Monday, August 24, 2009

Fake Chicken Biryani – Totally Vegetarian!

S’s very good friend from college lives in Chicago, and he and his wife make amazing non-vegetarian dishes. S used to ask Aunty (his friend’s mom) to make Chicken Biryani whenever he visited their house, which was pretty much every second weekend back in the 90’s – throughout his college days. Now, the couple makes amazing biryanis, but off late, we’ve all cut down / stopped eating NV food unless it’s absolutely necessary to survive.

Every family has its own distinct recipe for Biryani, and there is some difference in each household’s version. There’s no exaggeration or kidding when I say our friends’ biryani is just amazing, exactly like the kind you would get in Osmania or any such totally popular hotel in India – should I say even better? I noted down the recipe to their delicious, perfect biryani and decided to give it a try – my way.

Soya nuggets have a tendency to taste like chicken when cooked properly, and they are full of rich proteins. Chicken bouillon cubes are intense with chicken flavour – they are made from dehydrated chicken broth. So, technically, that’s just water in which chicken was cooked. These two ingredients totally make up for a great dish I’d like to call the ‘Fake Chicken Biryani’. The following recipe serves 4-6 adults, depending on their appetite!

This is what you’ll need to dish this up:
1. Nutrela Soya Nuggests - 1 cup – cooked according to instructions

2. Hard boiled eggs – 4-6 – optional

3. Onions – 1 and a half large ones – cut in very thin slices

4. Tomatoes – 4 campari tomatoes – chopped

5. Basmati Rice – washed and drained – 3 cups ( I didn’t use a measuring cup, I use the small cup that comes with the rice cooker – that’s about 3/4th of a measuring cup)

6. Freshly made ginger and garlic paste. The bottled ones do fine as well, but there’s a richer flavour from fresh pastes – 2 teaspoons each

7. 1 teaspoon Garam Masala; 2 teaspoons Coriander Powder; 1 teaspoon Red Chili Powder; Turmeric as needed

8. 10 small green chilis – slit. Make sure they are the small variety

9. A couple of sprigs of Mint Leaves, half a bunch of Coriander Leaves, one sprig of Curry Leaves – I store up on dried mint leaves, I used about a tablespoon of that.

10. 1 inch piece of Cinnamon, 3 pods of Cardamom, 3 Cloves, 1 Bayleaf, 1 Star Anise

11. 1 carrot – julienned; Half a green bell pepper – julienned.

12. Chicken Bouillon Cubes - 2

13. Save a few slices of onions soaked in vinegar for garnishing, some coriander leaves for garnishing

14. Oil and ghee

This is how you dish this up:
1. In a pressure cooker/handi, heat some oil and ghee. Fry the whole masalas, the curry leaves, mint leaves,coriander leaves and slit green chili.

2. Add the onions and fry them till they turn into a soft pulp. Add a pinch of salt to help cook the onions faster.

3. Add the coriander powder, garam masala and chili powder and continue frying well till the flavours blend and the rawness disappears.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook them till they turn mushy and the entire masala clumps up as a nice paste.

5. Now add the cooked soya nuggets and the julienned vegetables, toss them till they’re coated with the masala. Finally toss in the boiled eggs after slitting them with a knife.

6. Add the chicken bouillon cubes to 4 cups of hot water and make sure they dissolve well.

7. Add the washed basmati rice followed by 1.5 cups of water for each cup of rice. Finally, remove half a cup of water. (I added 4 cups of water with the chicken bouillon cubes straight away instead of finally removing half a cup of water) Make sure the water quantity is correct, that is the key step to getting your biryani right. Basmati rice usually consumes 2 cups of water, but adding 1.5 per cup and finally removing half a cup yields in fluffy individual grains. The moisture from the masalas make up for the removed water. If you end up adding more water than required, you will get mashed up biryani and broken rice grains.

8. Adjust the seasonings by adding black pepper if you need more spice. Do not add chili powder. The flavour of the biryani lies in cooking the powders well, like in step 3. Therefore adding raw chili powder in the end changes the taste. If you need more spice, which is highly unlikely, make sure to add black pepper powder. Add salt as needed. Chicken bouillon cubes are salted, so make sure you add salt in the end, after adding the water.

9. Finally, add a tablespoon of lemon juice, cover and pressure cook for 20 minutes or until done.

10. Allow the Biryani to cool before tossing it into a serving dish. Do not use a serving spoon as that is a guaranteed step towards breaking the rice grains.

11. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and marinated onion slices.

12. Serve with raita, kurma, or any side dish of your taste.

Traditionally, our friends cook the chicken (boneless pieces) in water, and use that fresh broth to make a side dish with vegetables for the biryani. The cooked chicken is added in step 5, instead of the nuggets.

This is the best and most delicious biryani I’ve ever had – tastes totally like something you’d pay money for but is homemade. This version is totally vegetarian/eggetarian. Unless of course, you don't mind the harmless chicken bouillon cubes :D


  1. Rums, Fake Biriyani looks yum... when are you coming to India, so I can have a taste of all of this wonderful cooking! :)

  2. Joe, when I come to India, I'm going to hog on all the restaurant food, MIL's and MOM's food, etc... you know the gist ;) But - I will surely cook for you guys :D I wish I knew when I was coming :(

  3. what's a Chicken Bouillon? it's got like a 1000 ingredients. :O. but looks so yum. i'm going to tweet this.

  4. They're those little cubes of concentrated dehydrated broth. Maggi and Knorr ones? Ask Vini, she'll show you one! :D

    And Pops, all of this 1000ish ingredients is what makes the Biryani YUMMY!

  5. now i get it. maggi soup cubes i call it. and yes child, the ingredients maketh the biriyani. : ))

  6. Ahhh yes, Maggi cubes :D Dehydrated broth :)

    It's time to make this biryani again - cravings