Monday, May 17, 2010

Shan ki Shan: Sindhi Biriani

Some people will tell you that using Shan Masala is cheating. I say no way. Using Shan masala is perfectly fine if the end result tastes good. Shan is an auxiliary item. It doesn't create the 'maza' for you. Besides, no one just uses the packet of Shan Masala. Everyone always adds in their own medley of spices to a couple of spoonfuls of Shan for a dish. I have a post in mind about the rise in popularity  of Shan's connection to the birth of modern Pakistani cuisine. Shan has contributed to the homogenization of a diverse food culture in the young nation of Pakistan.  But in this post, I'd like to share with you my recipe (with a little help from Shan Uncle) for Sindhi biriani. Many people swear by Shan's Sindhi biriani mix. I use it, too as my favorite biriani. Here is my doctored up Shan masalay ki Sindhi biriani recipe. I add mango powder and extra dried plums (aloo bukharay) to the Shan masala to get a hot and sour taste in the finished biriani. Using Shan doesn't make it a bit easier, it is a complicated process. But it turns out great:

For the meat gravy you need:
1/2 cup of oil (which will be poured off of the gravy later, don't worry)
1 kg (2.2 lbs) of bone in mutton cut in large chunks (say 2/2 inch botees)
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 onions finely sliced and fried until crisp and brown (bhuni hui pyaaz)
1 tbs garlic paste
2-3 tomatoes roughly pureed
1 heaping tbs salt
1 tbs ginger paste
1 cup yoghurt
1.5 tbs Shan Sindhi Biriani Masala Mix
1 tsp coriander powder
1 heaping tsp ground mango powder (aamchoor)
1 tsp red chile powder
1 tsp garam masala
+/- 1 cup water
12 alu bukharay (dried plums/prunes available at Pakistani grocery)

Aloo Bukhara

Method: Mix the yoghurt with the powdered spices and the ginger paste and set aside. Heat oil in a pot and brown meat in two batches. Set the meat aside. Add cumin seeds, fried onions, and garlic paste to the oil.  Take care not to burn the onions. When the garlic is golden, stir in the tomato puree. Stir this for a while until the water has evaporated from the tomato puree and the oil is rising to the top of the gravy. Add in the salt. Stir in the meat and mix well. Turn down the heat and stir in the spiced yoghurt (lowering the heat will prevent the yoghurt from splitting). Mix well and turn up the heat again. Stir until oil rises to the top of the gravy. Add in the water and the aloo bukharay. Allow to boil, cover, simmer on low heat for about 1.5 hours until the meat is nicely tender. When it is done, remove the meat and aloo bukharay from the gravy with a slotted spoon. Turn up the heat and evaporate the remaining water from the gravy. You will have a thick biriani masala paste. Pour the oil that rises to the top of this paste off of the gravy to cut calories and to avoid a greasy biriani (yuck!). Add the meat and the aloo bukhary back to the dry gravy paste and keep ready for the rice. *You can add potatoes to this recipe. Peel and halve 3-4 potatoes and add in in the last 40 minutes of the gravy's cooking. Remove the potatoes at the same time you remove the meat for drying up the gravy.

For the rice:
3 cups of uncooked biriani grade basmati rice cooked according to these instructions: Lucky Delicious on How to Cook Basmati Rice  parboiling method. You will soak and parboil the rice according the specifications for biriani rice. Do this after the biriani gravy is done cooking. You will layer the rice with the biriani gravy in a pot soon after you have finished parboiling it. Take care to be gentle with the rice so as not to break the kernals.

Unmixed layered biriani before covering to fully cook (put on dam)

Perfuming the biriani:

16 fresh mint leaves
8 fresh whole green chiles, slit
1/2 tsp Kewra Water (available at the Pakistani grocery -keora jal-)
1/8 tsp of orange biriani food coloring added to 1/2 cup milk

mint and chiles

Bush brand biriani coloring, coloring mixed in milk, keora water

What to do: You have parboiled your rice. You have made a biriani gravy. Take a vessel and use a paper towel to grease it lightly with ghee. Add in a layer of meat and gravy. Distribut half of the mint leaves on top of this, and throw in half of the slit chiles. Now add in half of the rice. On top of this, add in another layer of meat gravy. Top this with the rest of the mint leaves and slit green chiles. Then add another layer of rice. Drizzle the rice with the keora water. Pour the orange colored milk into one area of the biriani rice. Now cover with a kitchen towel and close the lid. Put this on a high flame for 3-4 minutes to start some steam going in the pot. Then turn down the heat to the lowest setting and allow this to cook for about 18 minutes to finish off the rice and to allow the gravy and rice flavors to blend together. This step is called cooking on 'dam'.

biriani cooked on dam in a Sindhi sipri

When the biriani is cooked, turn off the flame and lift the lid to allow some steam to escape. Allow the biriani to rest for at least 10 minutes before mixing and serving it. This allows the rice to settle so that it won't break when you stir it. After the biriani has had a nice rest and you are read to serve, mix gently and set out on a serving dish. Garnish with finally chopped cilantro. Serve with plain yoghurt.

Freshly cooked and mixed biriani


Jaz said...

Oh Wow! I could never cook like this but it's interesting to read about your methods, even if you're making me hungry!

Isha said...

i love the way how u cooked ur biryani. i love biryani ♥

Meliha said... of my favorite dishes! I love that you used Shan masala with this recipe...this makes it so much more do-able. Will let you know if I ever get around to trying it. :)


luckyfatima said...

Sure, do let me know. Thanks for stopping by.

Linhy said...

Love your blog!!!! Thanks for checking out mine!! I am not one of your followers!! I just started my blog a week ago so it's still has a lot that need to be added. Become my follower though!!!

Linhy said...

This looks amazing!!!!! I want to try to make this. My boyfriend is Veg. so maybe I can make this for him.

Joyce said...

Do you need to chop the mint leaves? I tried using whole mint leaves for a veg biryani recently, and though we appreciated the mint flavour a lot, we disliked biting into the whole leaves. Will chopping the leaves help or do we need to discard the leaves after cooking.

luckyfatima said...

Hi Joyce,

You can chop the leaves if you want. In Sindhi biryani, some people chop the mint leaves or even grind the cilantro and mint roughly together. I just prefer to add them in this way and even though the leaves darken, you can still see them and get their gentle perfume. But it's up to you. You could even opt to pick the cooked mint out, or even leave the mint out completely if it really bothers you.

Pakcola said...


I really appreciate your site and makes desi cooking easier! Please keep updating!

I had a question, how can this biryani be adjusted for chicken? Just use 2 pounds chicken with bone?


luckyfatima said...


Yes, for chicken do everything the same, but do not add water to the pot at the same time you add the alu bukharey. Then bhuno it for a few moments till it turns color (from raw pink to white), then cover and cook for 25-30 mins until done. If needed, add 1/4 cup water or so. But chicken gives off its own water so you don't really have to add any unless the pan is getting dry. Also, I tend to use yellow food coloring for chicken biryani and orange for meat. That's all.