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Sindhi Biryani

Sindhi Biryani (Pakistani meat curry with rice)

(Pakistani meat curry with rice)

Image Creative Commons by Mainsar66

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For this elaborate, celebratory dish, a rich, warmly spiced meat curry is layered with saffron-scented rice and garnished with nuts and dried fruits.

As its name implies, Sindhi biryani originated in the Sindh province of Pakistan, home to Karachi, the country's largest city and financial center. The dish is so delicious that its popularity spread, and it is now enjoyed by all Pakistanis.

Sindhi biryani is most often made with goat or lamb, but feel free to substitute beef, chicken and even shrimp if you like. Don't be intimidated by the long ingredient list! It's mostly spices, and the recipe itself is really failrly straightforward.

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Saffron Rice

  • Basmati rice -- 2 cups
  • Water -- 3 1/2 cups
  • Saffron threads, soaked in a little milk -- a big pinch
  • Salt -- to taste

Curry Spices

  • Cinnamon sticks -- 3 or 4
  • Cardamom pods -- 8
  • Whole cloves -- 5 or 6
  • Bay leaves -- 3
  • Paprika -- 1 tablespoon
  • Coriander -- 1 tablespoon
  • Turmeric -- 2 teaspoons
  • Ground cumin -- 2 teaspoons

Meat Curry

  • Oil or ghee -- 1/4 cup
  • Lamb or goat stewing meat, cubed -- 2 pounds
  • Onions, thinly sliced -- 2
  • Fresh ginger, peeled and minced -- 3 tablespoons
  • Garlic, minced -- 5 or 6 cloves
  • Whole-fat yogurt -- 1 1/2 cups
  • Water -- 1 cup
  • Green chili peppers, left whole -- 2 or 3
  • Salt and pepper -- to season
  • Prunes, chopped -- 6 to 8
  • Tomatoes, seeded and chopped -- 2
  • Cilantro, chopped -- 1/2 bunch
  • Mint, chopped -- 1/2 bunch

Biryani Garnish

  • Golden raisins (sultanas) -- 1/3 cup
  • Almond slivers, toasted -- 1/3 cup
  • French-fried onions (optional) -- 1/2 cup

Method

  1. Put the rice into a large bowl and wash with a couple changes of water then drain to remove excess starch. Add fresh water to cover the rice by about an inch, then set aside to soak for about 30 minutes.
  2. While the rice soaks, heat a heavy-bottomed skillet or pot over medium flame. Add the whole curry spices and dry roast them, tossing now and then, until they begin to release their aroma. Stir in the ground curry spices, then remove everything to a small bowl. Take care not to burn the spices.
  3. In a large pot or wok, heat the oil or ghee over medium-high flame. Add the cubed meat and brown on all sides. Remove to a plate.
  4. Add more oil or ghee if needed, then add the onions and saute until they turn translucent and begin to brown. Add the ginger and garlic and saute 1 or 2 minutes more.
  5. Return the meat to the pot, and stir in the toasted spices, yogurt, water, whole green chiles and salt and pepper to season. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the meat is cooked through and tender, from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.
  6. While the curry is simmering, drain the basmati and put it in a medium saucepan. Add the water, the saffron with its milk and a big pinch of salt. You can also add a cinnamon stick and a couple of cardamom pods if you like. Bring to a boil over medium-high flame, then reduce heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to rest, covered.
  7. Meanwhile stir the prunes, half the chopped herbs and half the chopped tomatoes into the meat curry. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  8. Spread half of the saffron rice in a large, warm serving dish or platter. Top the rice with the meat curry. Spread the remaining rice over the meat curry. At this point, the dish can be covered with foil and held warm until serving.
  9. To finish, garnish with the remaining tomatoes and chopped herbs, raisins, almonds and fried onions. Serve with raita and kachumbar (tomato and cucumber salad).

Sindhi Biryani Notes and Variations

  • Make sure to use whole-fat yogurt for this recipe. If you use low- or non-fat yogurt, the long cooking time will cause your sauce to curdle. Yuck!
  • Use dried apricots instead of prunes if you like.
  • Cooked and quartered potatoes are often used to top Sindhi biryani as a type of garnish.
  • Other nuts often used to garnish Sindhi biryani include cashews, walnuts and pistachios.
  • For a little more heat, garnish the biryani with hot chile peppers sliced into thin rounds.

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