Try This Malabar Biryani Recipe For An Exquisite Taste Of State

The Moplahs or Mappilas, the Muslim community of Malabar, Kerala, have played a significant role in shaping the culinary landscape of the region, including the creation of the iconic Malabar Biryani. With their rich cultural heritage and historical connections to the Arab traders who frequented the Malabar coast, the Moplahs have infused their traditional flavours and techniques into this delectable dish.

The roots of Malabar Biryani can be traced back to the Arab influences that permeated the region. The Moplahs, known for their culinary expertise, adapted and refined the concept of biryani brought by Arab traders, giving birth to their unique version. They combined the fragrant spices of the Arab world with the abundance of local ingredients, resulting in a biryani that is both authentic and distinctly Malabar.

The Moplahs introduced subtle yet significant variations in the preparation of Malabar Biryani. They incorporated indigenous spices like black pepper, cinnamon, and cloves, which added depth and complexity to the flavours. The use of fragrant basmati rice, perfectly cooked with precision and expertise, became a hallmark of Malabar Biryani, elevating it to a culinary masterpiece.

The Moplahs' emphasis on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients is another distinguishing feature of Malabar Biryani. The succulent meat, often chicken or mutton, was procured from trusted local sources, ensuring the highest quality. The fragrant spices were carefully selected and ground, bringing out their full potential. The garnishing of fried onions and nuts added a delightful crunch and visual appeal to the dish, making it a feast for both the eyes and the palate.

The Moplahs' passion for preserving tradition and their unwavering commitment to authenticity have kept the legacy of Malabar Biryani alive. Passed down through generations, the recipes and cooking techniques have been meticulously preserved, ensuring that the true essence of Malabar Biryani continues to enchant food enthusiasts and honour the rich heritage of the Moplah community.

The Essence of Malabar Biryani:

Malabar Biryani is a testament to the fusion of Arabian, Persian, and Indian culinary influences that have shaped the region's cuisine over centuries. This delightful dish showcases the artful combination of fragrant basmati rice, an assortment of whole spices, succulent meat (commonly chicken or mutton), and a tantalizing blend of herbs and condiments. The hallmark of Malabar Biryani lies in its intricate preparation and the harmonious balance of flavours that make it truly extraordinary.

The Preparation Process:

The journey of Malabar Biryani begins with the selection of the finest ingredients, emphasizing the quality of rice, meat, and spices. The rice is soaked to achieve the perfect texture before being parboiled. The meat is marinated in a blend of yoghurt and spices, allowing it to absorb the flavours and become incredibly tender.

In a traditional large cooking pot, known as a "handi," layers of parboiled rice and marinated meat are alternately arranged. Each layer is embellished with a medley of spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and bay leaves, creating a symphony of aromas. The handi is then sealed with a dough lid, known as "dum," and slow-cooked over a low flame or in an oven. This unique cooking method ensures that the flavours infuse into every grain of rice and every piece of meat, resulting in a heavenly biryani

Exquisite Flavors and Garnishes:

The secret to the distinctive taste of Malabar Biryani lies in the blend of spices used, which includes aromatic varieties like saffron, turmeric, and fennel. These spices infuse the rice with a vibrant yellow hue and a delightful fragrance that tantalizes the palate. The tender, succulent pieces of meat, cooked to perfection, are moist and bursting with flavour.

To add a final touch of indulgence, Malabar Biryani is garnished with a generous sprinkling of fried onions, cashews, and raisins. This garnish not only adds a delightful crunch but also imparts a subtle sweetness that complements the spiciness of the biryani. The marriage of flavours and textures in each mouthful is nothing short of a gastronomic delight.

Serving and Accompaniments

Malabar Biryani is often served with a side of raita, a refreshing yoghurt-based condiment that helps balance the richness of the biryani. The raita is usually made with yoghurt, cucumber, tomatoes, mint, and coriander, providing a cool and soothing contrast to the spicy and aromatic biryani.

Variations of Malabar Biryani:

While chicken and mutton are the most commonly used meats in Malabar Biryani, variations of this dish can be found with other proteins such as fish, prawns, or even vegetarian options like paneer (cottage cheese). Each variation brings its unique flavours and textures, catering to diverse palates and preferences. The Malabar region also has at least two distinct versions of Biryani, one belonging to the Kozhikode district and the other to the Thalassery region.

The Art of Dum Cooking:

The cooking technique known as "dum" plays a pivotal role in achieving the exquisite taste and texture of Malabar Biryani. Dum cooking refers to the process of slow-cooking the biryani in a sealed pot, allowing the flavours to meld together and infuse into every grain of rice and meat. The result is a biryani that is aromatic, flavorful, and incredibly tender.

The Influence of Arabian and Persian Cuisine:

The Malabar region has a rich history of trade and cultural exchanges with Arab and Persian traders. These interactions have significantly influenced the local cuisine, including the evolution of Malabar Biryani. The use of fragrant spices like saffron, as well as the layered cooking technique, can be traced back to the Arabian and Persian culinary traditions, which have seamlessly integrated into the Malabar style.

Malabar Biryani: A Feast for Special Occasions:

Malabar Biryani holds a special place in the culinary traditions of the Malabar region. It is often reserved for festive occasions, weddings, and celebratory feasts. The elaborate preparation process and the grandeur of serving the biryani in a handi or a large platter further elevate its status as a dish that signifies abundance, joy, and togetherness.

Preserving Tradition in Modern Times:

Despite the passage of time and the evolution of cooking techniques, the traditional method of preparing Malabar Biryani has been preserved and passed down through generations. Families and local restaurants take pride in following age-old recipes and techniques, ensuring that the authentic flavours and essence of this regional delicacy are maintained.

Culinary Tourism and Malabar Biryani

The fame of Malabar Biryani has extended beyond the borders of Kerala, attracting food enthusiasts and travellers from all over the world. The culinary tourism industry has recognized the allure of this delectable dish, offering food tours and experiences that allow visitors to indulge in the authentic flavours of Malabar Biryani and explore the cultural significance behind its creation

Malabar Biryani is a culinary masterpiece that showcases the rich heritage and flavours of the Malabar region in Kerala. With its aromatic rice, fragrant spices, tender meat, and delightful garnishes, it is a dish that captivates the senses and leaves a lasting impression. Whether enjoyed on special occasions or savoured during a culinary adventure, Malabar Biryani is a testament to the skill, tradition, and artistry of the local cuisine, making it an experience worth savouring.


2 cups basmati rice

500 grams of chicken (or mutton), cut into pieces

1 cup plain yoghurt

2 large onions, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or cooking oil

1 tablespoon ginger paste

1 tablespoon garlic paste

2 tomatoes, finely chopped

2 green chillies, slit

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon red chilli powder

1 teaspoon biryani masala powder

1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder

A pinch of saffron strands, soaked in 2 tablespoons of warm milk

A handful of chopped mint leaves

A handful of chopped coriander leaves

Salt to taste

Fried onions, cashews, and raisins for garnishing


•          Rinse the basmati rice thoroughly and soak it in water for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

•          In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken (or mutton) pieces with yoghurt, ginger paste, garlic paste, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, and salt. Mix well and let it marinate for at least 1 hour.

•          Heat ghee (or oil) in a large, deep-bottomed pot. Add the sliced onions and fry until golden brown. Remove half of the fried onions and set them aside for garnishing.

•          To the remaining onions in the pot, add the marinated chicken (or mutton) and cook over medium heat until it is lightly browned.

•          Add the chopped tomatoes and green chillies to the pot and cook until the tomatoes are soft and the mixture is well blended.

•          Now, add the biryani masala powder and garam masala powder. Stir well to coat the meat evenly with the spices.

•          Drain the soaked rice and add it to the pot. Gently mix the rice with the meat mixture, taking care not to break the rice grains.

•          Add enough water (approximately 3 cups) to the pot to cook the rice. Season with salt according to your taste.

•          Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and cook on low heat for about 20-25 minutes, or until the rice is fully cooked and fluffy.

•          Once the rice is cooked, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes, allowing the flavours to meld together.

•          In a small bowl, mix the saffron strands soaked in milk with a spoonful of the cooked rice.

•          Gently fluff the rice with a fork and drizzle the saffron-infused rice over the top. Sprinkle the chopped mint leaves and coriander leaves.

•          Finally, garnish the biryani with reserved fried onions, fried cashews, and raisins.

•          Serve the Malabar Biryani hot with raita or a side salad.

Enjoy the delightful flavours and aroma of Malabar Biryani as you savour each mouthful!