Malabar Cuisine Prawns Biryani

This Prawns Biryani is my first SEAFOOD recipe appearing on the blog because, in F's world, prawns and shrimps are not seafood! (rolling my eyes)

Malabar biryani? or Thalassery biryani?  because honestly, I am not sure why there is a "Malabar" biryani when Thalaserry is part of Malabar region and it is this city that holds the credit! I researched so much to learn the key differences between these two iconic dishes of North Kerala and trust me, I could not come to a convincing conclusion. While some state that the difference is in rice being roasted or not, using caramelised onions or not, etc - but I believe it has reached a point where it is become near to impossible to differentiate the two. However, it is clear that Malabar biryani is mostly tagged as Kozhikodan Biryani - I am calling this Malabar because - I think this is an amalgamation of both biryani of same geographical region and hence the title "Malabar cuisine Prawns Biryani". :-D

Malabar Prawns Biryani
The land I come from celebrates the son-in-law's stay all through his life because he remains as the "new groom" for my clan. A status that calls for a feast whenever he comes home. But with F being averse to all seafood (except for prawns, oh that isn't one right?) my mom has very limited options as we (they) are seafood people. With a heavy heart, she sticks to preparing all kinds of prawn dishes while she still prepared other fish items for the rest of us. Of course, there would be other meat and poultry but serving seafood for the groom is what pleases the host. So the first two years of our marriage, F was served prawns almost every single time he visited my home, so much that he completely stopped eating Prawns. :-D Worked better for me!

I personally can live without seafood but I do take full advantage when I am at my home and there are zillion specifications on how I want mine. :-) While the whole clan was disappointed that their new groom would not have fish, I couldn't be happier knowing I will never have to cut, clean or put up with the stench of fresh fish :-) Sorry, not sorry! However, these days, it is a different story as we serve raw fish for Ragee and F never goes near her. :-D

Malabar Prawns Biryani

As a new stay-at-home wife in Yanbu back in 2014, I resolved to make his favourite Prawns and we bought some fresh prawns. I took two days to deal with the deshelling and deveining etc. That was the first and last time I did anything of that sort and knew it is not my cup of tea! (I actually feared some of it might come back to life! :-D)

Malabar Prawns Biryani

After I prepared this Thalassery Chicken Biryani, we went to pick up food for Ragee in the frozen section where I saw some jumbo prawns pack. I immediately asked F if he would want to have them and he nodded OK. This is my first time with frozen seafood and I am sure it is a breeze - as its all cleaned and ready to cook! :-D I prepared this Malabar prawns biryani the very next week and I am one happy wife to see him rejoice and relish! Alhamdulillah, I was able to rekindle his love for Prawns. Me happy. My mom will also be happy.

The recipe is very akin to Thalaserry Chicken Biryani except for a few ingredients. The process remains the same. First, prepare the masala, then the ghee rice, layer them in a pot and dum cook. Look at me - talking like a pro! LOL

Malabar Prawns Biryani

Malabar Prawns Biryani

Yields: 2 to 3 hungry tummy


For prawns masala:
400 gm extra-large Prawns. (19 nos. I used frozen, Al Kabeer)

To marinate the prawns:
2 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste

Enough oil to shallow fry the marinated prawns in a flat pan. ~1/3 cup

For the gravy:
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 to 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
12 cloves of garlic, grated (approx, 2 tablespoons)
5 green chillies, chopped fine
3" piece ginger, grated ( approx. 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon pepper powder
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
2 teaspoon dry basil leaves (you can use a fistful  fresh mint leaves)
Salt to taste (1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon garam masala.

For the Ghee rice:
2 cups Jeerakasala rice (short grain rice), washed and drained (soak if required)
3 cups boiling water
Salt to taste
2 tablespoon ghee
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion sliced
1 bay leaf
3 cardamom
5 cloves
1” cinnamon stick
1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds
1/2 tablespoon lime/lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon extra garam masala to sprinkle while layering rice


Prawns masala:
  1. Wash the prawns, drain and marinate them in Kashmiri chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and salt for half an hour
  2. Heat oil in a large non-stick saucepan and shallow fry the prawns briefly, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes. Fish them out and keep aside covered. 
  3. In the same oil add the chopped onion, ginger, garlic and green chillies along with salt and cook until the onions have become soft for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and pepper powder. Cover and cook until the tomatoes become soft and you get a thick gravy.
  5. Add the almost-fried prawns and cook on low flame for about 20 minutes so that the flavour of the prawn diffuses in the gravy and the gravy becomes thick.
  6. Towards the end, add the chopped mint leaves, coriander leaves, garam masala and lime juice. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes and then remove from the fire and keep them aside.
Ghee Rice:
  1. Boil enough water in the kettle 
  2. Heat ghee in a deep pot or pan that has a tight lid
  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 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 rice to 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 you 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 the garnish items. 
  3. Layer the bottom of the Dum cooking pot with enough rice. Sprinkle a good pinch of garam masala and spread some Prawns masala all over the rice. Repeat this till the Prawns 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 the prawns biryani on lowest flame for 30 minutes 
  7. Before serving garnish with fried onions, cashews and raisins that are fried in ghee. 
  8. Serve with any yoghurt dip, pickled onions, coconut mint chammanthi, pickle and pappadams!
Malabar Prawns Biryani

Keeping in mind not to overdo and kill my man's love for the only seafood, I have not prepared any other Prawns dish so far. :-) - a lame excuse - but I can't stand the smell of raw prawns until it gets cooked completely, and then there is no holding your breath - you want to breathe in the rich aroma that comes out of the pot! YUM!


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