By: Tan Can Cook (Ronald Nyein Zaw Tan)
Preparation Time: 2 Days
Cooking Time: About 2–2½ Hours
Suggested Pot Capacity: 6.5L
• Ginger-garlic paste (adrak-lahsun ka paste) should be 1:2 ratio, as I prefer more garlic-y flavors. It's okay to use 1:1 ratio.
• MSG is "optional." We Burmese love MSG and fish sauce! They impart umami (savory) to meats. If you don't have MSG, skip it and gently increase salt to 1¾ tsp.
• Lazzat-e-Taam. If you don't have it or know how to make it, just use biryani masala of choice. Typically use 3 tbsp. biryani masala per 1kg chicken. Because I use Lazzat-e-Taam, it's a "super masala" mix. That's why I use 4 tbsp. and not 5—6 tbsp. Adjust biryani masala to your taste.
• Mitha itr (Meetha Attar). I use Kazima-brand of mitha itr and directly purchased from their New Delhi-based company. Shipping to the USA was high! If you don't have it, skip it. If you're in India, West Bengal based Deer Brand mitha itr is highly popular and commonplace. Use that.
• Mace-cardamom powder. I make and have a small stash stored in an airtight container. Take 4g javitri and 5g elaichi. Blend them into powder in blender. I sprinkle mace-cardamom powder into my rice during the layering process.
• Saffron (kesar). I personally use the more affordable Spanish saffron from The Gathering of Saffron Brand. If you can afford the premium ultra-grade, go for the kesar from Kashmir. Those are crème de la crème surpassing Iranian kesar!
• Onion-infused oil. I make my golden brown onions from scratch and makes in large batches - deep frying ~3kg thinly sliced yellow onions in 7 c. vegetable oil - and storing the fried onions in an airtight container in the fridge. The oil leftover from frying these large batches are onion-infused oils and never ever discard them! They're culinary jewels and precious. Reuse them in any recipes calling for oil.
Ingredients for Marination
• 1.862kg chicken breast, brined for 4-5 hrs.
• 1—1½ tbsp. ginger-garlic paste using [1:2 ratio]
• 1¼ c. golden brown fried onions
• 1½ tbsp. lemon juice
• 2 tbsp. Kashmiri red chili powder
• 1½ tsp. salt
• ¼ tsp. MSG (optional)
• ¼ tsp. turmeric
• 1 c. whole plain yogurt
• ¾ c. oil (onion-infused) [use regular vegetable oil, e.g. canola, peanut, etc]
• 4 tbsp. Lazzat-e-Taam (or biryani masala)
Ingredients for Rice
• 4 c. Basmati rice, soaked for at least an hour and drained
• 12–16 c. water
• potli (1 tbsp. black cumin; 5 cardamom, 2 black cardamom, 2–3 bay leaves, and ½ tsp. cinnamon)
• 2 red/green chillies
• 3 tbsp. salt
• 2 tbsp. oil (or onion-infused oil, if left extra)
Ingredients for Layering and Garnishing
• 1 c. golden brown onions
• 2 c. golden raisins
• ½ c. cranberries, dried and sweetened (optional)
• 1 c. cashews, roasted and salted
• 6 tbsp. Desi ghee
• ⅓ c. milk (optional)
Ingredients for Aromatics
• mace-cardamom powder, as needed [4g javitri, 5g elaichi]
• generous pinch of saffron, crushed/dissolved in 2 tbsp. rose water
• 2 tsp. kewra water
• a few drops of mitha itr (optional)
Day 1: To Be Completed By End of Day
1. If using frozen chicken breasts, defrost/thaw on a thermal tray.
2. When completely thawed, cut chicken breasts into larger and thicker pieces. They will be more juicier and less likely to get burnt via dehydration.
3. Prepare salt water bath for brining. The recommended is 30g salt per 1kg meat in 1L water. In my preparation I used 60g salt dissolved in 2L water. Submerged the chicken in the salt water bath and store in fridge for 4—5 hours, maximum. Over brining will lead to salty chicken.
4. Once brined, drained the salt water bath. There is no need to pat dry the chicken.
5. Start and prepare the ingredients for marination overnight.
6. Prepare the remainder of mise en place. Gather ingredients for layering and garnishing. Cover with plastic or foil.
7. Prepare mace-cardamom powder. Cover tightly with foil or plastic wrap. You can also prepare this on Day 2. However, the more you prepare on Day 1, the lesser things you'll have on Day 2.
1. Wash your Basmati rice about 5 times, until the water is clearer. It's impossible for water to be crystal clear. Soak for at least an hour. Then, drain your rice.
2. Boil 12–16 c. water. Add the potli and chilies. Add salt. This water should taste like sea water. Add some oil. This will help prevent the rice grains from sticking together.
3. Allow the water to boil vigorously. Pour the drained rice and start your timer for 5—7 minutes.
4. Stir gently once to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of pot. After this, don't stir anymore, else the rice grains will break.
5. At around 7 minutes, check and make sure the "rice are dancing" in the boiling water. This means that the almost cooked rice are floating to the top.
6. Bite a few and they should still be hard and not completely soft (fully cooked)
7. Switch off the heat and get ready for layering and garnishing.
Layering and Garnishing
1. Into your 6.5L capacity dutch oven, biryani handi, or any thick-bottomed vessel, layer the overnight marinated chicken. Try to make sure that the chicken are single layer and almost all are touching the bottom of pan. It's OK, if you have to place chicken on top of each other.
2. Grab a handful of raisins and layer them on top of the chicken. If you don't want sweetness from the raisins to impart to the chicken, skip this step and start from (3).
3. Take the rice and place several spatputa-fuls immediately on top of the chicken. Followed by handfuls of golden brown onions, raisins, cashew nuts, cranberries, and sprinkles of pinches of mace-cardamom powder. To this first layer, even distribute 3 tbsp. ghee.
4. Repeat for the second layer.
5. Once done with layering, apply the aromatics evenly distributing over this second layer.
6. As a fail proof protocol, you can add ⅓ c. water or milk to be sprinkled over the the rice, just prior to sealing with foil. This will make sure there is sufficient moisture for steam to generate.
7. Cover with foil and close the lid. Safely place another cooking vessel upside down on top of the lid to act as weight.
Dum Pukht Process (Cooking on Dum)
1. Place the pot on high heat for 5-7 minutes. Start your time. I use my Google Assistant to invoke the "set timer" voice command. This initial high heat will generate steam and will slightly char/brown the chicken that are touching the pan.
2. Next, set your timer for 10 minutes and lower the heat to medium.
3. Then, place the tawa, circular griddle, or skillet underneath your cooking vessel. Lower heat to the lowest setting. Set timer for 20—25 minutes.
4. Finally, do not open! I repeat, do not open! Remove your pot from the heat and set it aside somewhere. Allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Suggested Accompaniment: Achin (Burmese Pickled Shallots)
Ingredients for Achin
• 1 shallot, thinly sliced
• 1 small red chili (~½ tsp.), Sliced
• ¼ tsp. salt
• ¼ tsp. sugar
• 1½—2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime/lemon juice
1. Gather the ingredients into a mixing bowl.
2. Mix well and transfer to a serving bowl/plate.