Sri Lanka: Biriyani

By Jassothini Saravanai

           Biriyani is one of my favourite dishes from Sri Lanka. I can enjoy this dish for lunch or for dinner. In my family, biriyani isn't made very often because it takes a very long time to make it. This recipe is mostly reserved for special occasions and I enjoy it very much when it is prepared. Biriyani is a recipe that is very popular in many countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. However, each region has its own method of preparation and some of the spices also vary. Montreal has various Indian and Sri Lankan restaurants, and if you go to these restaurants and order a biriyani, you would be surprised because they differ in taste and colour. The Sri Lankan biriyani is much spicier than the Indian biriyani. Indian biriyani uses more saffron to enhance the colour whereas Sri Lankan biriyani uses turmeric. This recipe takes time and patience to make and therefore is enjoyed very much.
           Biriyani is a very famous dish found in Southern Asia. From personal experience, I can definitely say that the best biriyani dishes are prepared back in Sri Lanka. I visited Sri Lanka in the summer of 2007 and tasted the most delicious biriyani dishes back there because they use fresh spices and ingredients.
           When you eat biriyani, the delicious, savoury taste and the aroma make you want to eat more and more. Sometimes it is even served with red onion salad which is mixed with yogurt and small pieces of green chilies which makes it even spicier. The spicier the dish is the way I most enjoy it. I remember when I was young, I didn't like spicy food, but as I grew older, I became accustomed to it and now I cannot imagine eating otherwise.



‒ 2 cups basmati rice
‒ 2 lbs chicken, cut into pieces
‒ 3 large onions, sliced
‒ 1 cup yogurt
‒ 1 tsp ginger paste
‒ ½ tsp garlic paste
‒ 1 tsp green chili paste
‒ ½ cup tomato puree
‒ 2 tsp red chili powder
‒ 1 tsp turmeric powder
‒ 1 tsp cumin powder (roasted)
‒ ½ tsp cardamom powder
‒ 2 tsp garam masala powder
‒ ½ cup milk
‒ pinch of saffron
‒ 1 tsp coriander powder
‒ 2 tbsp green coriander leaves, chopped
‒ 3½ cups water
‒ 7 tbsp oil
‒ salt (as required)

  1. In a large bowl, combine tomato puree, yogurt, ginger paste, garlic paste, green chili paste, red chili powder, turmeric powder, roasted cumin powder, garam masala powder, coriander powder, and salt.
  2. Add chicken and let marinade for 3 to 4 hours.
  3. In a pan, heat oil and fry onions till they turn golden brown.
  4. Add marinated chicken to pan and cook the entire mixture for 10 minutes.
  5. In a pressure cooker, add rice with water. Combine saffron and milk and add to the rice.
  6. Add cardamom powder, chicken pieces, and marinade to the rice.
  7. Mix all ingredients gently, cover with the cooker lid, and pressure cook for 2 minutes.
  8. Garnish with green coriander leaves and serve hot.

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