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Monday, April 1, 2019

A - Z Indian Biryani / Pulao / Khichdi Series ~ A for Ambur Biryani / Arcot Briyani (Vegetarian Version)

It's April again, time for that month long cooking marathon with recipes that fall under a specific theme. It's going to be Indian style rice dishes - 'Biryani / Khichdi / Pulao' this time and there are going to be an assortment of simple and festive recipes picked from across the region. We have reduced our rice intake and so most of the recipes that I posted this marathon cater mostly two since I made small portions each time. Most of the recipes can be doubled or even quadrupled easily though. I am starting the marathon with a biryani from the Tamilnadu region called Ambur biryani, which supposedly originated in the Arcot royal kitchens. 

Ambur biryani is a testament to the fascinating 'Biryani Trail' tales of Indian sub continent. Ambur, a small town which lies in between Chennai and Bangalore was an important part of the former Arcot region, ruled by the nawabs of Arcot. The Arcot briyani, cooked in those royal kitchens became popular as Ambur biryani (or briyani as it is called locally) in the course of time. Thanks to a cook named Hasin Baig, who worked in those kitchens and later brought the art to his hometown of Ambur where he set up a biryani shop and started dishing out the 'once nawabi food' to the common man. The small establishment has grown into a brand over time and is still run by his family, called 'Star Briyani'. They have branches in Ambur, Bangalore and Chennai. 

This biryani is mildly spiced unlike it's counterparts from other regions and an unique addition of red chili paste during the preparation imparts usually an orangish hue to the biryani. It is of course a non-veg preparation, like most of those authentic versions that were cooked in Indian royal kitchens, in the by gone era. Being a vegetarian, I had to rely mostly on online articles and videos to figure out the dish and substituted the meat part with soy chunks here. One can easily substitute it with mixed vegetables like potato, carrot, beans, cauliflower, and peas. Or even paneer , tofu or mushroom would be great vegetarian options. Originally the choice of rice used to prepare this biryani was a thin and short rice variety called 'surdas' which was replaced later by seeraga samba. In absence of that, Basmati variety rice should do. In this biryani preparation, the rice and meat are cooked individually and then brought together in a covered pot to cook in 'dum' style.
Ingredients: (Yield 2 servings)
1/2 cup seeraga samba rice *
2 cup soy chunks (or mixed vegetables)
2 tbsp. oil
2 cloves
2 cardamom
1 inch cinnamon piece
1 bay leaf
1 big onion or 2 small onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp. ginger- garlic paste
4 to 6 (not very spicy) dried red chili
1 tbsp. each - mint and coriander leaves
1 tomato, diced
2 tbsp. yogurt
1 tsp. lemon juice
Salt to taste
1 tbsp. ghee
* Basmati rice can be substituted.

Prep work:
* Wash and soak rice in enough water for about 15 minutes and drain. Keep aside.
* Soak soy chunks in water to hydrate them. Squeeze out the water when they soften and keep aside. If using mixed vegetables, chop them and keep ready.
* Wash and soak red chillies in hot water for about 15 minutes. Drain the water and grind finely adding a few tsp. of water.

Part 1: Cooking the soy chunks / vegetables
* Heat oil in a medium sized deep pan, lower the flame and add 1 tbsp. yogurt. Carefully stir and then add cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and bay leaf. Saute them for about 30 seconds and add the onion slices and saute them until golden brown.
* Add ginger - garlic paste and saute for few seconds. Next add mint and cilantro and saute until they wilt. Add the red chili paste and saute.
* Add the tomatoes and lemon juice continue cooking until they turn mushy.
* Next add the remaining curd, salt, and soy chunks and mix. Add one or two tbsp. of water if needed and saute for few seconds. 

Part 2: Cooking the rice
* After the rice is soaked, bring about 2 to 2 and 1/2 cups of water to a rolling boil in a pot and add the drained rice and a little salt. 
* Continue to cook the rice on medium to high flame without covering, until the rice is about 70% cooked. The rice still should have a bite at center when eaten. 
* Switch off the flame and drain the rice in a colander. The rice can be rinsed in cold water as well to stop it from further getting cooked. Keep it aside.

Part 3: Assembling the gravy and rice for 'dum' cooking
* Heat a tawa / griddle on low flame for about 5 minutes 
* Transfer the cooked soy chunks gravy from the pan to another dish. Use the same pan which was used to cook the gravy earlier and arrange the gravy and the cooked rice in layers (2 or 4 layers depending upon the quantity). Spoon ghee in between layers. (I had fried sliced onions and sprinkled them as well.)
* Seal the pan with aluminium foil and cover it with a lid. Or cover the pan with a lid and seal it with a dough ring to cook in 'dum' style.
* Place the pan on the hot tawa and cook biryani for about 10 to 15 minutes on low flame. Check and see whether all the moisture has been absorbed and rice is cooked. If the rice appears not cooked and the mixture appears dry, sprinkle some more water and cook for few minutes more.
* Let it sit for few minutes before fluffing and serving.
* Serve it with a spicy accompaniment. Ours was served with brinjal dalcha and yogurt.

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#99.


Sharmila Kingsly said...

Seeraga Samba biryani is always a delight in every way.. Totally love this Ambur Biryani!!

Srivalli said...

Fantastic pick Suma and the nonveg biryani that we make gets rare reviews and I always wanted to try a vegetarian version, haven't come around doing it. Good start! And are you going to do AtoZ order?

sushma said...

Love soya chunks pulao / Biryani. Ambur biryani looks perfect. Good one.

vaishali sabnani said...

Ambur Biryani is new for me , and it’s great reading about it . I love the way it is made , Dum Biryanis have always been my favourite and this one looks absolutely delicious .

Sowmya :) said...

Such a fabulous beginning to the marathon!! Living in Bangalore and visiting Chennai often I keep hearing tales about Ambur and its Star Biryani. Love this vegetarian version. Bookmarking this!!

Harini R said...

This version of Biryani is new to me and sounds very flavorful. The addition of the red chili paste is unique. Looking forward to the remaining recipes in this series.

Preeti said...

This biryani recipe looks so tasty and delicious.. love the aroma and taste.. great start.

Gayathri Kumar said...

That is such a wonderful recipe Suma. So detailed. And love those soy chjnks kn top. It surely gives the non veg feel to the biryani. Amazing start to the BM.

Srividhya said...

Same pinch for ambur biryani. :-) We love it and this will be on our Sunday menu regularly from now on.

Kalyani said...

flavourful, protein packed dish Suma ! and loved the history behind the dish !

Pavani said...

Looks very tempting and beautifully presented! Thanks for this wonderful recipe!

CookwithRenu said...

Just loved this. Red chilly paste in biryani would add so much of spice and flavour to the soya or veggies used. Biryani looks yum

Swati said...

Loved the spicy and vegetarian version of ambur biryani with soya chunks. the red chilli paste must have added a spicy kick to the flavourful dish!! The texture looks great.

veena said...

You have presented it so well that I feel like cooking this asap. Lovely click too