Food is no longer an object of sustenance that would appeal only to gustatory perception. Advent of social networking platforms like Twitter and Instagram has rapidly altered the scene so much so that visual delight that food must offer has attained far greater significance now.
I believe there is a clear requirement to strike a balance somewhere. A perfect dish should be one that evokes responses from all sensory organs. A perfect delight for foodie is one that caresses his olfactory senses first with its aroma and builds up to the excitement before the dish lands from Chef’s kitchen on to your table. Once the dish appears on your table it must entice you visually with its appearance and must get your taste buds salivating. The stage is set by the two forerunners and now other senses would respond appropriately, either feel pleased or dejected depending upon the real essence of food. In all of this audio receptors may be often ignored, but remember they play an equally important role (remember a sizzler allures the foodie even more with the sizzling sound). I have often found myself on the lookout for such dishes that would entice me unequivocally and leave me craving for more.
I had a one such experience when I was at a pre-wedding dinner in Kerala last year where the groom’s family had in store for us a palate delight. The menu for dinner was as simple as it could get, one item each for vegetarians and non-vegetarians with no fanfare at all. I found myself in midst of a sea of non-vegetarians who were as eager and as excited as me with the aroma of ghee wafting from the open kitchen into the marquee doing us no good and alluring us even more. Finally the dish-Thalassery chicken biryani was served on our plates, and I must confess I was bowled over by the simplicity of the dish. A very atypical biryani made with aesthetically less pleasing short grain rice, minimal colors compared to the biryanis that hail from northern parts of country. Having gorged through first few morsels of that biryani, I had realized that I was in for a delightful gastronomic experience of life, something that I would cherish always. However, what impressed me most was the fact that the short grain rice was creating a magic in the dish and it seemed to be breaking the widespread notion that long grain basmati rice is a proviso for a lasting biryani experience.
By the end of that dinner I was feeling stuffed and content but I knew that quite soon this feeling of contentment would wane and I would once again long for that flavor. As the longing grew stronger I was compelled to visit Kerala one more time within two months, another friend’s wedding offering me that reason this time. Though I could have skipped the occasion, but the indelible gastronomic experience that I had couple of months ago had altered my choices and I elected to attend the wedding. In a span of two months, I was twice on the food excursion of the state of Kerala, compelled by the rich gastronomic affair that state has to offer. However the recipe of Thalassery Chicken Biryani which should have come much earlier, took us painfully too long to replicate in our kitchen. The lingering effect of biryani shot back on the scene when a viewer had posted a recipe request on our YouTube channel requesting for a recipe of Chicken Biryani. It was then that we began seriously contemplating on shooting for this recipe. Our Bangalore visit provided us a needed fillip as we were able to relive that culinary experience at a food joint named “Thalassery”.
We got back to our kitchen after our Bangalore excursion and began trying and retrying until we felt satisfied with our efforts. We began with procuring Jeerakasala rice which for me is the secret ingredient of the recipe. You could replace it with Basmati rice if obtaining Jeerakasala acts as a deterrent. However, I would suggest ordering Jeerakasala from online stores like Amazon if it is not available in local grocery shops. The flavor of Jeerakasala and ghee creates a magical taste that leaves the lasting effect on your taste buds. The other less onerous task is making the Thalassery Biryani Masala that contributes to the rich flavor and aroma of biryani.
So here we are finally with the recipe of Thalassery chicken biryani. Make this delectable biryani from Malabar region of Kerala and experience the richness of its taste.
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- ½ kg Chicken pieces. We have used drumsticks.
- Chicken Marination:
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp garam masala powder
- ½ tsp black pepper powder
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- Rice preparation:
- 200 grams Jeerakasala rice (You may use Basmati rice )
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cloves
- ½ inch cinnamon stick
- 2 green cardamoms
- Chicken Preparation:
- 3 medium sized onions(200 grams) sliced
- 2 large tomatoes (200 grams) finely chopped
- ¼th cup garlic cloves
- 4 green chilies
- 2 inches ginger root
- ¼ th cup curd (whisked)
- 1 tbsp Thalassery Biryani Masala
- For layering
- 2tbsp fried cashewnuts
- 2 tbsp fried raisins
- 1 tbsp rose water
- Soak few saffron threads in 1 tbsp warm milk (optional ingredient)
- 1 cup fried onions: ½ quantity onions will be used in chicken gravy and other half in layering.
- ½ cup fresh coriander leaves
- ½ cup fresh mint leaves
- Other Ingredients:
- clarified butter
- Make gashes on drumsticks with a knife.
- Make a marinade.In a large bowl, put turmeric powder, salt, pepper powder,Add garam masala powder and lime juice.Mix all ingredients.Coat drumsticks in the marinade.
- Allow chicken to rest in marination for 3-4 hours (refrigerate).
- After 3 hours of marination, wash and drain rice.If you are using Jeerakasala, you may cook without soaking.However, if basamti rice is used, soak rice for 30 mins.
- In a large pan, boil 2 and ½ cup of water.Add 1 tsp oil, ½ tsp salt.Add bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon stick, green cardamom.As water begins to simmer, add rice.As water begins to boil(1-2 mins), reduce heat and cook covered.Rice gets cooked in about 5 minutes.Take cooked rice off the heat.Spread cooked rice in large plate.
- In a mortar and pestle coarsely crush ginger, garlic and green chilies.
- In a large bottomed pan, heat mixture of 2 tbsp clarified butter and 2 tbsp oil.Add crushed mixture of ginger, garlic and chilies and fry for 30 seconds.
- Now add sliced onions and fry till onions turn tender.Onions become tender on low heat in about 6 mins.Now add chopped tomatoes.Add 1 tsp salt. Mix.Cook covered till tomatoes turn soft.Tomatoes become mushy in 6-7 mins.
- Now add half of coriander and mint leaves.Add Thalassery Biryani Masala powder.Bhunao for 2-3 minutes.As Oil starts oozing on the surface, add curd.Stir while adding curd and reduce heat to the lowest.
- Add marinated chicken drumsticks.Add in the remaining marinade.Mix.Add ¾th cup hot water, Salt to taste.Allow gravy to come to boil.
- As gravy comes to boil, reduce heat and cook covered.Chicken gets cooked in about 20 mins.Allow chicken to simmer for few mins to get a thicker consistency.Consistency should be of ½ cup gravy.Switch off the heat.Add crushed fried onions.Cover the chicken until layering.
- Assembling the Biryani.Pour 1 tsp ghee.Half quantity rice.Spread rice evenly. Add Mint leaves,coriander leaves, fried onions,fried raisins,fried cashew nuts,rose water,saffron milk. This completes first layer.
- Add remaining rice and spread it evenly.Add Mint leaves,coriander leaves, fried onions,fried raisins,fried cashew nuts,rose water,saffron milk. This completes last layer.
- We will seal the lid with dough.Biryani Handi must be placed on direct high heat for 2 mins.After 2 mins, transfer the handi on a hot griddle.
- Transfer handi on a hot iron griddle and cook on medium heat.Place a heavy vessel on the lid of handi.
- Cook Biryani for 12 mins.
- Serve this authentic and delicious biryani from Kerala with some raita.
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