Sindhi cuisine and culture show a strong influence of centuries of Muslim ruler in the region. The Abbasid Caliphs invited cooks from all over the Muslim world in the 10th century to contribute their regional delicacies to the Royal banquets. Sindhi cooks were known for there passion, hard work and fiery cooking. From the Arabs, Sindh was taken over by the Mughals who were equally fascinated by its vast stretches of desert land and the mighty river Sind. They left their permanent mark on the cooking techniques and ingredients used as well.
The lavish use of dried fruits and spices in dishes reflects Sindh’s proximity to Iran and Central Asia. The pulao and biryani and some of the most exotic dishes in Sindhi cuisine, the refined culinary techniques like ‘dum’ and layering, the use of aromatics are all influences of Mughals. Other prominent influences are from Balochistan and Punjab, the two neighbouring provinces.
Biryani is one of the most popular rice and meat preparations in the entire South Asia with subtle nuances depending on local tastes and available ingredients. How is Sindhi Biryani recipe different from other varieties? The most prominent difference is the addition of potatoes with generous use of onions – two staple ingredients of Sindhi pantry. Sindhi biryani recipe is spicier and more dominated by masala than it’s other counterparts. The aroma results from mint and whole spices, not from rose water or kewra. A day or two old, sour yogurt is added to enhance the sour element. Whereas sweet and sour prunes or dried plums are an essential component of the dish.
The cooked dish is a marvellous blend of flavours, layers of tender meat, tangy masala, curry seeped potatoes, melt in the mouth prunes and beautiful basmati rice fragrant with the aroma of mint and saffron. The delicious and exotic Sindhi biryani is a perfect manifestation of its culture.
4 cups, long grained basmati rice
1/2 cup ghee (clarified butter) or sunflower oil
4 medium potatoes, peeled,cut in half
2 large onions, sliced
2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste
3 medium sized tomatoes, diced
12 to 14 prunes (dry plums/aloo Bukhara)
Salt to taste
3 to 4 tsp teaspoons red chillie powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
6-7 cloves (laung)
Seeds from 8-10 green cardamoms (sabz alaychi)
3 black cardamoms (badi alaychi)
8-10 peppercorns (sabut kali mirch)
1 tablespoon cumin seeds (zeera)
2-3 cinnamon sticks (dar cheeni)
2-3 bay leaves or curry patta
1 cup sour yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice
3-4 cup fresh mint leaves
6 to 8 green chilies, chopped
Saffron or Orange food colour (a pinch)
This Is What You Do:
Add meat (chicken/mutton) to the fried onions in the pan. Add ginger garlic paste, 1 teaspoon salt, red chilli powder, turmeric, cloves, half of green cardamom seeds, 1 black cardamom, 1 stick cinnamon, cumin seeds, 1 bay leaf and yogurt. Sauté for 5 minutes on medium high heat.
Reduce heat, add tomatoes and 1 cup water for mutton, 1/2 cup for chicken. Cover the pan and let it cook till the meat is half done. Add prunes and potatoes, add a little more water if required. Keep cooking covered on low heat till the meat and potatoes are done. Add lemon juice and cook another 5 minutes or till the liquids are completely dried out.
Meanwhile, boil rice in salted boiling water with remaining green cardamom seeds, 2 black cardamoms , 2 bay leaves and 2 sticks of cinnamon. Cook the rice till they are 3/4 percent done since the rice will cook completely in the dum phase. Drain the rice and set aside.
For layering the biryani, always use a big pot with flat bottom and wide mouth for even heat distribution, proper layering and easy mixing.
In a big wide pot, add the remaining oil/desi ghee. Layer the pot with rice, topping with a layer of biryani meat, potatoes and masala, adding a second layer of rice and masala, end with a third layer of rice on top.
Garnish the pot with caramelised onions, half of mint, green chillies, saffron or yellow food colour. Wrap the lid of the pan in a clean cotton kitchen towel. Tightly shut the lid. Put the pot on medium high heat for 5 minutes then reduce the heat to lowest possible for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, leave to rest for another 10 minutes.
Mix with a flat stirring spoon or saucer to avoid breaking the rice. Serve hot garnished with more fresh mint leaves. Tastes great with simple cumin yogurt raita and fresh salad.