Naimeen (seer Fish) Biryani

I came across this recipe a long time ago. I must admit that the concept of a 'fish biryani' was alien to me then. The recipe has gone through trials and changes over the last 20 years. The oddest thing I remember about it is that I found it a '5'Rupee Cookbook sold in a train and it was in Malayalam. Dad translated it for me and we got going...I must admit that I was quite skeptical when I tried this the first time. However, my Dad loved it...and that memory makes this dish ever so special.

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Sindu Aven's Secret Indian Recipe !

Preparation Time: 
3 hours
Cooking Time: 
1.5 hours

I. Naimeen (Seer Fish) – pieces cut for frying - 1 kg (The below ingredients are for frying the fish)
Lime - 2
Chilli Powder - 4 tsp
Turmeric- 1 tsp
Fennel seeds (Saunff) - 1 tsp
Pepper whole - 2 tsp
Ginger - 2 pieces (1 “ each)
Garlic - 8-10 pods
Cinnamon 2 pieces - (1 “ each)
Cloves - 4
Cardamom - 4
Salt- To taste
II. The below ingredients are for the base gravy
Onions - 6
Ginger - paste - 2 pieces (1 “ each)
Green chilli – paste 8 chillies
Garlic - paste 12 pods
Chilli powder 2 tsps
Corriander powder 2 tsps
Tomatoes 4
Coconut milk (Thick) 2 tea cups
Corriander leaves 1 big bunch chopped fine
Cinnamon - ground 3 pieces (1/2 “ each)
Cloves - ground 4
Cardamom - ground 5
Ghee Enough to fry
Curd/ Yoghurt (Must not be sour) 1 cup
Salt To taste
III. Rice 3 glasses
Whole spices - 10 pepper, 4 cloves, 1"inch cinnamon, 4 cardamoms
Oil - 1 tablespoon
Salt - 5 tablespoons
For section I of ingredients: Wash the fish and apply the lime juice to the pieces. All the remaining ingredients are to be ground fine into a smooth paste and applied on to the fish. Leave the marinade on for at least 3 hours in the refrigerator. Shallow fry the fish post that. Ensure that the fish don’t become crisp.
For section II of ingredients: Saute the onions and crushed garlic in ghee. Once brown, add the powders, pastes, ground masalas and tomatoes. Bring to a thick fragrant masala base. This might take close to 20 minutes. Add the curd. Bring to a boil. Add the pieces of fish and let it simmer for 15 minutes – till there is barely any gravy. Turn off the flame and wait for 10 minutes before adding the coconut milk and sprinkle half the coriander leaves on top .
For the Rice 3 tall glasses rice to be soaked for an hour. In a big pot, add whole spices (pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves), 5 tablespoons of salt and a tablespoon of oil. Bring to a boil and then add the rice. When the rice is about 3/4ths done, drain it and split in two equal parts.
For the DUM In a large heavy bottomed pot, add some ghee at the base and pour the fish and coconut gravy. Layer once with rice, add the remainder coriander leaves and then add the next level of rice. Add some ghee on top and keep on DUM for at least 40 minutes. (Ideally you should seal the pot or put something heavy on top)
Side dishes – in the Malayalee style of serving • Fried pappadams • Pickle – preferably lime • Raita – onions and tomatoes are a must