Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kolkata Biryani and Kosha Murgi/Chicken

Its almost mid of December and soon another year will be gone.Yesterday DD had an active school day with Christmas production in her school.Well she has been very excited about her performance and has been rehersing a lot.DH joined us later in the evening for the performance.DD has been constantly persuing her father to come and watch her performance which incidently he had missed earlier on two occasions for the past two years.
This time DD has been impatient and little bit complaining.So, when she finally saw her father right there from the stage, her face was all lit up even with more confidence.A small request from her side but the memories will going to last forever I am sure for that. This is one of those rare occasions when DH even switched off his cellphone during the performance.Never it was an easy thing to do, but at least just for few mints.

That makes me really wonder are we loosing out the oppurtunities where we can truly seek out happiness in doing simple things or chores as simple as watching our children perform for the function or just going out for a walk together.Well I will leave out to you, to decide.

Now to the recipe

Kolkata biryani – does it ring any bell. Well even it doesn’t, I would say no problem with that. I  , We ( DH +Me ) have been an avid lover of light and fluffy biryanis churned out from the various kitchen of modern dastarkhans in Kolkata read here Shiraz/Arsenal/Rehmani a etc..I really can’t remember when we first had our first brush with those delicately and lightly flavored fluffy biryanis.What goes inside those kitchens I really don’t know, but they have been serving Kolkata people for a very long time now with all those delicious food.
I don’t want to endorse any particular restaurant but if you ask me, I would prefer any day going to these food chains rather than to a very posh, articulate and sober restaurant where things are way too much dramatized. When I mean food, I mean good food at affordable price. You eat and enjoy the taste slowly hitting your palate. As simple as that.

I have been thinking about a delicately flavored biryani for a long time now. I remember going to one of SBM’s Pishima’r house (paternal aunt’s home) and being served with 7 course meals at lunch time. Those were our initial married days and every one was rushing to call us home for a lunch or dinner date. So, we have been eating quite a lot of rich foods but of course home-cooked meals. We Bengalis have this inner feeling of showering love and affection by serving food to newly married couples. No, and we also feel offended if the newly married couples don’t eat properly. I was very thin then so my eating portions were less. They all used to say then “Boumar Khaba ta Pakhir khaba, bhalo korey khete shikhte hobe.” Meaning -She eats like a bird, got to improve her appetite. Now, things are different, I am no more thin (ah! distant dream ) and well about appetite, what more can I see, you all are reading this blog for the past 5 years.

Coming to the important part here. What I remembered was a very delicately flavored and aromatic fluffy biryani served with a fried half potato. They called it Kolkata Biryani.Now, my introduction to Kolkata culture had just started then. So, everything which was intriguing always caught my attention. I had never heard of Kolkata biryani , may be that was something to do with the upbringing part which was outside Kolkata and in the northern belt of India. I remembered a 7 course meal was served. All the recipes were cooked to perfect 10.There was bhaja moong dal, aloo bhaja, begon royal (SBM’s cousin sister M made that from a popular Bengali magazine-Sanonda) Then it was chingri malaikari, kosha mangsho, delicately flavored Kolkata biryani which had every rice grains cooked to perfect 10.Then it was all sorts of assortment of mishti-chom-chom, langcha, sandesh, rosogolla and not to mention chatni and mishti doi. What a feast that was, but then it ended up on taking medicines like Digene.Thats another story.Well which Bengali home doesn’t stock Digene. Right?

That delicate flavor of Kolkata Biryani lingered on our taste buds for long time. And then that urge to re-capture, re-create that lost flavor hit me so hard that I decided to made it all by myself here far away from home. I don’t have a luxury to call my favorite food chains (arsenal/rehmania/shiraz) for a quick home delivery. And the kind of food that is made in restaurants here in abroad, I would say I am at least better doing it in my small kitchen in this small apartment with limited set of appliances/pots etc - which I call, BTW my home now.

So, this is how I made it.

Calcutta biryani and Kosha Murgi/chicken

Recipe requirements
A base masala paste used for both the recipes
2-3 large  white onions
5-6 fat garlic pods
½ inch ginger
2-3 green chilies
5-6 walnuts
10-12 almonds
10 -12 cashews
Before you pulse through to make a smooth paste, it’s necessary to blanch the walnuts, almonds and cashews.
M’/W at high a large cup of water to make it warm enough. Soak all the dry fruits for 15-20 mints or till they become soft and you can easily peel off the skin.
Now pulse through in heavy duty mixer grinder all- onion, ginger, garlic, green chilies, walnuts, cashews and almonds.
Divide the batter in two portions. Use more for Chicken kosha and less for Kolkata biryani say just about 2-3 tbs.

Kolkata/Calcutta biryani

Recipe requirements (serves 3-4)

  • 1 and half cup of basmati rice
  • 2-3 tbs of above prepared masala paste
  • Yogurt -2-3 tbs
  • ½ tsp of Nutmeg powder ( jaiphol goron)
  • 2 tsp of Garam masala ( or use cardamom/elaichi powder+ cloves/long powder – I didn’t had cardamom and cloves so used packet garam masala available here)
  • 2 Potatoes cut into large cubes with skin on and properly fried
  • ½ cup of raisins (optional )
  • 3-4 tbs of cooking oil/ghee
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • Saffron strands (8-10 ) soaked in lukewarm milk (optional)

I will go with how I made it, irrespective of various other methods of preparing Calcutta biryani.

  • First of all clean rice twice in water, not more than that as it may turn the rice grain more prone to breaking at the time of cooking.
  • Soak them in some water, again not more than 10-15 mints which I would recommend doing it.
  • If possible dry them over news paper or kitchen towels, but not necessary as I always do make the pulao skipping this part, well not an excuse but always end up short of time.
  • Ok when the preparation of rice is complete.
  • Now shift your attention towards frying the masala paste which you took it out from the main paste you prepared earlier.
  • Heat up a large pot enough to hold and cook the rice. Add little bit of oil and fry the potatoes well.take out and drain.
  • Add cooking oil, add the masala paste and fry very well. Add the fried big potato dices as well. Kolkata biryani is incomplete without a portion of fried potato. Trust me on that.
  • Add dry ingredients like turmeric powder (holod), red pepper powder (lonka goron), nutmeg powder (jaiful goron) and garam masala.Or use elaichi powder+long powder in equal portions.
  • And add whisked yogurt as well. Adjust salt and sugar.
  • Keep on frying the paste till it releases the oil or becomes a little dry.
  • Now add the rice and fry. Do not stir it continuously as it may break the rice. Stir at frequent intervals so that it doesn’t get stuck at the bottom. If you need to add some more cooking oil then add it right at this moment.
  • Add about 2 cups of water or the level of water should be at least 1’’ inch above the rice level. 

That is how my father always showed me cooking dum ka biryani.It’s a basic rule I always follow while making dum biryani.OK, to be on an adventurous note- my Baba always used to put Nora over the large dekchi which was used for making dum ka biryani…We had a large joint family and the dekchi was quite something huge, if not small or large. Feeling nostalgic!! Coming back to recipes here

  • Add the raisins to the above.

  • After adding the water, seal the sides of the pan (my poor steel saucepan pan looks nothing near to elegant as compared to the huge petol dekchi/ brass pan I was referring to) with some kneaded atta dough. This locks the moisture essential for dum ka biryani.
  • I happen to cook this over my iron  tava.But again it’s not necessary. You can put the pot on very low flame and cook.
  • Put the flame at low or gas mark 4 and cook the rice for 30-35 mints. Do not hurry and try to open the seal. I would say open after 1-2 hrs later.
  • Before serving biryani, sprinkle the saffron flavored milk generously. And close the lid. Let people enjoy what they get at the dinner table.


  • This recipe is truly a basic attempt to recapture all the biryanis I , we have eaten pleasurable in many food chains back in kolkata.Arsenal/Shiraz/Rehmani are just few names. I really don’t know what goes behind those kitchens which churn out such delicately flavored biryanis and kabab years after years. But for me this recipe was very delicately flavored and light.
  • Kolkata biryani is incomplete if potato is not added. As this is the distinctive part of biryani which separates from other regional biryani.Why?? I would say then it must be something to do with recession at the time when Awadhi cuisine was making its presence felt in Bengal. Meat was replaced with an easily available option and that was potato.
  • Tomato is not added in this biryani ,so in that place I have used thick yogurt to give the proper texture.
  • Again coriander leaves/mint leaves or curry putta is not added as many relative biryanis do include them. I would say if you prefer adding them, do so just for decorating or garnishing. I have never come across Kolkata biryani even with garnished coriander leaves.
  • Many a times I do cook the rice initially ¾ ways and then leave rest to cook with the masala paste. If you like even more light and fluffy biryani, then precook your rice grains and then mix in with the fried paste and seal it with very little aromatic water –you can read the recipe for akhnir jhol/aromatic water here. M/W at high for 4-7 mints covered or pop it into oven .Bake at 175 deg for 10-12 mints. Take out and sprinkle the saffron flavored milk and cover again. Do not open the cover from now on. Let it remain covered for 1 hr.At the time of serving open the cover/lid of pan or whatever you are using and then enjoy.

Kosha Chicken recipe  ( my way )

Recipe requirements (Serves- 3-4 )

  • 4 large pieces of chicken or 4 drumsticks or leg quarters 
  • The masala paste which is prepared above
  • Seasoning
  • 3 tsp of coriander powder
  • 2 tsp of garam masala
  • 2 tsp of nutmeg powder
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • ½ tsp of sugar
  • 4-5 tbs of cooking oil


  • Clean the chicken pieces very well with water. And then pat dry them. I happen to use the chicken pieces with skin on. I trimmed some major portions for fats and then cut the skin leaving some traces here and there little bit. I would say the skin of chicken do release some rich oil when it’s cooked which do add to the flavoring of gravy. However if the smell of skin puts you off, then skip it completely. Again I would say the final product what you do eat is excellent without any skin smell as we will be using loads of garam masala for making kosha chicken.
  • Marinate the chicken pieces with the basic paste you prepared earlier, reserving about 2-3 tbs of paste.
  • Heat up a saucepan, add cooking oil and let it heat properly. Add the reserved 2-3 tbs of masala paste.
  • Season it with turmeric, red pepper, coriander, nutmeg powder and gram masala.Sprinkle little bit of water.
  • Add the marinated chicken pieces with the entire marination. Now keep on cooking the chicken uncovered for about 30 mints. Stirring frequently so that it doesn’t get stuck at the base. Add about ½ cup of water if the chicken has become too dry. Cook further 10-15 mints or the chicken is tender and juicy. Prick with a fork to assess the softness of chicken.
  • Drop in about 2 tbs of cream or butter to enhance the flavor. Mix in well.
  • Kosha chicken is ready to be served with mild flavored Kolkata biryani.

I do hope you all get some time to make this light and delicately flavored Kolkata biryani some day and try the kosha murgi also.

 Updated to include other recipe version of Kolkata Biryani.

Updated on 3/01/12

  1. This time made the biryani without cooking it over tava/skillet.
  2. Added some chopped potato cubes, mushrooms and carrots , just to include more vegetables.
  3. Omitted adding turmeric powder completely.
  4. Used extra long high quality rice grains.
  5. Cooked at med-low flame.Added water just above half inch to the entire rice mixture level .Well that includes milk+saffron mixture.
  6. Cooked it , till all the water is used up.Then took it off from the flame.Allowed to remain covered for about 10-15 mints and then open it.

Happy cooking friends.


  1. Kids are like that they want to see the parents before they do something, Shyama ws like that too and we will be franticlly waving to her so that she can see us :-) Didn't know aobut Kolkata biriyani llooks so good.

  2. Fin,
    Even we were doing the same :-D..and she was very happy to see both of us..thanks for coming ..hugs and smiles

  3. Classic recipe,drool worthy biryani..flavorful and tempting

  4. ahha perfect fluffy biryani. love the bright hue of yellow.

  5. Super flavourful briyani and kosha murgi makes me hungry..

  6. Suja,
    Thanks and yeah dum biryani is a classic one..

    holod 'er jonno bright hue of yellow :-D..

    Thanks ..and yeah it was very mild flavoured biryani.

    hugs and smiles

  7. This one is new for me,..still to try dum way to prepare biryani,..:)

  8. Will make the kosha chicken and kol.biryani tom. Hope my hubby will like it. Thx for the recipe.


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