Food | Main Course

Chemmeen Biryani (Prawns Biryani)

November 26, 2018

Peace Greetings lovely!

Here is the recipe of a good, decent prawns biryani. Fresh prawns are always the best. Try to get medium to large sized ones for a biryani. Fry the prawns in a wide dish, and make the masala in the same pot using the same (fried) oils for better flavour.

Prawns Biryani (Malabar style)
Serves 4-6 people

For the prawns
1kg prawns deveined
2tsp red chilly powder
1tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
2 tsp minced ginger – garlic

4 large onions sliced
2 large tomatoes chopped
2-inch piece ginger
6 cloves garlic
12 green chillies
a bunch of coriander leaves chopped finely
½ lime – juice
1tsp garam masala powder

for the rice
5 cups of Jeerakashala rice (to the equivalent of 1kg rice) washed and drained
10 cups of boiling water (start with 8 cups, add up to 10 checking the doneness after all the water has been absorbed by the rice)
2 tsp ghee
2tbsp oil
whole garam masala (1 or 2 each cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, bay leaf)

Clean the prawns well and then marinate in chilly powder, turmeric, salt and ginger garlic. Add water if too dry to coat all the pieces of prawns.

In a large wide bottomed non-stick pan, add 2 Tbsp oil and shallow fry the prawns lightly until golden in batches. Remove and set aside on a plate. Add more oil if required and add a few pieces of whole garam masalas. When its infused into the oil, add the sliced onions and sauté until its deep golden. This will take a while so be patient. Keep sautéing. Add salt at this stage so it helps the onions to soften faster.

After around 15-20 mins, the onion should be deeply golden and mushy. Minced the ginger garlic and chillies in a grinder or chopper. Add the paste into the pan and sauté again for 5-8 mins. Next comes the tomatoes. Sauté everything until the tomatoes break down and are really soft. Toss the prawns into the pan. Add a handful of chopped coriander leaves, ½ lime juice and ½ tsp garam masala powder and mix really well. Check for salt, add if necessary. The mixture should be thick and not soupy or dry.

For the rice, in a large/ wide non-stick pot, add oil and when its hot add a few whole garam masalas. Toss in the drained rice and sauté the rice for a few mins until its fragrant, roasted and almost crisp. You will be able to differentiate the texture as you keep sautéing. Make sure it doesn’t burn. Add boiling water to the rice. And add salt and ghee at this stage. Stir it well and cover to let it boil and cook. After a few mins open the lid and toss the rice around. Cover and simmer for a few more mins until all the water has been absorbed. Check the doneness. Make sure you don’t add too much water. And the rice needs to be just almost cooked at this stage. Remove from flame when its 3/4th cooked. The rest of the cooking will happen when in Dum.

After around 5-10 mins open the lid and check if the rice is cooked. Switch off the flame.


Preheat oven to 180C.

Remove 2/3rd of the rice out of the pot in a vessel, add the thin layer of the prawns’ masala around the rice. Smear it over the surface of the rice. Toss in the next third of the rice and spread evenly. Sprinkle some lime juice, garam masala and coriander around the rice. Add another layer of masala followed by the rice. Make sure the masala is not too much nor too little. I can’t really tell an exact measure for the amount of masala coz it depends on the width of the pan and the thickness of the rice layer.  Go by just eyeballing it.

Top and the bottom layer will be rice. Sprinkle a layer of coriander leaves, garam masala powder and some lime juice.

With a stick or back of a wooden spoon, make deep holes between the rice, and add a small dollop of ghee into the holes. Cover with a tight lid, if not tight enough, add a layer of aluminium foil and cover, top with the lid to ensure no steam escapes.

Bake the biryani pot for around 15- 20 mins in a preheated oven. Placing in the oven ensures even cooking and no burning, the perfect dum!

Adding fried onions, fried cashews and raisins will also be good. But I tend to skip it mostly. As this, itself is good enough.