Of all the biryanis I have tried and tasted, Thalassery Biriyani is my favourite! This recipe is my tribute to this traditional favourite that I can never get enough of!
I can never say no to a biriyani. It doesn’t matter if it’s called a biriyani, biryani, or biriani, I have pledged my allegiance to this fragrant rice and meat delicacy! I don’t remember when I fell in love with this flavourful one-dish meal.
We have many varieties of biriyanis in India – Mughalai, Awadhi, Sindh, Hyderabadi, Chettinad, Ambur, Malabar, Bengali, Kashmiri, the list will go on. And I love them all! The basic premise is the same. You have rice, meat (red, white, or even seafood), and spices, and they are all brought together in one pot making it a deeply satisfying meal in itself.
When I tuck into a biriyani, it’s not just food, but also a celebration of life, love, and all things good on this Earth! It’s my comfort food. When I feel low, a good biriyani will lift my spirits up; and when I am happy, a good biriyani will make the rest of my day even more joyful!
All biriyanis are equal, but one maybe a little more equal!
Thalassery, a small commercial town in the North Kerala district of Kannur, is famous for the celebrated Malabar cuisine. Their world famous Thalassery biriyani is a culinary treat. Fragrant meat in a soulful gravy, and rice cooked with spices are married together by slow cooking again in layers, all absorbing each other’s flavours. Topped up with fried onions, sultana raisins and cashew nuts, a true Thalassery biriyani is the thing to live for!
The soul of Thalassery biriyani lies in the masala. Onions are slow cooked with green chillies, ginger, and garlic. Tomatoes are added to the mix and cooked till they disappear into the mix. Now goes in coriander and mint leaves, and the marinated chicken pieces. This is slow cooked until the chicken is soft and juicy. Fresh garam masala is added before cooking for a few more minutes. That chicken masala is half work done. Now we move on to the rice. Thalassery biriyani is traditionally cooked with Kaima rice. If you can’t source Kaima, basmati rice is a decent alternative. Whole spices and rice are fried in ghee and oil, and cooked in boiling water. Cooked rice and the chicken masala are placed in layers, topped with fried cashew nuts, sultanas, and onions, and “dum” cooked.
In traditional “Dum” cooking the lid is secured to the pan with a dough so that no steam can escape. Hot coal is placed on the lid, and slow cooked with a low flame from below the pan.
Story of this recipe
This recipe is inspired from a weekend cooking session with my cousin and her friend, who is from Thalassery. She had her mom’s recipe, and we had all the ingredients. She led the cooking, while we helped with prepping the ingredients. The results were amazing. That was one of the best home cooked biriyanis that I have ever come across!
This recipe is a slightly altered version I have been working on. I am planning to revisit this soon. I hope this rendition has done justice to the original!
Thalassery Biriyani – Before you get cooking
Biriyani requires a lot of tender loving care. The process is elaborate, and spending some time in the kitchen is required, but the results are worth waiting for. I have used Basmati rice in this recipe. I have also cheated on the dum cooking – without compromising much on the flavours. Go ahead, plan and prep your ingredients, and start cooking. The aromas of spices getting fried will get you going!
P.S: If you want to think beyond biriyani, try this meat rice – “erachi choru” recipe here.