Saturday, October 19, 2013

South Indian Style Biryani with tamarind and curry leaves

I'm not sure who originally wrote this recipe. A quick search of the interwebz suggests it was first posted in 2010 to by Petrina Verma Sarkar. I found the recipe on facebook when a friend liked it on Ambika Pillai's facebook page. I was intrigued because it has tamarind and curry patta, which is weird in a biryani. I didn't use lamb because IMHO the biryani gets really heavy and since I am now allergic to chicken we ended up using pork. It was quite delicious!

I also deviated from the original recipe by using the pressure cooker to make the curry because the original version takes more than an hour and ain't nobody got time for that.


  • 1 kg pork meat (We used a picnic ham chopped into 2" by 2" pieces)
  • 2 tbsps garlic paste 
  • 2 tbsps ginger paste 
  • 3 tbsps sunflower/ canola/ vegetable cooking oil 
  • 2 large red onions, chopped fine and I onion sliced finely
  • 30-40 curry leaves 
  • 2 green chillies (optional) 
  • 2 tbsps coriander powder 
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder 
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder 
  • 1 tbsp garam masala 
  • 1 tsp salt (this is how much I use, you can add salt to suit your taste) 
  • 1 cup hot water 
  • 50 g ball of tamarind 
  • 700 gms Basmati rice 
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. Put the meat, garlic and ginger pastes in a large bowl and mix well to coat the meat with the pastes. Keep aside for 20 minutes. 
  2. While the meat is marinating, heat (on medium temperature) the cooking oil (3 tbsps) in a large, deep pot/ pan. 
  3. Add the finely chopped onions and fry till translucent. Add the curry leaves and green chillies fry for 1 minute. 
  4. Now add the powdered spices - coriander, cumin, turmeric, and garam masala powders. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning. 
  5. Add the marinated meat now. Stir well and often and cook till the meat is browned. Add 1 1/2 cups of hot water, stir, cover, simmer heat and cook till meat is tender. Keep checking for this stage as you do not want the meat overcooked and soft. Instead, at this stage, I added in the tamarind, below and then added 2 cups of water and pressure cooked the meat for 25-30 minutes. I saved some of the tamarind and added it after the meat was cooked. I just wasn't sure the tamarind flavor would withstand the pressure cooking.
  6. While the meat is cooking, make the tamarind puree: Put the tamarind in a plastic or glass bowl and pour 1/2 cup of hot water over it. Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes. Now strain the tamarind and water mixture through a sieve (do not use a very fine sieve) into a bowl to get tamarind puree. Add this to the curry when you feel the meat is almost done. Stir well. 
  7. Once the meat is cooked, keep it aside and prepare the rice. Put the rice in a sieve and wash under running water till the water runs clear. 
  8. Now put it into a large deep cooking pot (preferably one with handles). Add enough water to fully cover the rice - at least 4" over the surface of the rice. Add 1 tsp of salt to taste. Set the rice up to boil. Cook till almost done. To determine when it has reached that stage, remove a few grains from the pot and press between your thumb and forefinger. The rice should mostly mash but will have a firm whitish core. Turn off the fire.
  9.  Strain through a colander and keep aside. 
  10. Heat 3 tbsps of oil in a pan and fry 2 of the onions till caramalized - golden brown. Drain and keep aside on paper towels for later use. Grease a deep dish or pot (which has a nicely fitting cover). We used a dutch oven. 
  11. Now evenly layer the cooked rice, meat (and its gravy) in the dish/ pot, to form at least 2 sets of layers (rice-meat-rice-meat-rice). 
  12. Garnish with the previously caramalized onions. Cover the dish tightly. If your dish does not have a cover use 2 layers of aluminium foil (shiny side of both layers pointing down towards the rice) and secure on to dish with baking string. We just popped on the dutch oven lid. Since I use a Handi (a deep pot with a nicely fitting lid) which has a flat rim, I seal it by making a firm dough with flour and water and pressing this over the joint of the Handi's rim and cover. 
  13. Now put the dish/ pot in a pre-heated oven set at 350 F/ 180 C/ Gas mark 4 for 20 minutes. We did 30-35 minutes since our curry was more liquid than hers probably was. Only open when you are ready to eat. The way to serve Biryani is to gently dig in with a spoon so you get through the layers.
  14.  I serve my Biryani with Raita and Kachumbar salad.

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