Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chemeen Biryani

It has been a year since I started blogging and after an initial flurry of activity, the frequency of my posts has reduced significantly. My son is now 20 months old and a very active little guy. He keeps me on my toes all day. There is very little that I can do when he is awake, and a lot to do while he naps. Plus, he now only naps once a day.

Since it was Eid-ul-Adha on the 8th, here's wishing everyone Eid Mubarak. Like we do back home, I make it a point to make biryani and Sheer Kurma for Eid. Our friends join us for the meal, we wear new clothes and the kids exchange gifts.

I don't make the typical Calicut biryani - Calicut is where my parents are from, Mumbai is where I was born and raised. Instead, I make a hybrid Calicut-Mumbai style biryani. The Mumbai style requires frying the onions until they are golden brown while the Calicut biryani requires sauteing the onions and marinating the meat/fish with the masalas(spices).

During Thanksgiving we had some friends visiting us and although they were here to have a fun time, we were all glued to our TV, watching the massacre take place in Mumbai. Mumbai is my home and will always be in my blood. In the past decade, I have had the opportunity to live in NYC, Sydney and Brussels. I love these cities but Mumbai is special. My father came to Mumbai from Calicut in his teens and was joined a few years later by my mother after they got married. My parents lived there for more than four decades. My two brothers and I grew up in this city and have such beautiful memories of our life there. For the three days that it took to get the situation under control, I was at the edge of my couch praying to God to end this, and hoping and praying that none of my dear friends would be in harm's way. I was also thankful that my parents no longer lived in Mumbai. Each time I see the picture of that terrorist at CST, I think about the times that my dad stayed late at the office to avoid the rush hour and took the 9:30pm train home - those murderers terrorized CST at about 9:30 in the evening.I pray for the families who have lost their loved ones in this horrible tragedy, and I pray for the survivors who have to live with the memories for the rest of their lives.

Mumbai is a great city, full of life and I LOVE Mumbai and always will.

On EId-ul-Adha we always make Beef/Goat/Lamb Biryani. But since I have been in no mood to cook, blog or blog hop, I am posting this recipe for Chemeen (shrimp) Biryani which I had made sometime ago.

Here is the recipe.

For the Kayam(marinade)
  • 1 Lb Chemeen/Shrimp(Use raw uncooked ones)
  • 3-4 Big Onions, sliced (2 onions fried till they are golden brown and crisp)
  • 4 Medium size Tomatoes, chopped
  • 15-20 medium hot chiles (more or less)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 3-4 tsp roasted coriander powder
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic paste
  • small bunch of coriander leaves chopped
  • 1/2 cup yogurt (preferably whole milk)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon(US size) - Indian lemons tend to be smaller so you would need more.
Grind or pulse the green chiles.

Fry 2 sliced onions till they are golden brown and crisp. Fry a handful of raisins and cashews, till they are plump and golden brown respectively. You can fry them in ghee or oil.

Marinade the Shrimp for an hour or so with the turmeric, chili powder and salt. Lightly fry the shrimp in oil till it is half cooked, couple of minutes each sides. Do this in batches, keep it aside.

In the same oil saute 2 onions till it is translucent. Add the ground green chilies, tomatoes, fried shrimp, coriander, yogurt, ginger, garlic paste, lemon juice, turmeric, chili, and coriander powder. Crush one of the crispy fried onion with your hands and add to the marinade(this is the Mumbai part). This give a lovely brown color to the biryani. Add salt to taste and adjust seasoning.
For the Rice:

  • 2 1/2 cups Basamti rice (wash and soaked in water)
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1-2 Bay leaf
  • 3-4 cloves
  • 2-3' pieces of cinnamon
  • 3-4 cardamom
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp oil

In a pot add the oil, and add the bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom. The spices will pop a bit. Add the sliced onion and let it saute, till the onions turn opaque. Now add the saoked rice, fry the rice till it is well coated in oil 2-3 minutes. Now add 5 cups of water. Cook the rice on medium heat till it is not completely cooked(that is - if you take a grain of rice and break it in the middle it should be slightly raw). Drain the rice onto a colander. Keep aside.

Biryani Masala:

  • Cinnamon 2 sticks (1 inch each)
  • 5-6 green cardamon pods
  • 7-8 cloves
  • 1/2 nutmeg
  • 2-3 mace
  • 1-2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds

Lightly roast all of the above in a pan and grind it to fine powder. Store it in an air tight container. You will need only about 1 tsp or so.

Assembling the dish:

In a heavy bottomed pot, put the chemeen/shrimp kayam(marinade). Put half of the drained cooked rice on top of the shrimp. Pour a tbsp of oil on the rice, spread half of the golden fried onion, cashew, and raisins. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp of the biryani masala over. I usually also use a pinch of saffron over the rice. Now put the other half of the rice over the layer of rice and do the same, that is with the onions, cashews, raisins, oil, biryani masala and saffron.

Cover the pot with aluminum foil and tightly close the lid. Cook for 10 -15 minutes on a medium flame or till your house can smell all the fantastic spices. Open the lid and serve hot mixing the shrimp masala with the rice. Serve with coriander chutney, raita and kerala pappadums.


Cynthia said...

Happy Holidays!

Mallugirl said...

ur biryani looks delicious.growing up in mumbai and then seeing all that terrorism there must be unnerving. I didn't know u were originally from clt.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you would ever be interested in becoming a featured publisher with If so please conctact me at

Happy cook said...

Yummy yumm. Biriyani looks so super delicious.
Wish Icould eat a huge plate of that delicious prawn biriyani.