10 Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani Secrets Revealed

Hyderabad, the city of Nizams, is well-known for its food culture in India. Its non-vegetarian curries and biryanis have won many hearts over the centuries.

However, when certain type of cuisine gets popular, it tends to lose its original flavor and authentic taste. This is what I have observed over the last few years, and I’m sure you would agree with me on the same.

Hyderabadi chicken biryani is no exception. Most of the modern day restaurants have transformed this traditional dish as per their convenience. And unfortunately, the biryani that gets served today is just an Indian version of Fried Rice.

So, how can you taste the authentic biryani?

Well, there are two things you can do –

  1. Try it yourself at home.
  2. Befriend the chefs of Nawab.

I know the first option is going to be an obvious choice!

Therefore, I wanted to share some information regarding the preparation and cooking style of Hyderabadi biryani.

Interesting facts about biryani

There was no such thing called ‘Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani’ in the past. The royal chefs, who invented this delicacy, used to prefer goat/sheep meat in their recipes, as it was relatively easy for them to travel across different regions with these animals.

It is also said that this dish was not just limited to the royal families. It was a staple food for troops during the Mughal era.

There was no better way to feed thousands of hungry soldiers than making simple and delicious biryani on regular basis. It contains good amount of proteins and fats, which are beneficial for those who deal with intense work. So, it was indeed a great solution for those people.

Since our lifestyle has drastically changed in recent decades, the chicken meat is now being consumed more as compared to other meats. It gets digested easily in the stomach. Thus, many of our traditional mutton pulaos, biryanis and curries have been replaced with chicken and/or egg.

This chicken biryani is just another innovative-twist-recipe in the ongoing transition phase of Indian cooking.

Even though the demand for healthier meat has risen, its core recipe hasn’t changed at all. You will have to follow the same secrets to make this dish at home.

Secrets of Hyderabadi chicken biryani

Let’s learn about the secrets of our traditional non-vegetarian rice delicacy –

1. Papaya – The Meat Tenderizer

Raw Papaya should be used to tenderize the chicken. You can add a couple of tablespoons of raw papaya paste (for 2 kgs of meat) during the marination process, and it will make your chicken very smooth and succulent.

The papaya paste don’t have strong taste of its own. So, it won’t have any effect on the overall taste of your biryani. It’s perfectly fine to add it in the marinade.

2. Dry Spices & Masalas

For the amazing aroma and flavor, you will need to add certain spices and masalas in this biryani.

Prepare the powdered masala using the green and black cardamoms, cinnamon sticks, black pepper seeds and cloves. You may also use the whole spices, though freshly blended masala brings more flavor to the biryani.

Apart from these dry spices, the turmeric powder and red chilli powder are must for this recipe. All these masalas do help in killing the harmful bacteria that may be present in the meat.

Trivia – Many of our commonly available spices were very expensive commodities during the Mughal & Portuguese era. Hence, they were not accessible to everyone.

This biryani is an excellent example of the limited usage of spices.

3. Desi Ghee

When it comes to Hyderabadi biryani, there can’t be any alternative to ghee/clarified butter.

Just like the spices, people had no access to refined oils or extra virgin olive oils. They simply used what they had in abundance at that time i.e. pure desi ghee.

There is a scientific advantage of using ghee over oil. It tones down the excess spiciness of masala to considerable level, and keeps your stomach safe.

Apart from this, it offers richness to the delicacy. Thus, it is recommended to use ghee in the biryani.

4. Chicken Quality

The chicken meat that you’re going to cook for this recipe should be clean and fresh. Do not use stale or leftover chicken pieces from the refrigerator.

Also, the biryani gets more flavorful, when you add chicken with bones. The bone pieces will secrete really nice juices in the base gravy while cooking on dum.

If you prefer larger pieces, make sure to slit them till you reach the hard surface of bone. It will help meat absorb the masala flavors from the marination.

5. Marination Technique

The meat marination is an integral part of all biryani dishes in the world. Here’s how it should be done –

  1. In a mixing bowl, add the chicken pieces, ghee, papaya paste, yogurt, crisp fried onions, dry spices, chopped green chillies, ginger-garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, chopped coriander leaves and mint leaves, lemon juice and salt.
  2. Mix these ingredients together and make sure that masala is coated well to the pieces.
  3. Let the chicken rest for at least 3-4 hours.

Trivia – The ancient chefs used to follow the similar process for marination. They’d marinate the meat just before heading to the battlefield and would return to their tents at the time of sunset in order to cook their favorite non-veg delicacies.

6. No Vegetables Except Fried Onions

Yes, some restaurant chefs do make ‘Hyderabadi’ chicken biryani with red-yellow-green capsicums in it. I have tried this type of dish in a local restaurant, and I have to say it didn’t even taste like regular biryani.

For Hyderabadi biryani, you should refrain from using vegetables like tomatoes, capsicums and green onions. These veggies will completely change the taste of your authentic delicacy.

Having said that, do not shy away from adding fried onions in it. These crisp onions bring silky texture and mildly sweet taste to the dish.

7. Rice

You just can’t compromise on the quality of rice. It is one of the important ingredients of this recipe, and that’s why you should use good quality of Basmati rice.

When the rice is cooked properly, it should rise as much as double in size. It should also smell very pleasant. If it doesn’t show any of these results, you don’t have the best rice!

Cooking Tip:

Do not cook the rice completely. When it’s 3/4th done, spread it over the marinated chicken pieces and keep it on very low flame. It helps rice absorb all the flavors.

8. Saffron

Saffron/Kesar is considered one of the most expensive spices in the world, as it is prepared with the stigmas of flowers.

You should never use artificial food colors for biryani or any other recipes. Some of these colors are so harmful that they can cause diseases like food allergies, ADHD and cancer.

On the other hand, Saffron strands are good natural coloring agents for the cooked rice. So, let’s see how you can use this spice –

  1. Mix the saffron strands with warm milk.
  2. When the rice is spread on top of the chicken gravy, sprinkle this saffron milk on it.
  3. Then, garnish the rice with fried onions, coriander and mint leaves. Put it on dum for half an hour or so.

That’s it! When cooked, you will get wonderful yellowish-orange color to your rice.

9. Cooking Vessel

In previous days, the chefs used to have large Copper vessels to make their biryani dishes. Some 5-star restaurant chefs still use these vessels to cook for large no. of people.

But now, we can’t have these super-large tools in our small kitchens. However, there is a solution to this problem. Some vendors do sell mini-versions of the biryani vessels in local markets of Delhi & Lucknow.

If you can’t find the Copper vessel, don’t worry. It’s not possible for everyone to find these age-old utensils. You can cook it in regular metal cookware as well.

10. Dum Cooking

Dum cooking was supposedly invented to cook the food on low flame for long hours. And, this method needs two important things – wheat flour dough and charcoal.

Here’s how to prepare the dum –

  1. Seal the biryani vessel using dough and place a heavy utensil or brick on the lid.
  2. Let it cook on the burning charcoal fire for 5-6 minutes. Then, lower the flame to cook it until the chicken is cooked.

Trivia: In Rajasthan, you will find a traditional chicken cuisine named Khad Murg, which is also prepared with pretty similar technique. The local people dig a medium-sized hole in the soil (known as khad in regional language) and place the marinated chicken by wrapping it in the chapatis/rotis and empty wheat grain bags.

Then, they sprinkle water to damp the sealed pack and add the burning charcoal pieces & sand on it to cover the hole completely. This way, the chicken cooks on really low heat and gets very rustic smokey flavor in the end.

This, of course, is a forgotten technique of cooking meat. Most of the restaurants, now, serve baked chicken or tandoori chicken in the name of Khad Murg.

Coming back to dum cooking, it is a bit long process for regular cooking. But, when you will taste this kind of dum biryani, you’d definitely want to thank the person who’s invented this genius method of cooking. It’s worth trying for once at least!

Conclusion

Biryani making is an art! It has its unique method that you need to follow each time. Otherwise, you would end up making something like masala rice or mixed rice.

The aroma, flavors and taste are three major aspects of Hyderabadi biryani. If you miss any of them, your biryani will fail. Now, when you think of making this recipe, do try to apply the secrets mentioned above. I’m sure it will turn out great.

If you still have any doubts or questions regarding it, please comment below. I’d love to resolve them for you.

19 comments… add one
  • Janak Raj

    Superb

  • Tanmoy Das

    It is really nice and lots of unknown information about the cooking and beyond cooking. but I have a question! How the beautiful aroma of biryani is achieved? Is it the aroma of sweet attar?

    • Usually, we use Kewda Water and/or Rose Water to enhance the aroma of Biryani. If you can’t find these two ingredients, you may also use other artificial ingredients to get the same aroma.

  • Hari

    Dear Jenny, Could you please advise whether we should fry onions in Ghee ?

    • Hi Hari,

      Yes, you can deep-fry the onion juliennes in Ghee and use same molten Ghee for Biryani preparation. And if you’re worried about too many calories, fry them in any refined oil or suitable Olive oil.

      Ghee only helps in increasing the richness of your Hyderabadi Biryani.

  • Chandrasekhar

    I have been cooking Hyderabadi biryani for special functions for the past 58 years, and I failed sometimes too. After reading this, I learned some more techniques. Thanks!

    • You’re welcome, sir!

      Thank you for such kind words. I feel so happy today that this post has helped an experienced chef like you.

  • Deepti

    Thank you so much for this mouth-watering recipe. Could I use it for mutton too?
    If so should I 3/4the cook the mutton like the rice and then do the dum.

    Please guide me.

    • Hey Deepti,

      Yes, you can use this recipe for Mutton Biryani. Since Mutton takes longer time to cook, you should marinate it with raw Papaya paste. It will give you really moist, juicy and succulent pieces for Biryani.

      For the cooking process, you may precook the pieces in pressure cooker with whole spices and water, though it tastes quite amazing when you stir-fry the pieces with proper masalas in a Biryani utensil.

      So, I’ll leave this option to your style of cooking and convenience.

  • Selva Kannan

    Very very useful instructions, especially the ingredient raw Papaya paste and dum method.

  • Suraj Das

    Dear,

    Thanks for your post that describes the process in detail. But one thing , I miss the aroma of the restaurant. I must have done some mistake in ratio. Would you kindly explain the ratio of whole garam masala to be used for 1 kg chicken? For how long do we put it on flame? If I put for less time, the chickens remain little uncooked in core.

    • Hi Suraj,

      You may not get restaurant-like aroma and taste at home, as they cook food on different flame and use artificial flavoring ingredients.

      For 1 kg of chicken, you can use 1-1/2 tablespoon of Biryani Masala powder (or more if you like spicy Biryani). As for the cooking time, the marinated chicken cooks in anywhere between 20-25 minutes. You should fry the chicken for 12-15 minutes on medium-high flame before putting it on the dum.

  • Sumit Parkar

    Hi Jenny,

    I like to cook dum biryani in Terracotta pot. If i took in the equal amount of Chicken and rice (Eg. 1 Kg Chicken & 1 Kg Rice). and other ingredients accordingly.
    1. What will happen if Marinate time is 3-4 Hrs?
    2. Cooking on Charcoal with terracotta pot. How much time it take for perfectly cooked chicken?
    3. How should i check that chicken is cooked without opening pot?
    4. Cooking time changes with quantity ? if yes How much cooking time i need to increase or decrease with quantity in grams

    • Hi Sumit,

      It’s great to see that you like cooking in Terracotta pot. It does bring rustic and earthy flavors to the dishes.

      Coming back to your questions, here’s what you need to do –

      1. Marination is important in dum cooking, so you’ll have to marinate it for longer time. You may also keep it overnight to get the juicy and flavorful chicken.

      2. If you’re cooking on Charcoal, you will need to cook the chicken masala base for 12-15 minutes on medium-high flame. This will ensure that it’s nearly done. Then, you can put it on Dum for around 25-30 minutes more along with semi-cooked rice and other flavoring ingredients.

      Since you’re preparing Chicken Biryani, it should take less time to cook as compared to other meats.

      3. If you’re going to cook it with sealed pot, you can’t really check anything inside. This is where the master chefs score their extra points!

      You will have to learn the process by trial and error method. And in case you want to be on the safer side, cook the chicken till it’s 3/4th done.

      You can also confirm it by recognising the distinct Biryani aroma from sealed pot, though it’s better to follow the time-bound cooking procedure.

      4. Yes, cooking time depends on various factors i.e. size of pot, low-high flame, cooking place and quantity. Generally, the marinated chicken (~ 1 kg) gets cooked in around 25 minutes (12-15 minutes on medium-high flame + 15 minutes on medium flame). If you want to put it on Dum, there is no need to keep it on flame for long as mentioned above.

  • Alisha

    Hi,

    Hyderabad paradise biryani have some special flavor. I tried different ways to get that flavor, but failed. Could you tell us that secret? How to get that flavor?

    • Hi Alisha,

      I don’t really know the recipe of Paradise Biryani, and it won’t be appropriate to share the secret recipes of any particular restaurant without their consent.

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