Easy, Shan-Tastic Chicken Biryani by Rehana

Hello friends!

Welcome to a new column featured here at AltMuslimah!

My name is Rehana and I run the blog Rehana Du Jour. I am going to be featuring recipes and ideas on how to get creative in the kitchen here on AltMuslimah for all of you. I am excited for this collaboration and I hope you guys are too.

The first post I will be sharing with you is a Pakistani staple – Chicken Biryani. I know it is a lofty first recipe to post, but because it is a crowd-pleaser and a seemingly daunting recipe, I thought it was the perfect way to kick off this column with an easy classic.

By using chicken breast, good quality rice, and a simple trick I have up my sleeve, this can be pulled together in no time. You can even make a part of it ahead and assemble right before serving. It’s pretty fantastic.

easy chicken biryani-38Oh, you’re wondering about the trick I just mentioned? Well, my trick is Shan Masala!

easy chicken biryani-2That wonderful 99 cent packages of prepared spices that you can find in your local Indian or Pakistani grocery store is the best thing to Pakistani food since sliced bread, honestly.

I mix two different flavors of Shan Masala to get a different flavor out of my biryani. Since everyone and their mother, literally everyones mother, uses Shan Masala, all the food always ends up tasting the same. By varying it up with household items, we can achieve a happy spin on this classic.

Let’s get started!

First, let me show you what we’ll be using. Here you’ll see two boxes of Shan’s biryani masala, one for “Special Bombay Biryani” and one just regular “Biryani Masala.” One large can of crushed tomatoes (we’ll only be using half of this), some ginger/garlic paste, and some purchased fried onions. This dish comes together in no time because of these shortcuts. And honestly, because we are going to be cooking the chicken fully before we steam the chicken mix and the rice together, you’re not going to be individually tasting the ingredients. If I were making French onion soup, I wouldn’t use prepared browned onions, but because no one will be able to pick out the onions or their flavor in the mix, it doesn’t really matter.

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Also I have 6 chicken breasts that I will be cutting into large chunks to keep on hand for later. You could also use 2 whole chickens cut up into 12 pieces for this recipe. I had chicken breast on hand the day I was making this so that’s what I used. The other steps would be the same.

Now, heat up 1/4 cup of vegetable oil in a large nonstick wok or frying pan.

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Add one cup of the prepared fried onions and refry them for two to three minutes over medium high heat. Yes, it seems weird, but it works. Trust me.

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Next, add in three tablespoons of a ginger/garlic paste mix.

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And 14 oz. (half of a 28 oz. can) of petite dice tomatoes.

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Fry the tomatoes with the onion and ginger/garlic mix until the tomatoes are cooked down a bit and a paste forms – or about three minutes.

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Add in half of both Shan biryani mixes and cook for two minutes or until the spices are well blended.

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Add in the cut up chicken and fry this with the entire mix.

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Mix the chicken and slightly fry for two to three minutes.

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Add 3/4 cup of water and 3/4 cup of yogurt that has been whisked to this mixture, cover, and allow the chicken to fully cook in the spice mixture (masala) for 10-15 minutes.

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After the chicken has cooked and the masala has thickened you can set this mixture aside. I have also made this mix in advance and refrigerated it. Heating it up and making the rice only when I want to finish the biryani. It’s a great trick for parties.

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To finish off the biryani, we need rice. Soak five cups of Royal brand basmati rice (it’s the brand I prefer because it is easily available and consistent in how long the grains get) in room temperature water for 30 minutes. Be sure you have rinsed the rice thoroughly and done about 3-4 changes of the water to remove any of the extra starch!

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt the water generously. If you don’t salt the water enough your whole biryani will taste like its missing something. It should taste salty, but not overly brine-y.

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Cook the rice like pasta, allowing it to boil in the water for about 10-12 minutes, or until the rice is 85% cooked. You’ll have to keep an eye on this because if it overcooks the grains will break and you’ll have five cups of mush, not rice. No bueno!

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Strain the rice and set this aside. Now we’re ready to assemble. We have our chicken, rice, 1/2 cup of chopped up cilantro, and some red, orange, or yellow food coloring. Or all three! Wee!

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Now in a large foil tray, layer half of the rice on the bottom.

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Top with most of the chicken masala, leaving some sauce to soak in at the top.

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Then half of the chopped cilantro.

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And top with the remaining half of the rice.

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Finally, add the rest of the chicken masala mixture and the rest of the chopped cilantro.

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Sprinkle on very little of the food coloring powders. I got a little carried away here…Ooops…

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Seal off the top of the pan with some aluminum foil and allow the biryani to bake in a 300 degree oven for an hour. This will allow steam to develop and will blend the chicken masala mix with the rice.

Once the biryani is done, lightly fluff so you don’t break the rice grains and serve.

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It’s really delicious and simple to make.

I hope you guys try out this delicious dish! Let me know if you do.

Please comment on this post for other recipe suggestions.




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