How to make the best biryani

Biryani is my love language. Fry a generous amount of onions, build up the right balance of seasoning in the meat or vegetables, partially boil the rice so that each grain cooks long and distinct, then put everything together in layers. These small acts of care result in a measure of aromatic taste and delicious steam that gathers joy.

The best biryani recipes have three complementary ingredients: rice, meat or vegetables flavored with spicy masala, and fried onions. One of my favorite variations, the Eggplant Biryani, draws on flavor inspired by regional biryani across India and combines large, chunky chunks of braised eggplant (soaked in yoghurt and seasoned with cumin, coriander, chili powder and warm spices), fragrant basmati rice, plenty of fried onions, coriander and a little of saffron. But no matter which recipe you use, the following tips will ensure that your biryani is delicious, fluffy, and great every time.

1. Find the right rice

The first (and most important) ingredient in biryani is rice. This is a dish where you want to look for old basmati rice. Usually aged for two years, this dries out the rice and creates incredibly fragrant, long and separated grains. I use Royal Brand, which you can find in your local Indian supermarket or online.

2. Fry the onions in batches

Next, fried onions. This step takes some time – you have to chop a few large onions into thin slices and fry in batches until golden brown, but the depth and caramelized sweetness of well-cooked onions is unbeatable. Frying in batches gives the onions room to cook into individual pieces, rather than ending up like a bowl of caramelized jam. Plus, you have onion-soaked oil ready to flavor meat or vegetables.

3. Get saucy

Masala—here, which refers to the mixture of spices used to season meat or vegetables—creates a deep, rich-flavored sauce. There are many types of biryani across India and South Asian diaspora, each type differing in spices and flavours. This vegan version of eggplant draws flavors from some of my favorite biryani: it’s rich in chili powder similar to Hyderbadi biryani, with a base base of fennel that derives from Lucknowi biryani, and scented with warm spices, like mace and nutmeg, from Kolkata biryani.

If you are new to the wonderful world of spices, find the recipe you like and cook it as written first. Then, once you’re feeling more comfortable, enjoy it—raise the chili if you’re craving more fire, sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon if you like sweet notes in your savory dishes, or add black cardamom for a woody and smoky flavor.

4. Choose your cooking method

When it comes to cooking biryani, there are two general methods: kachi and boka. The first describes a process in which seasoned raw meat (or vegetables) is laid out in layers of well-soaked rice and slowly cooked together. Alternatively, in the pukka method, meat – or, in this case, eggplant – and boiled rice are cooked separately, then mixed and steamed together.

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