Konkani Fish Biryani: A Lesser-Known Gem From Maharashtra

When you hear the word ‘biryani’, the first version that comes to mind is Hyderabadi biryani. With its roots in Persian cuisine, the rice-based delicacy is widely popular in India and around the world. While there is no doubt that Hyderabadi biryani is exemplary, there are multiple other variations that are equally delicious and worthy of a shot. Originating in Kadwai, a village in Maharashtra, is drool-worthy Konkani fish biryani that is sure to leave the biryani lover inside you satiated.

Video Credit: Mahek Kitchen

Konkan region consists of coastal parts of Goa, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. This region was introduced to the Persian and Arabian traders, and this is how people were introduced to Islam here. The traders used to come here for the spice trade, therefore, Konkani cuisine witnesses a blend of Maharashtrian, Goan, Kannadi, and Mughlai cuisines. One can even spot traditional cooking styles while natives cook the food. 

Flavours Of Konkani Food

Being the coastal regions, natives love seafood here. From crabs and prawns to a variety of fish, the dishes are cooked with locally sourced spices, making them different from the rest of the part of India. Coconut is also one of the star ingredients in these dishes. 

Pomfret and sear fish are the most common varieties that are consumed by locals. If you are ever in the region, try a Konkani thali comprising fish curry, prawn curry, fried fish, ghavan (rice flour pancakes), sol kadhai, and crabs on the side. 

The speciality of the dishes prepared by Konkani Muslims is that they use homemade ground masala in meat curries. While fish biryani seems like a surprise for many people who think that recipes of biryani are only made of mutton and chicken, the natives love their variant of biryani and relish it during festivals and special occasions. 

Unlike mutton and chicken, fish biryani has a different preparation style because this protein-rich meat is tender and delicate compared to other kinds of meat. Layering and a good mix of spices are essential to infuse flavours into this recipe. Fish biryani is more than just a dish cooked in Konkani Muslim households, it has special significance because it brings family members together.

Ingredients For Konkani Fish Biryani

  • 2 cups yoghurt
  • 2 kg surmai fish
  • 5 diced potatoes
  • 3 sliced onions
  • 4 bay leaf
  • 5 green cardamom
  • 3 diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons cumin powder
  • ½ bunch mint leaves
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • ½ bunch coriander leaves
  • 3 pieces of ginger
  • 2 cups ghee
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons coriander powder
  • 2 star anise
  • A pinch of saffron strands
  • 5 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • A few cloves
  • 3-4 green chillies
  • 7-8 crushed whole black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons turmeric powder
  • 1 kg basmati rice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 tablespoons cumin powder

Method To Make Konkani Fish Biryani

  • First, marinate the fish in lime juice, salt to taste, star anise, cloves, crushed black pepper, and turmeric powder. This will make the meat pieces more tender and flavourful. Roast these fish in a large pan with hot ghee until the crust turns brown.
  • In another pan, roast diced potatoes in ghee and salt until all the sides have a crunchy texture and brown colour.
  • Keep a smooth paste of coriander leaves, ginger, garlic, mint leaves, and green chillies ready.
  • In another pan, keep steamed basmati rice prepared for layering.
  • Once everything is ready for layering, prepare the biryani mix by roasting onions, bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, and garam masala in ghee. Add salt to taste and wait for spices to release aroma. 
  • As the onions turn brown, add tomatoes and roast them along with the spicy mix until they become soft and pulpy. 
  • Pour in the yoghurt to balance the spiciness, and add green paste after a couple of minutes. 
  • Add a cup of water and green coriander to adjust the consistency and infuse fresh flavours in the curry mix.
  • Spread this biryani masala at the bottom, top it with roasted fish, and add basmati rice on the top.
  • Add fried potatoes on the top, and garnish with fresh coriander leaves, mint leaves, ghee, saffron milk, and a few saffron strands. 
  • After cooking for at least 20-30 minutes, enjoy this delicious Konkani fish biryani variant with raita.