Shahi Murgh Biryani/ Chicken Biryani

How does one introduce something so brilliant, so delicious, so filling.....something that gives you such an enriching experience. Perfect soul food. The beauty of that gorgeously marinated chicken that sits overnight absorbing all the different flavours, when cooked, the aroma of it wafting through the entire home and beyond.... the pieces cooked to sheer perfection- slightly charred on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside.... with rice that are enhanced by the flavours of Zaafraan or saffron, each grain of that rice perched proudly on your spoon maintaining its individual identity.... If this is not bliss, I know not what is!  

I love my Biryanis! Its one of my specialities. I love cooking it and ohhhh the praises it garners from people of all ages. It has satisfied the tastebuds of my grandparents who have a huge hand in lending me my cooking gene, who have also tasted the authentic biryanis that were cooked in the homes of royals and it has brought smiles to faces of children! When I have guests over, people gravitate towards the biryani, keep coming back for seconds n thirds till its all gone! And thats when you really know, you have something special going on. 

Cooking biryani uses the age old technique of 'dum' which means sealing the pot while its cooking. Waiting to open the pot for the first time always adds to my stress levels but then thats just me being me! This recipe always does me justice! Also marinating the chicken and topping up the biryani with fried onions also known as 'birista' adds an extra dimension of flavour and brings out a beautiful caramelised sweetness which is just unmatched.

Making biryani takes time and patience. The prep takes longer than the actual cooking time but hey! its all worth it! A perfect harmony of flavours that dance on your tongue and warm your heart. I prefer calling biryani a memory pot because it always adds so many lovely moments when people sit around sharing stories, eating good food and sharing the love. 

Also, I call this a Shahi Murgh ki Biryani or royal biryani because I have tweaked the flavours a little bit. The richness of this biryani is not in its spiciness but because of the aromatics used in the marinade. Trust me... this is a Royal man's feast! 

Here we go! 

Cooking time: 45 mins- 1 hour

Serves: 4-6

Complexity: ****

You'll need

3 red onions
oil for frying
12-14 cloves of garlic
1 1/2" ginger piece
2-3 green chilies
cashew paste made by using 15-20 cashews + 2-3 tbsp water and blending
6-7 tbsp thick plain yogurt
4 tbsp full fat cream
2-3 star anise
2 mace
3 whole red chilies
4 bay leaves
4-5 green cardamoms
2 black cardamoms
2" cinnamon stick
12-15 mint leaves
handful of coriander leaves
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tbsp red chili powder
salt to taste
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp of garam masala
juice of 1 lemon
7-8 strands of saffron
rose petals from 3 roses (I used desi gulab or the Indian roses since I think they are more fragrant)
3 tbsp ghee
1/2 cup milk
I used 6 drumsticks and 5 chicken thighs. You can use what ever you please.  
2 cups basmati rice
some dough to make the seal
a pot full of love


First, cut up the onions in half moons and then slice them up thinly. 

Have your oil heating on medium high flame. Use a flavourless oil preferably. 

Once the oil starts to shimmer, add in the onions, in batches. Don't add them all together otherwise they wont crisp up. 

Fry till they are golden brown like so

The onions all ready. Fry them on a medium flame so they become really crispy and dont burn.

Meanwhile take the ginger, garlic and green chilies and make a coarse paste. 

Have your chicken washed and cleaned and pat it dry. 

Add the ginger garlic chili paste. 

Make the cashew paste as well and add to the chicken

Spoon over a few tbsp of yogurt. Yogurt not only adds a little tanginess but also helps tenderise the chicken. 

Add in 3/4th of those fried onions or birista pyaaz

Some fresh cream. 

Get the cardamoms both black n green and thwack them a few times till the pods crack open. 

Time to add in the whole spices for that rich aromatic Indian flavour. Red chili, star anise, mace, bay leaves, cinnamon stick broken into smaller pieces and the opened cardamom pods with the seeds. 

Tear up the mint leaves and scatter them over on the chicken. 

Follow it up with coriander leaves. Give it all a mix. 

Time to turn up the spice quotient! Add the turmeric powder

The red chili powder (don't worry, it wont make your biryani too spicy!)

salt to taste

Cumin seeds

Garam masala powder and again give it all a thorough mixing so the spices are all distributed on the chicken. 

The lemon juice

Lastly, add in the king of spices- Zaafran/ saffron and the beautiful, insanely fragrant rose petals. The rose petals leave this delicate sweet aftertaste once the biryani is cooked. The aroma of this marinade is something I can't express in words. It just has to be felt. 

Spoon over 4 tbsp of that oil in which we friend the onions over this chicken. 

I scattered a few mint and coriander leaves before I covered the whole bowl with wrap and placed it in the fridge to marinade overnight. I sometimes let the chicken marinade in the spices for a day or a day and a half, taking it out a couple of times to give it all a toss. 

I took out the chicken in the morning about 40 mins prior to cooking

How pretty does this look! The murgh taking in all those spices and aromas. The vibrant colours and the exciting flavours.

When you are almost ready to cook the biryani, soak the rice for 30 mins in water. Then cook them in salted water till they are about 50 percent done. 

In a deep wide pot, add in the ghee on a medium flame. Biryani will be cooked on a low flame for about 40 mins approx. Its this slow cooking that renders the most spectacular flavours. 

When the ghee is hot, add in the the chicken along with all the marinade. Make sure your pot sizzles when you add the chicken. You want to get the chicken going before you add the rice to it. 

In just about 5 mins the oil from the chicken marinade will make its way up... 

Get the rice and layer it on top of the chicken. 

Heat half a a cup of milk till its lukewarm, and add saffron strands to it. This is what adds the beautiful yellow colour and adds to the rich aroma of the biryani. 

Pour over the lightly tinted saffron milk on the rice. 

Use the rest of the birista onions on the top of the rice. 

Garnish with coriander leaves. 

Sprinkle some rice water over the rice, about 2-3 tbsps so the rice on top don't dry out. 

Time to seal the pot. Take the dough made with flour n water and roll it into a rope about 3/4" thick and stick it on the sides of the pot like this. 

Cover the pot with the lid. Press down on the lid so the dough is squished between properly thereby effectively sealing the flavours. 

Let the biryani cook for 40 mins on lowest possible flame. When the biryani is cooked, take a knife and cut through the dough and unseal the pot. 

Doesn't this look simply spectacular!! 

Each grain of rice separated! Thats the beauty of a perfect biryani! 

The rich orange red strands of saffron amplifying the visual treat

The piquant taste, so rich, just heavenly! 

That beautifully cooked chicken, slightly charred at the bottom and so soft n moist on the inside

Serve the biryani with fresh yogurt. Garnish with lemons, green chilies, some raisins and cashews. 



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