Oct 27, 2010

Chemmeen Biriyani / Prawn Biriyani

           Celebrations in Malabar would not be complete with out a Biriyani. Whether it be chicken, mutton, beef or fish Biriyani, preparing one and presenting it to the loved ones is equivalent to saying 'this occasion is special. Enjoy!' It is as much as a synonym to celebrations that people would ask, "When will we get the Biriyani" instead of "When is the wedding due?" or  "When will your child come to this world?"

          Spicy condiments are a part  of malabar cooking... and there would not be another dish as uniquely delicious as this breath taking blend of spices and condiments. This must be why, no special occasion of joy nor a party where two souls join for life is left without  at least one item as the Biriyani in Malabar. When your stomach is content, so would your mind be ... "Elementary ! my dear Watson" :)

          No wonder the memories of Eid at home has the endearing flavours and fragrance of my mom's Biriyani. Till today she is the best to me. I haven't tasted more luscious biriyani elsewhere yet. And that is what I miss the most too in the solitary Eid celebration with my little family more than the hurly burly family gatherings back home. And so when ever I prepare Biriyani I feel like it is not as good as my mom's. Even my friends at college used to long for my mom's Biriyani and I can't help but smile at the memory of my friends snarfing it up when she at last brings it to our hostel, as if they haven't tasted food for a long long time...

         As for Prawn biriyani the preparation is much like Fish biriyani. Many people add curd to the masala to enhance the taste and thickness, but I don't. Here also my Ayurvedic knowledge is the villain. According to Ayurveda, curd should never be consumed along with fish. Not only that, eating curd after heating is considered to be 'virudda' or highly unhealthy,which may lead to the triggering of many skin diseases as well as auto immune disorders. If you plan to add curd to any of your dish you can add it after the dish is prepared and cooled. But you are not supposed to reheat it. Well, some of you might find this ridiculous but as for me experience is my teacher. While attending the OPs at the Ayurveda college hospital, we used to take the case history of patients. What I found from my 2 years of research was surprising. Most of the patients who came with skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema as well as diseases like rheumatoid arthritis had a long term association with one or more of the 'virudda ahara' habits mentioned in Ayurveda. So well, you can pitch my information in to your waste bin or follow my recipe :)  I add more lemon juice and cashew nut paste. This compensates the absence of curd,more or less.

      Coming to the recipe...

Chemmeen Biriyani / Prawn Biriyani

Things you need:

For rice:

Basmathi rice or any other biriyani rice  -  5 cups, soaked for 10 minutes and drained
Boiled water                                         -  10 cups
Salt to taste

For marination and frying:

Big to medium sized prawns      -   1 kg, cleaned,washed and drained
Turmeric powder                      -   1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder                      -   2 tsp
Ginger garlic paste                     -   1 tsp
Salt to taste
Fennel seed powder                  -   1/2 tsp
Vegetable oil                             -   1/4 cup

For the masala:

Vegetable oil                             -   1/4 cup
Large onions                             -   4, sliced thinly
Ginger minced                           -   1 tsp
Garlic minced                            -   1 tsp
Green chillies, minced                -   4
Tomato , sliced                         -   3
Turmeric powder                      -  1/2 tsp
Black pepper powder               -  1/2 tsp
Garam masala powder              -  1 tsp
Fennel seeds                             -  1/2 tsp
Poppy seeds/ cus cus                -  1/2 tsp
Cashew nuts                             -  1 tbsp
(Soak these three for at least 1 hour and grind into a fine paste)
Lemon juice                              -  of 1 lemon
Thick coconut milk                    - 1 cup
Coriander leaves , sliced            -  3/4 cup
Mint leaves, sliced                     -  1/2 cup
Salt to taste


Ghee / Clarified butter                -  1/4 cup
Cashew nut                                -  50 g
Raisins                                       -  50 g
Onion, sliced thinly                     -  1

Garam masala powder:

   4 Cinnamon sticks of 2 inch length
   8 Cloves
   8 Cardamom seeds
   1 Nutmeg
   4-6 maice/ jathipathri
   4  Star anise
   1 tsp fennel seeds
Dry roast all these and powder. Store in an air tight container


  1. Marination and frying: Marinate the prawns with all the ingredients under marinade except oil. Keep it for at least half an hour. Heat oil in a frying pan and shallow fry the prawns. Do not deep fry it. Remove from pan when both sides are just cooked. Drain the remaining oil into a glass vessel.
  2. Making the masala: Heat this oil along with another 1/4 cup of oil in a large saucepan. Add the sliced onions and saute until translucent. Add the minced ginger and garlic and saute. Now add the sliced tomatoes and saute until it becomes mushy. Add the turmeric powder, pepper powder and garam masala powder and saute for another 2 minutes. Now add the lemon juice, salt and the leaves. Cook for a couple of minutes with the vessel covered. Add the fennel cashew paste and saute. Add in the fried prawns and mix everything  well. Finally add the coconut milk and heat until the masala thickens.
  3. Making the rice: Heat another heavy bottomed deep vessel and add ghee to it . Add a thinly sliced onion and fry it until deep brown and crispy. Remove it from the ghee and keep aside. Now fry the cashews and raisins in the same ghee until brown and puffed up. Take out from the ghee and keep with the fried onion. Now add the basmathi rice to the remaining ghee and saute until it starts becoming translucent. Add hot water to it . When it comes to a boil add adequate salt and simmer the heat and cook it by covering the vessel. Stir the rice occasionally to ensure uniform cooking. Remove from heat when all the water dries up and the rice is almost cooked.
  4. Layering: Heat a deep round vessel and add the biriyani masala to it. On top of it add a layer of rice about 3 inches thick. Spread some fried onion, cashews and raisins on top of it. Sprinkle a little garam masala powder also. Above this add another layer of rice,  then the onion cashew mix and go on until all the rice is layered. Now press the top layer with a spatula in such a way that the rice forms a dome shape. This helps in retaining the spicy vapour of biriyani inside the rice layers and gives the rice a nice fragrance. Now cover the top of the vessel with an aluminium foil and place the lid tightly on top. Simmer the heat and keep it for another 15 minutes. Then remove from heat.
  5. Serve hot with coconut chutney,' ulli surka'(onion in vinegar) and pappad.


  1. Dear fezi,let me try out ur innovations on ur own healthy and delicious tips.....until wait.....masha allah

  2. This looks delicious.I saw your blog from the foodie blog roll and I like your recipes here.if you wont mind, I'd love to guide Foodista readers to this post. Just add the Prawn widget at the end of this post and it's good to go. Thanks!

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