Thalassery biryani— bone-in chicken cooked in fried onions and tomato masala, topped with cooked aromatic jeerakasala rice with fried cashews and raisins nestled in between sprinkles of Malabar garam masala, sealed and dum cooked with heavy lid is the best Malabar chicken dum biryani.
Thalassery biryani is one of the most sought-after Malabar rice and meat dish served for all occasions. Be it weddings or family gatherings, you will find a large platter of this dum biryani served with pickle, chammanthi, curd and sometimes papadums too.
For a long time, my chicken dum biryani in the oven was my go-to favourite but, as we grow older we tend to lean to our roots for comfort.
How many Indian biryani recipes do you know that does not use the usual ground spices? Thalassery chicken dum biryani recipe does not need the usual spice powders but relies heavily on the taste of fried onions, jeerakasala rice and fried dried fruits. You do need a small amount of my Malabar garam masala powder to amp up the flavour. Do not replace it with other garam masalas.
- Fat: we will be using a mix of any neutral cooking oil like sunflower oil and ghee
- Produce: red onions, garlic cloves, ginger, green chillies, tomato, coriander leaves and mint leaves
- Nuts and Dried fruits: whole cashews and golden raisins
- Meat: Skinless whole chicken, cut into of 8 to 12 pieces.
- Malabar garam masala
- lime juice
- Wholes spices: cinnamon stick, cardamoms, cloves and saffron strands (optional)
- Jeerakasala rice, washed and drained
- hot water
- Salt to taste
See recipe card for quantities.
How to make it?
If you were like me and thought how can neychoru with chicken masala be considered biryani? That was my 20s disregarding the one popular dish of my roots. But, all that changed when I learnt how to make Thalassery biriyani the right way.
Making thalassery chicken biryani is actually easy but needs your full-attention for each element, starting with the fried onions!
- First, make a batch of fried onions, cashews and raisins.
- Next, prepare the chicken masala with lots of chopped onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies.
- Thirdly, prepare the jeerakasala rice with whole spices.
- Finally, dum cook! Prepare the biryani pot with chicken masala in the bottom and rice on the top. Seal and dum cook to infuse flavour.
Hint: Cook using the rice you got before attempting to make biryani so you know how much water the rice needs and how long to cook, etc.
- Saffron: I know this is an expensive spice but you can use turmeric infused water or milk instead.
- ginger-garlic-green chillies: It is best to use fresh and crush them together for this recipe. But if you want to use ginger-garlic paste, then use around 2 tablespoon paste and finely chopped green chillies.
- Jeerakasala rice or kaima rice - no substitutions! If you can't source this, then as a last option, use basmati but don't call it Thalassery biryani. I am sorry!
Thalassery biryani recipe can be made the exactly the same way with bone-in mutton or beef. You will need to adjust the cooking time. If you looking for spicy version, try my Tamil Nadu style mutton biryani recipe.
- A round-bottomed kadai to fry onions and dried fruits. The round bottom will help you to curb the oil usage which means you can fry a lot with less oil.
- A thick-bottomed saucepot to cook chicken biryani masala. You may choose to do this in the pot you plan to dum-cook (24cm) so you have one less dish to wash. Or, you can cook the masala in your pressure cooker or instant pot.
- A thick-bottomed wide saucepot (22cm) to cook the rice.
Thalassery Chicken Dum Biryani is great to have the same day but even better the next day. During summer or humid days, it is better to refrigerate the leftovers and consume them within 3 days. It is highly unlikely to have leftovers!
- Do not speed-up frying onions - you can end up with unevenly fried onions.
- Do not speed-up making the chicken masala - as the flavours need to develop.
- Never cut-short the dum-cooking process - as this is what differentiates it from just neychour and chicken masala.
Thalassery biryani aka Kerala Malabar biryani is made with short-grain rice called Jeerakasala rice or Kaima rice. Meat like chicken, mutton, beef or fish is cooked with lots of onion and tomato or curd masala. And the rice is cooked with whole spices. Both are then dum-cooked to infuse the flavours.
Kozhikode biryani is made in one pot with an array of ground spices whereas, Thalassery biriyani is made in two or more pots as the meat and rice are cooked separately and then put together to dum-cook.
Tellicherry or Thalassery is a town in the district of Kannur in the state of Kerala. Thalassery biryani is a product of the Kerala's Malabar region. Of course, the Mughals brought the biryani to India and it is believed that the rulers of Mysore influenced the Malabar cuisine of Kerala.
Jeerakasala (Jeeraga Samba) or Kaima rice is short-grain aromatic rice produced in southern states of India is used to make Thalassery biryani and Tamilnadu biryani. This rice does not need pre-soaking unlike basmati. You need to rinse with water to clean and use.
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
Thalassery Chicken Dum Biryani
For saffron-infused water
- a pinch of saffron strands crushed
- 2 tablespoon water
- ½ cup cooking oil any neutral frying oil
- 2 tablespoon ghee
- 2 to 3 large red onions
- 10 to 12 whole cashews
- 1 to 2 tablespoon golden raisins
For chicken masala:
- 2 to 3 tablespoon oil (onion fried oil)
- 2 to 3 medium-sized red onions sliced thinly
- 800 to1000 grams skinless whole chicken cut into 8 to 12 pieces, washed and pat dried
- 12 to 15 garlic cloves
- 2 inch ginger (40g)
- 12 to 15 green chillies
- ¼ cup yoghurt whisked
- 1 tomato chopped
- ½ teaspoon Malabar garam masala
- fistful Fresh coriander leaves chopped
- fistful fresh mint leaves
- 2 teaspoon lime juice
- salt to taste
For Neychoru rice
- 1 to 2 tablespoon ghee plus remaining onion fried oil
- 1 small red onion diced
- 2 inch cinnamon stick
- 3 to 5 green cardamom
- 5 to 6 cloves
- 1 garlic clove crushed
- 2 cups Jeerakasala or Kaima rice washed and drained immediately
- 4 cups hot water
- 2 to 3 green chillies slit
- salt to taste
- fried onions cashews and raisins
- rose water (optional)
- brewed saffron (optional)
- Pound the saffron strands with a pinch of sugar in a mortal and pestle. Add to a small bowl with hot water. Keep covered until required. If you have an ice cube, then just place the saffron strands on the ice cube in a small bowl and let sit until melted. You may skip saffron and use a pinch of turmeric powder in water.a pinch of saffron strands, 2 tablespoon water
- Heat the oil and ghee in a deep round-bottomed kadai.½ cup cooking oil, 2 tablespoon ghee
- Add the sliced onions to a bowl and use your hands to lightly massage them to separate the strands.2 to 3 large red onions
- Fry the sliced onions in small batches on medium flame stirring often until evenly golden. Each batch may take 4 to 6 minutes. Try not to step away as you may end up with burnt onions, which can also make the oil bad. You will be using the fried oil for the rest of the recipe.
- Remove the fried onions using a slotted spoon and spread them on a tray lined with kitchen tissue. This is to drain any excess oil.
- Split the cashews and add to the oil. Fry the cashews until golden and remove and keep them aside.10 to 12 whole cashews
- Next, add the golden raisins and fry for a few seconds and remove and keep them aside. You will be using the leftover fried oil for the rest of the recipe.1 to 2 tablespoon golden raisins
Prepare the chicken masala
- Heat 3 to 4 tablespoon of the onion-fried oil in the pot you plan to dum the biryani. Or, you may choose to make it in a pressure cooker or a saucepot.2 to 3 tablespoon oil
- Add the sliced onions and sauté until translucent.2 to 3 medium-sized red onions
- Next, add the chicken pieces and saute continuously until all the pieces are white or no longer look pink or raw.800 to1000 grams skinless whole chicken
- Meanwhile, add the ginger, garlic and green chillies to a mini chopper and pulse them to coarse.12 to 15 garlic cloves, 2 inch ginger, 12 to 15 green chillies
- Once all the chicken pieces turn white, add some salt, crushed ginger, garlic and green chillies and mix until the raw smell of ginger and garlic is gone.salt to taste
- Stir in the whisked curd, chopped tomato and most of the fried onions and some Malabar garam masala. Retain some of the fried onions for garnishing.¼ cup yoghurt, 1 tomato, ½ teaspoon Malabar garam masala
- Mix well and cook covered for 10 to 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. There is no need to add any water, as the curd and chicken will release water, enough for the chicken to get cooked. Switch off and start the prep for biryani rice.
Prepare the Neychoru
- Heat the remaining onion fried oil in a flat-bottomed deep pot.1 to 2 tablespoon ghee
- Add the diced onions, whole spices and garlic clove and saute until the onions turn translucent. Meanwhile, boil enough water in the kettle. ( at least 2 cups for every 1 cup of rice or as per pack instruction)1 small red onion, 2 inch cinnamon stick, 3 to 5 green cardamom, 5 to 6 cloves, 1 garlic clove
- Now, add the washed and drained short-grain jeerakasala (Kaima) rice and fry for 3 to 5 minutes or until dried and coated in oil.2 cups Jeerakasala or Kaima rice
- Pour the required amount of boiling water and salt to taste. At this point, you may add a few green chillies (optional)4 cups hot water, 2 to 3 green chillies, salt to taste
- Cook on med-high until most of the water is absorbed and the rice surfaces so that rice and water are at the same level.
- Reduce the flame to the lowest, and turn the rice gently to bring the bottom to the top. Check and adjust the salt and then cover and cook for around 8 to 10 minutes. Switch off and keep covered for 5 to 8 mins.
- Meanwhile, bring the biryani masala pot back on the heat and cook off any excess watery gravy, if any. Stir in fresh coriander leaves, lime juice and a sprinkle of garam masala. Switch off and assemble the rice.fistful Fresh coriander leaves, fistful fresh mint leaves, 2 teaspoon lime juice
- Gently scoop and scatter the prepared biryani rice all over the hot chicken masala with a sprinkle of Malabar garam masala, fried onions, fried cashews and fried raisins. Sprinkle some chopped coriander, rose water and brewed saffron on the top.
- Cover the entire pot with foil and tightly close it with a heavy lid. If your lid is not heavy, then place a heavy object like a mortar or a jug of water. Traditionally, we place charcoal on the top lid which defines dum cooking. But for indoor cooking, we can skip that and instead place a heavy object.
- Keep a flat pan or heat diffuser on the hob and then keep the biryani pot over this. Dum cook on the lowest flame for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Open and dish out the rice on a large serving platter with the masala. Before serving garnish with more fried onions, cashews, and raisins.
- Serve with green salad, yoghurt, pickled onions, coconut mint chammanthi, lime pickle or date pickle, and pappadams!