was after.

Pre-cooked rice is used often in Indian cuisine. To do it right, use a lot of water and cook rice exactly 5 minutes starting from a moment it gets into the boiling water. Then drain. After that it's often pan fried with spices, oil, veggies, etc. In the case of biryani, it will be oven cooked along with sauce and other ingredients.

I pre-cook tofu for biryani similarly how I do it for pad thai.

You have your right to doubt it but until they are not pierced or cut, whole green chili peppers do not give away any heat to a dish. I like it, because in this case anybody who wants some heat, can just bite onto the pepper and have a nice kick out of it.

Time for garlic to go in...

Indian groceries care bags of fried onion which is usually used for biryani. It looks really nice and crispy but I prefer to make not-crispy-at-all version it home. Though, some day, I may buy it - too good looking stuff there :)

Layer after layer.. like a painting..


This is from a second biryani pot - chicken biryani.

Chicken biryani - I used chicken breast and just pre-cooked it briefly before layering in between the rice.

Blog-checking lines:

Grace, one of our talented non-blogging Daring Kitchen members, was our Daring Cooks’ August hostess who shared with us some of her family’s tried and true Bengali Biryani recipes – all of them delicious and all of them prepared fresh from our own kitchens!


  1. You know, I never thought of this as a paella like dish - but that totally makes sense. This looks really tasty!

  2. I definitely know what you mean about Night Biryani Urges! :-) Nice job!

  3. Both of your biryanis look delicious. I am amused that your meat-loving family preferred the tofu - they both look so flavorful and delicious! Great work.

    1. yes, that pile of tofu above (in In Pictures section) is as tasty as it looks after being bakes with all that biryani spices and sauces. Expecially texture of tofu is remarkable after being fried and then coated in eggs..


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