How to cook: Rice, biryani style

If I had saffron water to drizzle over the rice after cooking, and if I had used cashew nuts instead of peanuts, this would be a more authentic biryani. Well, whatever “authentic” means considering that biryani is found in the cuisines of more than a dozen countries, including the Philippines, and none is exactly the same as another. But I didn’t have saffron and cashew nuts so I had to content myself with calling this dish a biryani-style rice. At any rate, a lot of the traditional spices that go into cooking biryani went into this dish.

The idea and procedure I got from Malaysian cook Sherson Lian who hosts 5 Rencah 5 Rasa on Asian Food Channel. I liked the way he sauteed everything in a pan then transferred all the ingredients to the rice cooker. Modern and practical cook, I thought. That’s exactly how I did my arroz blanco and arroz amarillo — never mind purists screaming that you have to do it in a pot over burning wood or something. What the heck, eh? It is 2012, after all.

Recipe: Rice, biryani style

Ingredients

  • 2 c. of long-grain rice, rinsed and drained
  • 4 tbsps. of ghee or clarified butter (see notes after the recipe)
  • a three-inch length of cinnamon bark
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 cardamom pods, shells discarded
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c. of plain yogurt
  • salt
  • 2 pandan leaves
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass
  • about 1/3 c. of peanuts
  • a handful of raisins
  • finely sliced scallions (onion leaves), to garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat 3 tbsps. of ghee in a pan.
  2. Add the ginger, garlic, onion, cinnamon bark, star anise and cardamom seeds. Cook, stirring often, until aromatic, about two minutes.
  3. Add the rice. Stir to coat every grain with oil.
  4. Add the yogurt. Stir. Pour in about two cups of water. Sprinkle with about a teaspoonful of salt.
  5. Pour everything into the rice cooker. Tie the pandan leaves and lemongrass stalk together and throw it in. Turn on the rice cooker and let it do its work.
  6. While the rice cooks, heat the remaining ghee and fry the nuts until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate and cool.
  7. When the rice is done, add the raisins, fluff the rice with a fork. Discard the pandan leaves and lemongrass, as well as the star anise and cinnamon bark.
  8. Ladle the rice into bowls. Top with nuts and sliced scallions.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Rice, biryani style

Quick Notes

Ghee is clarified butter. Meaning, the cream content has separated. To make ghee, melt butter in a pan, cook over medium heat until white froth forms on top. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the froth turns brownish and sinks to the bottom. Aayi’s Recipes says adding salt helps the solids to sink to the bottom of the pan.

Strain the oil (David Lebovitz uses a cheesecloth) and you have your ghee. The brown bits are actually curdled and toasted cream and it’s up to you whether to discard or use them. Veggie Belly has tips for using those browned bits.

If you don’t want to bother making ghee, just use butter. That’s what Sherson Lian of 5 Rencah 5 Rasa advised. In short, don’t sweat it bemoaning the lack of “authentic” ingredients — a good cook will always find some substitute.