Fish Biryani

Although mutton or chicken biryanis are more popular, fish biryani is a popular Hyderabadi delicacy. This is a wonderfully scrumptious dish made in less than half the time it takes to make other biryanis. It tastes even better the next day. It is a complete meal and can just be served with some pickle and raita @sarchakra

PREP TIME: 15 mins

COOK TIME: 30 mins

YIELDS: Serves or makes 2-3


  • Tilapia pieces (boneless) 5-6 pieces cut into halves
  • Long grain basmati rice 1 cup
  • Oil 3 tbsp
  • Caraway seeds (shahi jeera) 1 tsp
  • Onion 1, paste
  • Ginger 1 tbsp
  • Garlic 3 tsp
  • Black peppercorns 8-10
  • Cloves 3
  • Cardamom 2-3
  • Cinnamon 2 inch
  • Cumin seeds 2 tsp
  • Star anise ½, broken
  • Mace a few strands
  • Nutmeg ⅛, broken
  • Bay leaf 1, broken
  • Greek yogurt 1 heaped tbsp
  • Garam masala powder (see Lamb Madras Curry)
  • Biryani masala (see below)
  • Coriander powder 1 tbsp
  • Cumin powder 1 tsp
  • Red chili powder 1 tsp
  • Black pepper powder 1 tsp
  • Salt
  • Turmeric 2 tsp
  • Milk ¼ cup
  • Saffron 1 tsp
  • Fried onions 4 tbsp (birista) see below
  • Ghee 2 tbsp


  • Rinse basmati rice a few times till the water runs clear. Spread it out on a pan to separate the grains and partially dry out. Leave for 20 mins.
  • Make a paste of onion. Make a paste of ginger and garlic. Warm milk in the microwave for 20 seconds. Soak the saffron threads in it till we need it.
  • In a pan heat 1 tbsp oil. Put in cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, caraway seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, bay leaf, nutmeg, mace, peppercorns, star anise. Put in rice. Stir and cook for a minute or so till the rice gets a slight color. Add salt and water and cook rice on a low heat covered till nearly done. There should still be a bite left to it.
  • Heat 2 tbsp oil. Put in 1 tsp cumin seeds. Add in onion paste. Sauté till translucent. Add ginger and garlic paste. Sauté for a few seconds before adding red chili powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, fried onions, garam masala powder, Biryani masala, turmeric, salt and yogurt. Stir on high heat till the masala comes together and starts to release oil.
  • Add the fish pieces and cook on high heat turning the fish to make sure both sides are wrapped with the masala. Cook till the fish is opaque.
  • In a large pan make layers of fish and then rice. Repeat for the rice and fish. Sprinkle the saffron milk all over. Cover. Put the entire pan on top of a large tawa or pan. Dot the rice mixture with ghee. Let the rice sit on the pan on a very low heat for 15 mins till all the flavors are permeated. Serve fish biryani with pickle.

Biriyani Masala

  • Coriander seeds (dhania) 3 tbsp
  • Fennel seeds (saunf) 2 tsp
  • Caraway seeds (shah jeera) 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds (jeera) 1 tbsp
  • Bay leaf (tej patta) 1
  • Cinnamon (dalchini) 1 inch
  • Green Cardamom (choti elaichi) 3
  • Black cardamom (badi elaichi) 1
  • Cloves (laung) 3-4
  • Dry red chilies (lal mirch) 2
  • Mace (javitri) a couple of strands
  • Nutmeg (jaiphal) ¼
  • Black pepper (kali mirch) 2 tsp
  • Star anise (chakri phool) ¼
  • Turmeric (haldi) 2 tsp

Dry roast everything EXCEPT turmeric and nutmeg in a low flame for a couple of minutes. Turn the flame off. Cool and add the turmeric and nutmeg. Grind to a smooth powder. Store in an airtight container.


Fried Onions or Birista are deep-fried onions till crispy and golden. You can either make it at home or buy from Indian groceries. You can get vegetarian ones these days very easily.

When making the rice do not stir it often. The grains of the rice should stay separate and fluffy.

Cover the pan with a tight fitted lid while cooking the rice.

Remember the rice should be cooked only about 80%. The rest of the cooking would be done while steaming.

Use a thick bottomed nonstick pan for the dum or steam.

Tilapia, cod, catfish, salmon, halibut, king fish can all be used to make this Biryani.

Tempering for the rice
Add the rice
Add water and cook till nearly done
Tempering for the fish
Add onion paste
Adding ginger and garlic
Adding dry spices and yogurt
Cook till the masala comes together
Add the fish
Cook the fish
Cook in ‘dum’ or steam method
Fish Biryani is done

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