Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dajaj Biryani (Chicken Biryani)

Biryani - must be an Indian recipe, right? Hell no! This one comes from the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and is not the first Biryani recipe I have seen (whether Indian or Middle Eastern), but I am pretty sure it is the best biryani, period. Or at least it was the first time I made it. This time I went with chicken strips because Seth brought a bag of them home, but before I made them with moist chicken legs and thighs - definitely the way to go. I also reduce the amount of rice called for because, really, who needs 5 cups of rice? 3 1/2 normally works for us, but if you want more simply increase the amount of dry rice to 2 1/2 cups. The recipe also calls for some of those elusive dried limes so I guess I better tell you how to make them pretty soon. Other than that, what can I say?
Make it and enjoy what the Emirates have to offer.

Dajaj biryani
The Middle Eastern Cookbook

Medium whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces and skin removed
8cups water
2 dried limes of grated rind of 1 orange 
2 cubes chicken or vegetable stock
1 3/4cups basmati rice, rinsed and drained
2tbsp butter
3 medium onions, peeled and sliced
9oz ( 1 1/8cup) yogurt
1ts cornstarch
3/4tsp of each: black pepper, ground cumin, fresh cilantro, turmeric, cardamom, and cinnamon
3 garlic cloves, minced
1tsp ground saffron soaked in 1/4cup hot water (optional - come on, son, that's stuff expensive!)
Fried almonds, pine and pistachios, to garnish

1. Place chicken pieces and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, skimming whenever necessary. Add the dried limes or orange rind and the stock cubes. Cover and simmer over low hear for 30-40 minutes until chicken is tender. Remove chicken pieces and set aside.

2. Add rice to the stock in the pan and cook for 10 minutes until the rice is almost cooked. Drain and set aside.

3. Heat the butter in a large saucepan and fry the onions for 5-7 minutes, until golden brown. Stir in the cooked chicken.

4. In a bowl, mix the yogurt with the cornstarch. Strain through a sieve into a saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat, stirring constantly in one direction with a wooden spoon until the yogurt starts to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add all the spices and garlic to the pan.

5. Pour the boiled yogurt over the chicken. Add the cooked rice to cover chicken, then sprinkle with half the saffron water if using. Add remaining rice and saffron water. Cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes until the rice is tender.

6. Transfer to a large dish and garnish with fried nuts.

Note: As you can see, this recipe calls for dirtying way too many dishes. I use thick yogurt (I drain mine for several hours after buying it at the store) to eliminate the need to strain it. You can also wipe out the large pan used to precook the rice and chicken to cook the finished dish.


  1. Emiratis have no real culture or cuisine of their own except maybe the kufiya and roasted camel. Biryani comes from the Mughals of India. Any other country claiming this dish are posers. Love your blog though:-)

  2. I am glad you like the blog! Biryani is from India (I reworded the opening of my blog a bit to be clearer about this) but I included this version because it is my personal favorite. And I wouldn't say Emiratis have "no" cuisine - they have borrowed from many cultures, yes, there is more to their cuisine than camel meat: Emirates is right on the Gulf and they take full advantage of the seafood it provides.
    Other than that, if you have a recipe for biryani (a more traditional recipe) send it to me: I'd love to try it!