Thalassery Chicken Dum Biryani

Thalassery Biryani or what we address as biriyani was the last thing I wanted to try as I never considered it to be one. How can ghee rice with some chicken masala become biryani? :-P That was my 20s thoughts and the reason why we never craved for it as I always believed making biryani has to be complicated. :-D 

As we grow older, we tend to go back to the roots, and I was craving for my hometown Biryani that is served at weddings and what better time than for the MFB challenge! 

MFB Challenge for this month was to make Biryani. I needed it to overcome my "somewhat" feeling associated with preparing biryani. I don't know to explain the feeling, it is to do with the fact that my few attempts at making biryani were not perfect like moms. I could not tag them to any region as it used to be a mix of everything. :-) This is why a biryani recipe never appeared on my blog until now.

Thalassery Chicken Dum Biryani
Have you been through the stereotypical conversation of "You are a Muslim? then you must be knowing how to make biryani?" or "Happy Ramadan, where is biryani?" "I will come home only if you serve Biryani" LOL. It seemed like a conversation starter once they hear my name as somehow a good biryani is associated with Muslims and I largely agree too as you will learn to make one some point in life like I did now. :-)

I love all types of Biryani but making them was never my agenda until I got married and moved here. My mom prepares only two types -  Thalassery Dum Biryani with chicken, mutton, beef, even fish! and Coimbatore style biryani.  (I have linked a pin :-) ) All of us at home prefer the latter but I have failed at perfecting it in almost three trials! While I will get to it after a while, for this challenge it is my hometown cuisine! :-)  

Thalassery Chicken Dum Biryani or Biriyaaani :-D

When it is biryani day, then mom makes a surplus to see through the next meal too. So we always had biryani for lunch and dinner and some days even the next day. :-D I am glad it is the same practice even at my in-laws. If this recipe could make Mr F utter "tastes just like the wedding biryani" :-) it means I have nailed it. :-P Now, that is the kind of motivation I was aiming for - the appreciation that makes you want to do again and try different types of biryani. InshaAllah.

Thalassery or Tellicherry is a town in the district of Kannur in the state of Kerala. Thalassery Dum Biryani is a product of North Malabar region. Of course, the Mughals brought the biryani to India and it is believed that the rulers of Mysore spread the cuisine to North Kerala. This biryani is traditionally made with Jeerakasala rice also called Khaima which is short-grain rice. I have never seen anyone in my family use basmati for making this biryani. I had picked my packet of Double Horse Jeerakasala rice from Jeddah LuLu Hypermarket. If you do not have it, then honestly you will never get to know the real taste of this Biryani. There are different brands of khaima rice so you must know how it works. Cook using the rice before attempting to make this biryani so you know how much water to be used and how long to cook etc.

Thalassery Chicken Dum Biryani

This Thalassery Chicken Dum Biryani is easy to prepare as the masala and rice are cooked separately and then layered for dum cooking. The dum cooking process infuses the flavour of the Jeerakasala rice and the masala lending an aromatic biryani. All you need to remember is to cook the masala first and then the rice. You can even make the masala a day ahead if you are pinched for time. Prepare the rice only towards the end and ensure to keep the dum cooking at least for 30 minutes. You can always re-heat the biryani with the same dum process that will help retain the moisture of the rice.

Thalassery Chicken Dum Biryani Recipe

Serves 2  hungry people


For Biryani masala:
  • 750gms whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces, washed and pat dried
  • 2 medium-sized onions, sliced finely
  • 7-8 garlic, minced
  • 2-inch ginger, grated
  • 5-7 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • Handful chopped coriander leaves
  • Fistful chopped mint leaves
  • 2 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon whisked yoghurt/curd
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (more for layering before dum cooking).
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • Salt as required
For Garnish
  • 8 to 10 cashews
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins
  • 1 onion, chopped and dusted with a teaspoon of cornflour just before frying
  • 2 tablespoon ghee plus 2 tablespoon oil to fry
For Ghee rice:
  • 2 cups Jeerakasala rice, washed and drained
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 2" cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup melted ghee
  • Salt to taste


Biryani masala
  1. Heat oil in a curry pot or pressure cooker or any pan to make the masala.
  2. Sauté the chopped onions, and the ground ginger, garlic, chillies paste along with salt until the onions become translucent.
  3. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and cook until tomatoes start to soften and oil separates.
  4. Add the chicken pieces, pepper powder, coriander powder and cook until you are left with a thick gravy.
  5. Sprinkle the lime juice, chopped coriander, and mint leaves. 
  6. When the chicken is completely cooked, switch off and stir in the whisked curd. 
  7. Sprinkle garam masala and close the pot to infuse in the flavour.
NOTE: While preparing the masala, ensure that it has very minimal “watery” gravy. It is best to keep the consistency of the masala to thick and not runny. This is to prevent the rice from getting overcooked during the dum cooking as the rice would absorb all the excess gravy and become mushy. In case you end up with a runny masala, you can either turn the heat up and boil off the excess water until you get thick gravy or strain the liquid and keep aside and use it to cook the ghee rice. If you choose to use the strained gravy to cook the ghee rice, then adjust the water accordingly.

  1. Heat ghee in a pan, fry the cashews, keep aside.
  2. Fry the raisins, keep them aside.
  3. Add more oil and ghee and fry the onions, keep aside. (stay and keep a close watch on the onions to prevent them from getting burnt)
 Ghee Rice
  1. Boil enough water in the kettle. 
  2. Heat ghee in a deep pot.
  3. Add onions and all the whole spices like cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, and cumin seeds and sauté for a minute until fragrant. 
  4. Add the required amount of boiling water and salt.
  5. Tip in the rice slowly and cook on high heat by keeping the lid open until there is no water on the surface and you see only rice. Then reduce the flame to the lowest and close the lid tightly and let it cook for around 5 to 8 minutes. Now, you have to stir and bring the bottom part of the rice to the top so that the rice gets cooked evenly. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes and then switch off and open only after 5 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, prepare your Dum cooking pot ready. Have a deep, thick-bottomed pot that has a tight-fitting lid ready by greasing the bottom with ghee.
  7. Once the rice is completely cooked, open and fluff it using a fork carefully and do the assembling for dum cooking while hot.
NOTE: Prepare the ghee rice as per your own tried and tested method of making rice. If you notice, I have used less water to cook the rice. This is because the masala is already moisture-rich which will help the rice to cook completely during the dum cooking.

Layer and Dum cooking:
  1. Line the counter like this - Prepared rice pot - Dum cooking pot (greased with ghee) - masala pot - garam masala/fried onions/cashews and raisins.
  2. Layering should start and end with rice, topped with garnish items. 
  3. Layer the bottom of the Dum cooking pot with enough rice. Sprinkle a good pinch of garam masala and spread some biryani masala all over the rice. Repeat this till the masala is over and end with a layer of rice. 
  4. Cover the entire pot with foil and close with a heavy lid tightly.
  5. Keep a comal or a thick flat lid or a flat pan on the flame and then keep the` biryani pot over this. 
  6. Dum cook on the lowest flame for 30 minutes. 
  7. Before serving garnish with fried onions, cashews, and raisins. 
  8. Serve with any yoghurt dip, pickled onions, coconut mint chammanthi, pickle, and pappadams!
Thalassery Chicken Dum Biryani

Apart from a sink full of dishes to wash, I also lose my appetite by the time I serve biryani. But the good news is this or any biryani gets better the next day. :-P So, let the folks enjoy and we can have a better serving later on.. :-D

After this, I made Malabar Chemeen (Prawns) biryani too...Thanks to Rafeeda who had advised me long ago stating "Aim to learn one type of biryani at a time and do it often!" Yes, Ma'm! Now I totally understand the "somewhat" feeling towards preparing biryani - it is the starting trouble - now no one can stop me! :-D