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South Canara chicken biryani

South Canara, or Mangalore, as it is more commonly known, has a very distinct cuisine that has developed over centuries. The Beary community were influenced over the years by their trading partners, including Arabs, and incorporated new spices and flavour combinations into their very distinct cuisine. This biryani is a perfect example of this lovely cuisine.

The spices are a mix of heavy herbs and spices like fennel and star anise. the combination gives an aromatic sauce in which the chicken is slowly cooked till it is melts in your mouth. The spices are well balanced and the chilli is mild with just enough spice to tantalize the palate. This is a lovely biryani, one that deserves mention.

This is a specialized cookbook that brings to my library, and dining table, a variety of flavours, styles and diverse sets of dishes. The book also is wonderful at detailing the process of cooking a true biryani, versus the pulao and kichiri. I do enjoy this book for the diversity of flavours, from the super spicy South Indian biryanis to the regal Lucknowi and Hyderabadi biryanis to the mild and delicate North Indian biryanis. This is one of those cookbooks that anyone interested in the art of biryani should own. You will see me cook from here again.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.


1 large chicken, cut into 8 pieces

3 cups basmati rice

3 tablespoons oil

4 medium onions, finely diced

3 tomatoes, finely chopped

4 cups water

Salt, to taste

For the spice paste:

1 1-inch piece cinnamon stick

1 flake star anise

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

1/4 cup mint leaves

6-8 green chillies, or to taste

1 tablespoon ginger paste

10-12 cloves garlic

3-4 tablespoons water.

Dry roast the dry spices for the spice paste individually till they are aromatic and lightly coloured. Cool and grind to a fine powder in a spice mill.

Add the ground spices to a small blender with the cilantro, mint, green chillies, ginger, garlic, and water and blitz to a smooth purèe. You are looking for a thick paste, do not make it too watery.

Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onions. Sautè on medium-low heat till the onions are a lovely golden. Add the spice paste and cook till the paste has dried out and the oil starts to bubble on the surface, about 3-4 minutes. Cook on low heat or you will burn the spices.

Add the tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes break down and form a sauce, about 10 minutes. If the spice paste begins to burn, add a touch of water. Cook till the sauce has thickened and the oil begins to pool on the surface.

Add the chicken and cook on low heat till the chicken has turned white on the surface. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently with the lid closed tightly for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally so the spices do not burn at the bottom of the pot. Taste and adjust salt as needed.

Cook the rice in a rice cooker or a pot.

Remove the chicken from the pot, no need to clean the pot. layer with half the rice, followed by the chicken and then the remaining rice. Add 1/4 cup water. The dish can be prepared and stored like this overnight.

To heat up, bake the rice in the oven at 375° F for 20 minutes, or set the rice on a small stove on the lowest flame for 15 minutes.

Serve immediately opening the pot at the table.

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