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Hyderabadi Dum Biryani
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Hyderabadi Dum Biryani


Hyderabadi Dum Biryani

A beautiful reminder of the rich and royal Mughal era in the Indian subcontinent, Dum Biryani is a delicacy like none other.
It’s different from all other biryani preparations in the region in its cooking method.

Mostly biryanis are prepared in three steps – the meat is cooked in onions, tomatoes or yogurt masala completely, rice are parboiled and then meat and rice are layered in a pan and cooked again together in a tightly closed pan.

Dum Biryani is considered a bit tricky because it’s kind of blind cooking. Marinated meat and still undercooked rice are added to a pan which is tightly sealed and placed on very low heat so that the moisture from the meat and marinade creates steam inside the pan and cooks everything in those juices. This “dum” or steam cooking method makes the biryani come out a lot more flavourful and aromatic.

I used to be quite apprehensive of cooking biryani this way because you are not sure whether the rice would be fluffy or not or whether the chicken would come out completely cooked. But now I think it’s a lot less hassle than usual biryanis, if we take care of a few things like proper temperature, sealing the pot airtight and leaving just enough liquid inside to cook the rice and chicken.

You can imagine the magic of whole spices, like cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves mingling with flavours and aromas of mint, saffron, lemon and caramelised onions in one steaming pot. Each and every grain of rice soaks up this magic and chicken comes out super tender, ready to fall of the bones.

1 kg chicken cut ups
4 cups long grain basmati rice
3 medium onions sliced, almost 3 cups
1 stick cinnamon
3 cloves
2 bay leaves or curry leaves
Seeds from 4-5 green cardamoms
2 teaspoons red chilli powder
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
5 teaspoons salt or to taste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 cup thick yogurt
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup mint leaves
1 tablespoon Rosewater or 1 teaspoon kewra (pandan essence)
A few strands saffron, soaked in 2 tablespoon milk
Green chillies (optional)
1/2 cup ghee(clarified butter) or sunflower oil

This Is What You Do:
Caramelise all the onions in a little oil/ghee till golden brown.

Mix yogurt, ginger-garlic paste, lemon juice, red chilli powder, turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder and 1 teaspoon salt in a big bowl. Add chicken cut ups and 1/3rd of the caramelised onions to the mix too. Save the remaining onions to use in this recipe later on.

Cover and refrigerate the chicken for at least 1 hour, best overnight.

To cook dum biryani, rinse and soak rice for thirty minutes.

Boil rice with 4 teaspoon salt and all the whole spices till 1/3 rd done.Check by pressing a grain between your thumb and index finger. If the rice breaks into three parts, it’s ready. Drain and keep aside.

Place a skillet/Tawa or heavy frying pan on the stove. Choose a wide mouthed heavy metal or ceramic pan to cook biryani.

Add half of the oil/ghee in the pan, add the marinated chicken along with the marinade to the cooking pan. Spread a layer of half of the partially cooked rice. Top it with half of the fried onions and all the mint leaves.

Spread the remaining rice over. Top them with fried onions, soaked saffron, green chilli peppers and rose water or kewra.

Drizzle the remaining oil on along the sides of the pan so that rice don’t stick to the sides. Tightly seal the mouth of the pan with foil sheet or put the lid on and seal all around with thick dough.

Cook for first 10 minutes on medium heat to get the cooking process going. Then reduce the heat to minimum possible. Let biryani cook on dum or steam for another 30-35 minutes.

Serve it hot with cumin flavoured yogurt.

Serves 5-6

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  • Subodh says:

    I think one reason Hyderabadi Biryani tastes the best in its city of origin only is because of the quality of mutton (especially in the summer months) which you simply won’t find anywhere else. Not even in Mumbai or Bangalore which are closer to Hyderabad. I usually don’t choose Hyderabadi biryani anywhere outside Hyderabad, much less in other countries, because the mutton isn’t that good.

    The mutton from local sheep and goat in Hyderabad region is tastier and more juicy compared to surrounding regions . The agro-climatic conditions of grazing areas and walking for miles in search of fresh grass make the Hyderabadi mutton meat leaner with much lower fat content. There is so much demand for this excellent product that there are quantitative restrictions on export and even inter-state trading .

    I also like the mutton raised in Kashmir valley and Kangra district. But, they are FAT-enriched! So not every single time.

    • Maria Nasir says:

      Well, luckily, being a majority meat eating nation, there is no dearth of good mutton in most places in Pakistan. But I agree that the quality of meat makes all the difference to the taste of, not just biryani but any dish at all! I love hyderabadi biryani for entirely different reasons – firstly I find it more convenient to cook compared to the more elaborate methods of other traditional preparations. Secondly, cooking rice and meat entirely in dum, beautifully brings out flavours and aromas.

      • Subodh says:

        Lucky you. Pakistani cuisine is very authentic with richer, bolder flavours. Historic Indian cuisine seems to be like a continuum because Indian Punjab cuisine is somewhat similar to Pakistan’s in terms of those multiple flavours exploding in your mouth. The further South you go, the flavours start disappearing. Which means by the time you get to Delhi, the flavours already become “feeka” and more charred. Lucknow and Awadhi cuisines are an exception because of centuries of Mughal influence but still they taste slightly different.

        By the time you reach Mumbai Mumbai, all original flavours are lost. South India (except Hyderabad) has an altogether different concept of good taste. The use of tamarind and chilies and bitter coffees is more common.

        • Maria Nasir says:

          I’m delighted to know that you enjoy Pakistani cuisine. It does have similarities with North Indian cuisine and then it has huge Iranian and Afghani influence from the other side which makes it quite diverse.
          Personally, I’m a huge fan of Goan food and some South Indian flavours. I love coconut milk, tamarind and dry red chilli infused dishes. 😊

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