The Majestic Zafrani Biryani

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Mira tells us about traditional Zafrani Birayani and shares the recipe. Enjoy preparing, serving and eating a delicacy from Hyderabad at home.

Every country, state or region has its own distinctive gastronomic uniqueness. Some emerge due to the requirement, others due to the available and some due to their historical background. Hyderabad has had a very interesting past, which had launched a lot of traditions that is still carried on. One of these is the cuisine that came into being as Biryani and now famous worldwide. There are various kinds of Biryani but Zafrani Biryani is considered most sought after.

It originated in the 16th century during Quli Qutub Shah’s regime – he was the founder of Hyderabad. In the bygone era, Zafrani Biryani was served on regular basis but now it is only part of grand weddings or very prestigious social gatherings. Nevertheless, many households in Hyderabad still cook up this gastronomic dish in honour of exceptional family members or friends. So here is the recipe of the Zafrani Biryani for you to include in your menu when you have a distinguished guests.

Indian Traditional

Serves : 4                             Level of Cooking : Advanced          



2 1/2 cups rice, Basmati or any long-grained variety
1 kg chicken
3 cups yoghurt (dahi)
a generous pinch of Saffron (kesar)
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 tbsp fresh cream
1 medium bunch of mint leaves (pudina)
1 medium bunch of green (hara dhaniya)
l6 cups water
2 bay leaves (tej patta)
10 green cardamoms (choti elaichi)
10 cloves (laung)
Salt to taste
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2 black cardamom (badi elaichi)
4 medium size cinnamon sticks (dalchini)
1 tsp mace (javitri)
3 tsp black cumin seeds (shahijeera)
1/2 cup sliced onions
4 tbsp ginger and paste
3 tsp red chilli powder (add less or more as per your taste)
4 tsp lemon juice



  1. Clean, skin and cut the chicken pieces to your liking.
  2. Wash the rice and soak for at least half an hour.
  3. Whisk the yoghurt in a bowl and divide into two equal portions. Dissolve the saffron in warm milk and cream. Add one portion of the yoghurt to it.
  4. Chop the mint and green coriander and keep aside.
  5. In a saucepan (dekchi) bring the water to boil and add one bay leaf, two green cardamom, and two cloves. Add the drained rice and salt to taste. Boil for a few minutes until the rice is half cooked. Drain the water from the rice and keep aside.
  6. Heat the butter in another medium size pan (dekchi). Add the remaining whole spices along with black cumin seeds, add onions and fry until golden brown. Add ginger-garlic paste and fry for 15 seconds. Add chilli powder, cumin powder and garam masala powder and sauté on slow flame for one minute.
  7. Add the chicken and salt to taste and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes.
  8. Add one cup water to the remaining plain yoghurt and add to the chicken. Cook until the chicken is soft. Stir in lemon juice finally.
  9. Use a large cooking dish and put half the chicken mixture, Spread half the parboiled rice on top of the chicken. Sprinkle half the saffron-yoghurt mixture and part of the chopped coriander and mint leaves. Follow the same process for the remaining half. Cover with a moist cloth and seal the edged of the dish with wheat flour dough.
  10. Keep the dish on slow flame and leave for ten minutes. To avoid any charring, after ten minutes keep a flat pan (tawa) on the flame and then place the dish on it for another 10 minutes.
  11. Do not take away the seal until you are ready to serve. Garnish with pieces of fried almonds and cashew nuts.

Your family and friends would enjoy the finger licking delicacy from Hyderabad.

Pix from author and net


Mira Pawar

Mira Pawar

Mira is is an avid traveler and loves writing travelogues.
Mira Pawar