Kala’s Christmas Chicken Biriyani

Biriyani is a choice festive dish or perhaps THE choice festive dish for most occasions. During Christmas, chicken or mutton biriyani is prepared in Christian homes. There are varieties of biriyani in India, every part having its own speciality. This chicken biriyani is Tamilian and my own version and a big favourite with the family. My children say the aroma from the kitchen makes them drool and become ravenously hungry when I make it.


Christmas Chicken Biriyani with Sweet and Sour Brinjal Masala and Thayir Pachadi

In my family, I remember only pulavs being made during Christmas when I was a child. We ate biriyani only in restaurants,  and I was always fascinated  by the wonderful blend of spices and the aroma which would greet you even when you were within half a kilometre of the restaurant. Over the years I have tried various combinations of spices and methods and this chicken biriyani is the culmination of much effort and hard work. I have used kalpasi, a lichen used as a spice, which was unheard of in my family, but is a great enhancer of flavour and good addition to any biriyani. I serve my biriyani with sweet and sour brinjal masala and thayir pachadi.

Nutritive Value

The chicken in the biriyani supplies a very large amount of protein (26 g per 100 g). The basmati rice, ghee, and oil used give a very large amount of energy; therefore, the chicken biriyani alone is a high protein, high energy preparation. It is always served with a brinjal curry and a thayir pachadi (curd and onion), and these also contribute to the energy and protein of the meal.


  • 5 C Basmati rice
  • 1 kg skinless Chicken, cut into large pieces
  • ½ kg skinless, boneless Chicken Thighs, cut into large pieces
  • ½ kg or 5 large Onions, sliced
  • ½ kg or 5 to 6 Tomatoes, chopped
  • 12 Green Chillies, stalks removed
  • 1 C Mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 C Coriander leaves, coarsely chopped
  • ¾ C Garlic, grated
  • ¾ C Ginger, grated
  • 1 Lime, large, juice extracted
  • 6 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 12 Cloves
  • 20 Cardamoms
  • 1 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
  • ½ tsp Cinnamon Powder
  • ½ tsp Clove Powder
  • 1 pinch Kalpasi or Stone Flower
  • ½ C Ghee (clarified butter)
  • ½ C flavourless Vegetable Oil
  • 2 tsp Salt, to marinate
  • 5 tsp Salt for the biriyani
  • 6 C Water, heated to just below boiling point


  1. Grind the grated garlic and ginger together.
  2. Marinate the chicken in lime juice, 2 teaspoons salt, and half teaspoon turmeric powder for an hour.
  3. Wash and drain the basmati rice in a colander.
  4. Heat the ghee and oil in a large, heavy-based pan.
  5. Add the cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom, and kalpasi.
  6. When the cloves begin to swell, add the green chillies.
  7. Immediately add the onions and fry.
  8. When the onion is translucent, add the ginger and garlic paste and cook till a nice aroma arises.
  9. Add the mint and the coriander leaves and fry for a few minutes.
  10. Now add the marinated chicken along with the marinade.
  11. Fry for a while, stirring now and then till the chicken pieces are browned.
  12. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
  13. Add all the spice powders, that is, the rest of the turmeric, chilli, clove, and cinnamon powders.
  14. Mix well, cover, and cook on low heat till the oil has separated and the chicken is cooked.
  15. If the oil has separated but the chicken is not cooked, add half a cup of water and continue to cook.
  16. Add the basmati rice and stir till all the grains are coated with the masala.
  17. Add the 6 cups of near boiling water with 5 teaspoons of salt, stir, and bring to vigorous boil.
  18. Lower heat, cover, and cook.
  19. Open only once, after 5 minutes, and stir to ensure that the masala is evenly distributed.
  20. Remove from heat when the rice is fully cooked.
  21. Serve with sweet and sour brinjal masala and thayir pachadi.


  1. I use the proportion of 1:2 for rice and water. The chicken masala will yield approximately 4 cups of water; therefore, I have used 6 cups of hot water for the 5 cups of basmati rice used.
  2. The water should be close to boiling point, so that the temperature of the rice and masala does not drop. If cold water is used, and the temperature drops, the basmati rice will not swell to its maximum.
  3. Stir the rice only once. If you stir the rice often the rice grains will break.
  4. I use only a pinch of kalpasi because once it comes in contact with hot oil it gives out a very strong aroma, which can be over-powering.
  5. I use Kashmiri chilli powder because of its mild flavour.
  6. I do not slit the green chillies to prevent the seeds from escaping, ensuring a subtle flavour. If you want an even more mildly flavoured biriyani, remove the green chillies from the chicken masala before you add the rice.

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