Cooking with Mom: Chicken Biryani

My mother is visiting and I am taking full advantage of her being here by having her teach me some new dishes.  I have never made Biryani (layers of rice and a meat or vegetable curry – an Asian lasagna of sorts) before and have always thought of it as a complicated dish.  My mother learnt this recipe from her aunt in Singapore while we lived there and I am thrilled to add it to my repertoire especially since Ria scarfed it down like a champ.  Serve with some simple greens.  Scale recipe for a dinner party and impress your guests!

Chicken Biryani

This is a bit of a fusion dish – Indian and Chinese, which is typical of Singaporean food.  A little more time consuming than most of the dishes we post on this blog but sometimes a little bit of trouble goes a long way.  Works great for a Sunday one-pot family dinner.

Serves 4-6


2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thigh or breast cut into 1-inch cubes

2 cups rice

1 cinnamon stick and 2 bay leaves (optional)

For marinade:

1 tbsp soy sauce

½ tbsp dark soy sauce

½ tbsp red chilly powder (optional or use less)

salt & pepper to taste

For gravy/sauce:

1 lb onions or shallots, finely chopped

3-4 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp ginger, minced

3 medium tomatoes, diced

1 tbsp cumin powder


  1. Marinate chicken in soy sauces, chilly powder (if using) and salt and pepper for 2 hours or as long as a day.
  2. When ready to cook make rice in saucepan or rice-cooker.   You can flavor the rice with a bay leaf and a cinnamon stick if you like.  Set it aside when ready.
  3. Heat oil and add diced onions/shallots and caramelize for 10-15 minutes.  If the onion or shallot sticks add some water to “unstick” the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Add ginger and cumin powder and fry for another 5 minutes.
  4. Continue to fry for 10 minutes after adding the tomatoes and then add the chicken.
  5. The chicken should take 15-20 minutes to cook through and will require some watching over and stirring so it doesn’t stick.
  6. Layer rice and chicken gravy in a serving dish or casserole like a lasagne – one layer rice, one layer chicken gravy ending with the chicken.

22 thoughts on “Cooking with Mom: Chicken Biryani

  1. Biryani is my most favorite thing in the world. I can have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I learned to cook it from my roommate when I was in London. It is slightly different from yours. But whatever the version I love it. And your biryani has that beautiful color yummy.

  2. Yum. This sauce sounds divine. I love Indian food but I can never make my sauces at home similar to the ones I have at the restaurant. I can’t wait to try it. Thanks, Simran!

  3. What a coincident! I’ve just made and post chicken and rice, too. Similar to biryani… but Thai version.
    Now I’m thinking of making biryani 🙂 your version seems easy and simple, too.
    The picture looks so stunning. I will have to try it.

  4. Oh I lived in India for a year and I miss home made Indian food soooo much. I will have to try this. Your recipe seems easy enough for me to avoid making a disaster

  5. This looks so tasty. I love beriyani but don’t make it enough at home for it is quite a troublesome dish for me.
    Your version seems a lot easier and I can’t wait to try this out. 🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing your mom’s recipe! This is a definite one to try for one our dinners this week. I have fond memories of my visit to Singapore for my son’s wedding and all the great food we ate there. I can’t wait to return so I can eat some more!

  7. Pingback: Recipe Collection: Care Packages and Meals to Deliver to Friends « A Little Yumminess

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