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Sep 29, 2006 10:39 PM

cooking basmati rice - chicken biryani

As of late, I've been addicted to this spicy aromatic dish. Costco had a sale on a 20lb bag which I couldn't resist picking up. First of all, what's the best method of cooking the rice? Do you soak it? What's the ratio of water to rice?

Also, any tips on cooking a biryani dish? I bought a box of instant seasoning, but I'd love to hear any tips or recipes for home chefs.

Thank you, thank you!

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  1. Well, if you're just making basmati rice by itself, you both wash and soak it.

    In Biryani, Madhur Jaffrey's recipe calls for long grain white rice while Bittman's uses basmati. Bittman's is in his Best Recipes In The World cookbook. It's pretty long so it'd be difficult to post. You could probably get info on one of the food sites.

    I've made it a couple of times and it's totally worth it and not terribly difficult. I've only made Jaffrey's (and it looks better to me than Bittman's). Marinating the chicken long enough(if your're using chicken) is key.

    Never have used instant seasoning mix, though. I also leave out one of the main ingreds as I don't like saffron.

    Good luck.

    1. That's funny...I have a Bittman Biryani recipe that is SHORT from the NY Times (don't remember the date)...shall I paraphrase it?

      1. My mom's recipe requires cooking the rice with half as much liquid as you normally would and then mixing it with the saucy meat mixture, before covering and baking. If i'm making the rice on the stove (vs. rice cooker) I use a 1:1 ratio of water to rice before mixing everything else together and baking.

        3 Replies
        1. re: MAH

          Some biryani recipes call for cooking the rice in a lot of water, much like you would pasta, draining it, and then mixing it with the meat mixture and steaming that in the oven.

          To a degree basmati and long grain rice are interchangeable - both work well in a pilau style dish, yielding tender loose grains when cooked properly. Basmati, though, has a distinctive fragrance.

          One other difference - it is better to rinse and soak basmati, while the typical long grain US rice does not need that. Rinsing removes some of the polishing residue, and helps keep the grains separate (as does the fat in the recipe). Soaking helps insure that the grains cook evenly, I suspect because some basmati is dried longer than usual long grain. Note though, that soaked rice requires less cooking water. While a 2:1 ratio is normal for unsoaked rice (in 1-2 cup quantities), 1.5:1 or even 1:1 is better with soaked.

          It may be better to use depth of water above the rice as a measure rather than ratio. This is especially true when dealing with unusual pan shapes, or large quantities.


          1. re: paulj

            okay, so first run went like this:

            - soaked for 30 min.
            - 2 cups water to 1 of rice

            This yieled rice that was separtate yet not as firm as I'd like. I didn't try my biryani recipe cuz I wanted to get the rice thing down first. Thanks for all the advice.

            1. re: Offal Lover

              By firm, do you mean like parboiled rice (uncle ben's)? I don't think you can get firm basmati. It is either underdone and crunchy, or tender. Still, I'd suggest reducing the amount of water a bit - with the idea that the total amount of water, both that absorbed during soaking, and that absorbed during cooking totals about 2 cups (minus that lost through evaporation). With less water you won't have to cook it quite as long, so it will be a bit firmer.


        2. Do you use basmati or long grain?