In the search of something different for dinner

Getting tired of the same old things for dinner, and on a whim, too, I asked my Pakistani friend, Ahmad, what he was having for dinner — well, what we would be having for dinner given the time zone difference. He said “Dum Biryani” which I initially mistakenly thought he meant “Dumb Biryani”. Ahmad’s English isn’t 100%, but far better than my Pakistani, I suppose. In any event, I certainly did not know what “Biryani” was, but I assumed he was just as tired of that dish as much as I was with pizza and hamburgers, given he was was calling the dish “dumb” I thought.

Turns out, Ahmad did not mean dumb at all. Rather, he explained Pakistani foods had rich tastes with all of the spices readily-available and used in their dishes. In most parts of the subcontinent, he said, most every dish had a history deeply rooted to its spices and the origin, including Dum Biryani, which is a mouth-watering, rice-based dish that is perfect for anyone who loves spices.

Turns out, the name of the dish is derived from the Persian words Birian and Birinj, which mean “fried before cooking” and “rice,” respectively. There are numerous theories about the original introduction of Biryani to the subcontinent, but it is commonly thought that the Mughal Emperors brought it to area, and it became a major dish for everyone there. While there are different types of biryani, they differ mostly on two aspects: (1.) some of the spices used, and (2.) some subtle ways that it is made, Ahmad said.

You can use either chicken or mutton or beef to make it, but we are going to prepare it with chicken in the recipe below, which makes it quite easy to make. Another important point is that this recipe is rice-based and requires just a little bit of oil, so it is fairly heart-healthy for everyone.

Here is the complete list of ingredients required to make this version of Dum Biryani, and rest assured all of the spices should be readily-available close by, even if you have not used them in cooking before like me. If not, they can be certainly purchased online.


  • Chicken – 1 pound +
  • Rice, soaked – 1 pound +
  • Yogurt, plain – 1 cup
  • Onions, chopped – 2 medium-sized
  • Green Chili, chopped – 1
  • Coriander & Mint Leaves – 1/2 cup each
  • Ginger and Garlic Paste – 1 teaspoon
  • Cumin Powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Chili Flakes – 1 teaspoon
  • Coriander Powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Red Chili Powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Prunes – 5 to 6
  • Salt – 2 teaspoons
  • Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon
  • Cloves – 5 to 6
  • Cumin – 1 teaspoon
  • Pieces Star Anise – 1 flower
  • Bay Leaf – 2 leaves
  • Green Cardamom – 4 pieces
  • Cinnamon – 2 medium pieces
  • Black Cardamom – 2 pieces
  • Yellow Food Color – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Kewra Essence – a few drops

● First, fry the chopped onions until golden brown and set them aside.
● Take a large saucepan and add the meat to it. Now add the yogurt, garlic and ginger paste, salt, red chili powder, coriander powder, and the chili flakes to make it more spicy. Add the cumin powder, black pepper, cloves, cumin, star anise, bay leaf, green and cardamom and cinnamon, prunes and finally the fried onions and mix thoroughly. Note: the heat should be off when mixing; we will turn the heat on when adding the rice.
● After mixing this mixture together, top it with the mint and coriander leaves to make it more refreshingly fragrant, he said. Finally, add the chopped green chilies.
● Boil a large pot of water and add one to two tablespoon of salt in it, then bring it to a boil. Now, add the soaked rice and cook it on high heat for several minutes. Make sure the rice is not completely cooked through, though, by checking from time-to-time if you can mash it with your fingers. It should not get mushy.
● Strain the rice and add it to the mixture already prepared. Make a watery mixture of yellow food color, adding a few drops of Kewra essence and sprinkle it on the rice.
● Cover the pot with a lid, so the steam will help to cook the rice further.
● Turn it on medium heat for five minutes, then turn the heat down to the lowest point for another hour. The steam will help the rice to cook properly.
● After half an hour, remove the lid cautiously, as it will be hot. Mix the rice and the meat, then dish it out to enjoy with your family and friends.

Additional notes: When I fixed this, I halved the recipe because even half makes quite a bit. Above, you will see how Ahmad presented the recipe and preparations to me with some corrections of English and such. Many of the the measurements were presented as he prepares the dish, but would be somewhat odd for this area, such as the rice. Instead of pounds, we would typically use cups. I translated this to a heaping cup of rice, which I prepared separately by bringing to a boil and simmering for 15 minutes with a bit of butter added and the bay leaves. I added this to the onions, which I had browned, adding the chicken, then the rest of the ingredients and putting the yogurt and spices in at the end. Like many believe with good chili, this is better if left to simmer for a length of time or even re-heated the next day. With the spices listed above, keep in mind that fresh spices typically translate in a 4-to-1 ratio to the dried and powdered type, which you most likely find locally. This is a very aromatic dish that is very heavy on spices, so while it’ll make your kitchen smell heavenly, it’s not a recipe for the faint of heart when it comes to spices. If you’re a Fall allergy suffer, too, you won’t have to take any Afrin after this eating this dish either. Enjoy!

Featured photo by alleksana from Pexels; in-article photos by the writer

The author of this article, Christopher M. Wathen, is a life-long Lintonian, having been born and raised in Linton, Indiana, and he is a regular contributor to The Lintonian. As a community writer for The Lintonian, he writes a wide variety of articles here. Chris also has written an eclectic mix of short books, as well. From a children’s book, to a racy romance, and his latest, YOUR HEALTH IS CRAP: You Are What You Excrete, are now available on Amazon.

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