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Chicken Biryani

Chicken Biryani is an aromatic Basmati rice preparation cooked with chicken, certain vegetables, and enriched with dry fruits like cashews and raisins and flavoured with rich saffron and exotic spices. Chicken Biryani, in fact, made a place for itself amongst the worlds’ most popular and well accepted rice dishes. It is usually served with papad, pickle, a yoghurt based raita and sometimes (especially in southern India) with a thin spicy curry or gravy.

Chicken biriyani is a very popular Mughlai main dish which today, is consumed all over the world. Chicken biryani is especially popular in Asian countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and middle eastern countries like Abu Dhabi and UAE. The main ingredient apart from rice and spices is chicken. Often reserved for special occasions, chicken biryani is a dish that is prepared with skill and effort; chicken is cleaned and cut to pieces and marinated using spice and condiments, which is later pan fried and finally mixed with biryani rice and cooked for that special aroma and flavor. Milk, water, plenty of exotic seasonings, salt and a little pepper are the other ingredients that are used in the preparation of this dish. Hard-boiled egg is yet another ingredient present in chicken biryani, although one may opt not to include this.

Ingredients and Preparation

The chief ingredients required to make chicken biryani are superior quality chicken, onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, green chillies eggs, yoghurt, clarified butter (ghee), saffron, whole spices like bay leaves, peppercorns, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, dry Indian spice powders and mint leaves.

The chicken needs to be cleaned, cut into moderate pieces and marinated in a mixture of yogurt, ginger garlic green chilli paste, red chilli, turmeric, roasted cumin, garam masala, and coriander powders along with salt and set aside for at least 4-6 hours. In a large pan, onions are browned in some ghee or oil, tomato puree and the dry spice powders are added and cooked till oil begins to separate. Plenty of fresh cilantro and mint leaves are added. The marinated chicken is then added and cooked till it becomes soft and tender.

Basmati rice, soaked for an hour, is cooked separately along with the whole spices and finally saffron soaked in warm milk is added. In a large ‘handi’ or dish alternate layers of the cooked rice and the chicken in gravy are arranged and topped with some fried onion rings, dry fruits, some mint and coriander leaves and drizzled with saffron soaked in milk.

Nutritive Value

A serving size of 1 cup or ~ 100 g of chicken biryani prepared in this manner provides-

• Total calorie content of 230 calories of which calories from fat are 72.

• Total fat is 8 g of which saturated fat is 2 g. Cholesterol content is 20 mg.

• Sodium content is 390 mg

• Total carbohydrate is 30 g of which dietary fibre accounts for 2 g and sugar 3 g

• Protein value is 10 g.

• The estimated % calorie distribution is 31 % from Fats, 51.8% from carbohydrates and 17.2 % from proteins.

For persons on the move and for those who do not find the time to spare for making elaborate biryani meals, these days it is possible to obtain pre-packaged versions that are available off the shelves. These only need the poultry pieces to be added and involve a brief heating process before one is able to enjoy a the biryani.

A serving size of 1 pack of ~ 283 g or provides-

• Total calorie content of 390 calories of which calories from fat are 107.

• Total fat is 11.9 g of which saturated fat is 1.4 g. Cholesterol content is 20 mg.

• Sodium content is 1080 mg.

• Total carbohydrate is 54.1 g of which dietary fibre accounts for 4.0 g and sugar 7.1 g

• Protein value is 16.1 g.

• The percentage daily values of certain nutrients are Vitamin A 35%, Vitamin C 45%, Calcium 8% and Iron 16%.

On comparing between the two types of biryanis, a striking feature is the high sodium content in the packaged biryani version. Obviously use of preservatives and other sodium based food additives may account for this high sodium content. For this reason, prepackaged and processed foods are best avoided by persons with cardiovascular concerns, particularly hypertension and also diabetics to avoid excess renal load. Such food items may rank high on the convenience scale but must not be used at the cost of one’s health.

Nutritional Improvements

As such ,chicken biryani tends to be a calorie-dense, high fat food item, hence by exercising moderation in terms of ingredients used while cooking; as well as portion control while eating, it may be possible to continue enjoying chicken biryani as a food item to mark special occasions.

1. In place of clarified butter, pomace olive oil used in measured amounts would provide a source of oleic acid, the monounsaturated fat that is studied to lower risk of coronary heart disease. Also it helps lower the bad or LDL cholesterol and raise the levels of HDL i.e. the good cholesterol.

2. The nuts used in biryani – cashew nuts may be replaced by healthier crushed peanuts or almonds which provide Vitamin E in the most readily usable form, apart from certain antioxidants that protect the heart and the brain from free radical damage. These nuts need not be fried in ghee, rather only dry roasted. These also form a good source of cardioprotective mono and polyunsaturated fats; specially omega-3 fatty acids that help control cholesterol and blood pressure.

3. For Diabetics and persons with glucose intolerance, as well as overweight individuals the use of wild rice or brown rice instead of polished rice would certainly supply more B-vitamins, minerals, fibre so smaller quantities would also tend to be more satiating. Couscous or broken wheat could serve as other healthful options.

4. Use of some fresh edible pomegranate seeds can boost the antioxidant value and provide a host of vital vitamins, folate, Vitamins C, K, and minerals, calcium and iron apart from fibre. Similarly in place of salt, lemon juice may be used by subjects with high blood pressure levels.