Cooking| Katchi Biryani … perhaps Hyderabads most renowned biryani

“Biryani is often called India’s signature dish”
Pratibha Karan

Katchi BiryaniThis was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss. It took a little organising. Mr PAB had to come in early from work to get the kids off the school bus. I had to bake like a mad hatter all morning for the next day was an early  soccer match {read 7.30am reporting time…brrrr}, yet I HAD to be attend the event. It was a demo workshop for Pratibha Karans delicious Indian cookbook, simply called – BIRYANI!biryaniI remember twisting my younger sisters arm almost a decade ago to buy me Pratibha Karans earlier book Hyderabadi cuisine – A Princely Legacy, which at the time cost a princely sum. It is entirely worth owning. Every picture in that cookbook is royal, the commentary steeped in history and culture. Pretty as can be crockery and tableware, with ancient bric-a-brac, used in the photographs, A Princely Legacy is worth every page. I have cooked  from it often, had many questions for the ‘biryani expert’ … which is why I HAD to get to this biryani workshop.Pratibha Karan, BiryaniWith such delicious thoughts in my muddled head, I hopped into a cab and was driven 25 miles in horrid traffic to get to the demo. The event was organised by Perfect Relations & Random House, hosted at  Godrej Nature’s Basket in Defence Colony, South Delhi.

The biryani is India’s most beloved dish — one that has spread to all the four corners of the country and assumed many forms. It originated in the Mughal courts, flowering in the jagirs of Awadh, and it is in Lucknow, Delhi and the small Muslim principalities of north India that one finds the classic versions, subtle, refined, and delicately flavoured. Pratibha Karan gives us not just the definitive recipes from these regions but unearths rare and old dishes such as a biryani made with oranges, Rose Biryani and Kebab Biryani. In the south, the biryani has an equally distinguished lineage, if not more so. There are the blueblooded biryanis of Hyderabad which include gems such as the Doodh ki Biryani, Keeme ki biryani and Bater ki biryani. Away from the royal courts, the biryani has adapted itself into a spicy local delicacy in Tamil Nadu, with many towns like Salem, Aambur, Dindigul boasting of their own signature version of the dish.

Katchi BiryaniPratibha Karan shared lesser known tips of biryani making with patrons of Godrej Nature’s Basket, and took them through the evolution of this mouth watering delight. She offered a blend of culinary, cultural and historical insights of this much loved dish, and shared her ‘Qabooli’ recipe {a vegetarian biryani} with special tips thrown in. The only disappointment was that there was no live cooking demo, which most patrons who attended the workshop expected. Else, it was a pleasure to hear her talk, to feel her passion for biryani and food culture, her eyes glistening with joy. She took questions from curious and enthusiastic foodies, guided them towards making the perfect biryani, sharing her expertise large heartedly. Armed with a copy of her book that Random House generously gave me, I left the workshop feeling uber-confident, ready to win the battle of biryani. {For those who are vegetarians, the book offers a number of delectable vegetarian biryani recipes too}.

Katchi BiryaniIt was just a matter of time and I got myself geared for the challenge. A challenge because I have had some miserable biryani failures of late, and have been cooling my heels on this particular front! I read the book cover to cover, wanted to try so many, and then finally settled for the Katchi Biryani, katchi meaning raw. In the authors words, “This is perhaps Hyderabad’s most renowned biryani. Both the rice and the meat are layered in an almost raw form in the pan. Therein lies it’s unbelievable magic. Many claim Katchi Biryani is th ultimate biryani dish”.Pratibha Karan, BiryaniI was sold, and just had to try my hand at the magic. I reduced the papaya marginally as I marinated the lamb overnight. I planned to ‘throw‘ together my biryani with minimal fuss the next afternoon, after returning from soccer, which is exactly how it went. Good planning {pat myself on the back}, it was a fuss free experience, and we waited with baited breath to see the outcome. Katchi BiryaniIt didn’t disappoint at all. My word, the aroma was great, each grain of rice was separate … I was walking on clouds. Mr PAB exclaimed it was the best ever; he had waited for this for 20 years! Wait no longer. Give this a go. After I made it and got it right, I did read a review on the web to say this was a fiddly biryani to get right. Maybe I’m plain lucky, or maybe I’ve ‘arrived’ on the biryani scene. Whichever way, this was a meal in itself, full of flavour, each grain of rice separate {test of a good biryani}, and tasted even better the next day!

Katchi BiryaniKatchi Biryani
FromBiryani’ by Pratibha Karan, pg 76
This is perhaps Hyderabad’s most renowned biryani. Both the rice and the meat are layered in an almost raw form in the pan. Therein lies it’s unbelievable magic. Many claim Katchi Biryani is th ultimate biryani dish.
Preparation: 25-30 minutes
Marination Time: 5-6 hours
Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves 8-10
1kg mutton, mix of medium pieces from shoulder, and chops
1tbsp ginger paste
1 1/2 tbsp garlic paste
1 tbsp raw papaya paste {skin & pulp ground fine together}
4 onions, finely sliced {about 300gms}
15 green chillies, ground {I used 3 chopped, and 2 whole}
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp garam masala
500gm yogurt, whisked
Juice of 3 limes
650gm long grain rice {I used basmati}
A liberal pinch of saffron soaked in 1/2 cup warm milk
2 tbsp ghee
150ml refined oil
Salt to taste
Katchi BiryaniMethod:
Wash the mutton, and drain well. Add ginger, garlic and papaya paste to the mutton, and rub in well. Set aside.
Heat 150ml oil, and fry the sliced onions in this until golden brown. remove from oil, cool a little, and then crush by hand.
Add the crushed fried onions, remaining oil that the onions were fried in, and the remaining ingredients of ‘A’ to the meat. Add salt to taste, mix well and leave to marinate for 5-6 hours. {I reduced the papaya paste by a 1/4 tbsp, and left my meat to marinate in the fridge overnight}
Wash the rice well. Soak for 20minutes. bring 3 1/2 ltrs of water with salt and 1 tsp oil to a boil. Once the water bbegins boiling, add the rice and cook for about 3 minutes, until 20% done. Drain immediately, and transfer rice to a flat pan.
Assemble & serve:
Transfer the marinated meat to a heavy bottomed large pan, and place over high heat. Stir until it comes to a boil, then cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add a cup of water, and when it comes to a boil again, lower the heat and spread the partially cooked rice over the meat in a uniform layer. Cover with a tight fitting lid, and place a heavy weight/ stone over it to prevent the steam from escaping. Cook on ‘dum‘ for about half an hour. {I cooked mine for 25 minutes}.
Open lid, sprinkle the saffron milk over the rice, dot with the ghee, and cover once again with a tight fitting lid. Cook on very low heat for about 15 minutes, until the rice and meat are done and steaming hot. {I did the second 15 minutes of ‘dum’ cooking with a griddle under the pan. }
To serve, take out the biryani in large chunks from the sides without mixing to retain it’s multi-hued glory. Serve steaming hot.
Note: I grind a small green papaya, skin included, and freeze it in an ice tray. I keep the frozen cubes in a zipbag, and use 1 cube for 1 tbsp when required.

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥
Katchi Biryani

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About me: I am a freelance food writer, recipe developer and photographer. Food is my passion - baking, cooking, developing recipes, making recipes healthier, using fresh seasonal produce and local products, keeping a check on my carbon footprint and being a responsible foodie! I enjoy food styling, food photography, recipe development and product reviews. I express this through my food photographs which I style and the recipes I blog. My strength lies in 'Doing Food From Scratch'; it must taste as good as it looks, and be healthy too. Baking in India, often my biggest challenge is the non-availability of baking ingredients, and this has now become a platform to get creative on. I enjoy cooking immensely as well.


  1. Wowo the book sounds really good, i will see if i can get hold of it online.
    Happy Cook´s last blog post ..Ham Bacon and Cheese PizzaMy Profile

  2. I am drooling here! I have never made the katchi biryani as i always feel that the meat will stay uncooked. i do use the papaya extract here. Fantastic loking birynai Deeba!
    Soma´s last blog post ..Sabudana Kheer- Tapioca Pudding with Saffron and NutsMy Profile

  3. Mmmm this biryani looks fantastic! My boyfriend would tease me that it’s in my blood from being Asian, but I can’t think of any rice dish I don’t love.
    Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets´s last blog post ..Chocolate Nutella Alfajores Dessert WarsMy Profile

  4. A magnificent biryani! Basmati rice is so fragrant and the flavors of this dish are mouthwatering.



  5. Truly an odyssey of flavour & fragrances as she wrote in her book. The recipe looks delish & I have to admit I’m a huge fan of Hyderabadi food. Infact just working my next column around the food from the Deccan Plateau. Love your post & a perfect one pot meal.
    Maunika´s last blog post ..Coastal Coconut Prawn CurryMy Profile

  6. I’ve always heard from my hubby that Hyderabad Biryani is THE biryani to make and eat,somehow I never got around to try it.Thanks for letting know that there are vegetarian versions too,the book sounds like a must buy!!
    Divya´s last blog post ..Methi PulaoMy Profile

  7. So exciting, Deeba! I loved seeing the inscription in the book. Wonderful!
    the wicked noodle´s last blog post ..Packer Soup!My Profile

  8. Can you imagine? The first time I tried my hand at Indian cuisine I chose a biryani… juicy meat hidden under saffron basmati rice. We all loved it! I doubt it was very authentic… but I used a recipe from an Indian cook!
    Miriam/The Winter Guest´s last blog post ..Soufflé potatoes with soft garlicMy Profile

  9. Just yesterday I whipped up a pakki biryani for dinner and today u have another variety for me ..I love the whole exotic feel of your post..those utensils and dishes.I dont get good mutton here..its too leathery and fatty..and we dont like lamb much.So I dun knw when I ll get to try this but I really want too.You look gorgeous as always in the pic :)
    Tanvi@Sinfully Spicy´s last blog post ..Reshmi Chicken Kebab RollsMy Profile

  10. hiDeeba tthe fragrence of biryani i feel here amazing and ur presentation and writing awesome love it very much
    santosh´s last blog post ..MASALA DOSAMy Profile

  11. Good to know about the book and Hyderabad’s signature biriyani…

  12. Fascinating post, Deeba! Your biryani looks wonderful. I’m so glad you feel you have now become a pro!
    What a wonderful opportunity to have met Pratibha Karanr and seen the demo.
    Barbara´s last blog post ..Sophies Mushy Peas with Seared ScallopsMy Profile

  13. Soo irresistible briyani, glad to know about the book..
    Priya´s last blog post ..Sprouted Moth Beans Masala SundalMy Profile

  14. Great tip on the papaya. I do that for a lot of ingredients. What a quest, Deeba! What a beautiful piece of writing and the best in 20 years – wowsers!
    I love the beautiful old pot you cooked it in. That must have a story unto it’s own. I thought it was cheese or, actually – a long noodle in the photo. I cannot believe that is just rice! Amazing. Honestly, I have never met a mutton I could eat. Maybe because I haven’t had this dish made by you? It is usually so gamey and off putting to me, but I do not have a tender palate! Just very little experience and somehow, little tolerance for the mutton I have tasted. Sad to say – I know so many love it. Goat, too. Same for me.
    Lovely recipe.
    It is surprising you would go to see a cookbook author without a cooking demonstration. Very odd. But, I can see you are positive about it… but, very very odd, on their part.
    A Canadian Foodie´s last blog post ..Portuguese Custard Tarts or Alfama’s Pastéis de Nata Pastel de Belém- Invite a Blogger to Your Table by More Than Burnt ToastMy Profile

  15. This signature Hyderabad’s biriyani sounds delicious. I would like to try veggie biriyani from that book. you does awesome presentation of dishes.

  16. Gorgeous dish, Deeba! I’ll give it a go some time. What does “dum” mean?

    • Hi Adele, ‘Dum’ cooking is an Indian term which refers to slow cooking with all the steam sealed into the vessel. It dates back to the 16th century, when meals were cooked in heavy bottomed vessels, placed over smoldering coals. The mouths of the vessels were sealed with a platter held with kneaded dough to trap the flavours and moisture in.

  17. I adore briyani, so interesting to know more about the history of the dish & how it varies from region to region…, this cookbook sounds a fabulous addition to the collection with such amazing recipes in it too. Love the images…. truly love them :)
    Anna Johnston´s last blog post ..KINGSLEYS STEAK &amp CRABHOUSEMy Profile

  18. I LOVE Biryani!!!! I make the layered version but cook the rice and meat seperately and then cook them again together.. it’s a process but oh so totally worth it!! :DD

  19. Every post of yours is a masterpiece! Love the dishes. Are they all from the Janpath guy?
    sandhya@vegetarianirvana´s last blog post ..Book Club Cooking Tales Of A Female NomadMy Profile

    • Thanks Sandhya. The box is one a friend gave me, the copper glass from Old Delhi, and the serving platter is one my aunt kept for me. The whole family knows about my love for old, battered and not so shiny stuff!

  20. Oooh, I was so badly hoping to see a vegetarian recipe :(, Please, Please do share one..

  21. Congrats for the priced possession, Deeba! Hope to see many delectable dishes from your kitchen from it soon. Would love to try the spice mix with my veggie Biryani.
    Sanjeeta kk´s last blog post ..Easy Kiwi Fruit Muffins for a ChangeMy Profile

  22. wow…lovely recipe! jus 1 quest: is there any other option to papaya paste?? n didnt get the purpose of using it..if u cld plzz clarify.
    Gita´s last blog post ..Stuffed Baingan Masala- GravyMy Profile

    • Hi Gita, green papaya with the skin is a great mutton tenderiser. So are kiwi and pineapple! The thing is to get the timing right, else it could go either over or under tender. I think a commercial tenderiser is available in powder form in the market, though I’ve never used it.

  23. Deeba, what a treat for the senses! Biryani looks delectable! Truly a Royal Dish of India! I can’t wait to try your version! Thanks for sharing love! xoxo
    Sara´s last blog post ..Spicy Bengali Fish CurryMy Profile

  24. Ohhh I’m such a sucker for biryani and this has me drooling! I have never heard of a biryani with raw papaya in it. Does it help to tenderize the meat or something like that? Would love to hear of an easy substitute.
    Magpie´s last blog post ..The first ever Kerala Kitchen roundup!My Profile

  25. Some googling and I learnt that papaya, kiwi and pineapple serve to tenderize meat when left to marinate. Never knew that! Thanks again Deeba for sharing this treasure and for all your wonderful and inspiring dishes!
    Magpie´s last blog post ..The first ever Kerala Kitchen roundup!My Profile

  26. That briyani is making my poor tummy growl. Sounds like a great dish for a busy after-school afternoon. You have certainly “arrived” Deeba dear. CAn you arrive at my place and make me some ? 😉
    shaz´s last blog post ..Malaysian Monday 63- Pandan Chiffon Cake attempt number oneMy Profile

  27. My mom is known for her kacchi biryani. The day she made it – the whole house was enthu and excited about dinner (as other wise we all 4 siblings have different choices in food) but for biryani we all jumped with joy. And u knw the best part about kacchi biryani? It gets better the next day – I always make sure I have leftovers :) Thanks for refreshing all memories Dee!

  28. Sounds like a wonderful workshop, I always like to learn about the history of a dish. I wish I could have been there to get her ‘Qabooli’ recipe, a vegetarian biryani would be perfect for me.
    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen´s last blog post ..french vegetable soup the soup that changed my mindMy Profile

  29. MMmmmmm it looks fab, darling! This is one dish I have long wanted to try making but I have always been scared off because it seemed so complicated. Yours looks and sounds so delicious…. do i dare? Fabulous!

  30. Aww as with everything that you do, you do it beautifully! Even your basmati rice looks perfect 😀 PS love the new cake coming up! 😉
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella´s last blog post ..Xiao Long Bao – Shanghai Soup DumplingsMy Profile

  31. I love the photos, description, and the total concept. You make the dish accessible even to a novice.
    Lael Hazan @educatedpalate´s last blog post ..Italian Béchamel SauceMy Profile

  32. Each grain of rice does look perfectly separate – what a wonderful looking Biryani. I’ve never made a katchi biryani but am always meaning to. I can almost taste this one from here. . delicious!

  33. I was very happy to know about the new book by Pratibha Karan. Although I do not own her previous book as well, but I do have my eyes on all cookbooks on Hyderabadi Cuisine.
    My Ammi cooks the best Kachchi Biryani in this whole world. What she does is marinate the meat with/without papaya (she says it isnt that necessary, depends on time of marination and the age of the baby lamb) and cooks the marinated meat directly along with the half cooked rice. She doesn’t cook the meat before adding rice for Kachchi Biryani.
    I wish I were able to meet Pratibha Karan, and Rani Kulsum Begum who alone are the two celebrity ladies doing their bit to showcase the cuisine.
    Gorgeous clicks Deeba, like always.

  34. I am still waiting formy copy of this book… :) congratz on ur fine success in tackling biryani…it does look purrrfect!

  35. I may never buy the book, but am sure glad you shared the recipe :-)…thanks a million!

  36. anjelina says:

    I luv the Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani. Its awesome, yum and delicious.

  37. Delicious – you are right – this is the ultimate biryani.
    Vikram Karve´s last blog post ..STAY INSIDE STAY COOL – LIVING IN PUNEMy Profile

  38. Deeba, Biryani has always been the perfect comfort food for me. I remember my dad would make chicken biryani all the time – especially when he thought I was feeling low. I still make a quick biryani often at home and both my men love it. A little while back I too made a Hyderabadi biryani (which I need to post soon) and it was truly sensational. Lovely post my friend!

  39. I usually drool over your sweet confections over here at PAB but now I can drool over savoury notes as well. This seems like a dish I could make without a complicated ingredient list. Let’s see if I could perfect such a classic Indian dish.

  40. Luv the spound of it… Would be gr8 if you could share a veggie biryani recipe :)
    Anu Menon´s last blog post ..Pasta delight with spinach patties!It’s been a whileMy Profile

  41. Angela says:

    A+ .. your rice looks absolutely wonderful. Just as it is meant to be. Had one of the best biryani’s of my life in Hyderabad and it was a katchi biryani. Agree, its the ULTIMATE biryani.

  42. deeba- banane wale ke haath ka jadoo hai- this is such a beautiful dish you have created, each and every single rice grain elongated and separate. living in Dhaka i had kachi biryani a lot- the Bangladeshis also call this dish their own-and they make it really well- so interesting to see the different origins of recipes. your photos are fab as always- and i wish i could have been there helping you prepare this after soccer practice. hugs shayma
    shayma´s last blog post ..Sohan-e-Asali- Almond Saffron Brittle in the Persian MannerMy Profile

  43. Nabeel's Cosmos says:

    Ahh, Biryani, my favorite type of rice dish. There are so many types of biryani, I just love it. Chicken, Fish, … etc.

  44. Too good. Simple recipe, but looks delicious. It is almost like the one I cook.
    There were some simplified ideas, which I will use soon.

    I am from Hyderabad :-)

    I will try to purchase the book soon.

    Thanks. Your blog is delicious.

  45. indrani says:

    Under the head ‘A’ in the ingredient list, u mentioned 15 green chillies. So many…??

  46. WOW! Thank you for such a wonderful recipe you made, I’ve been surfing online more than 4 hours today, yet I never found any interesting recipe like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if all recipe bloggers made good recipes as you did, the food community will be much more useful than ever before. I love Recipes. Please check my recipe blog and your valuable comment more appreciable
    Andhra Style Bhindi fry / okra fry´s last blog post ..Andhra Style Bhindi fry / okra fryMy Profile

  47. I agree that the test of a good biriyani is in having each grain of rice separate. And that is why I have failed each time i think. I am not sure why my biriyani always clumps together. I don’t know if it’s that I overcook the rice or if the basmati rice itself that i use is inferior. Could you tell us what brand you used. I can see that the grains look beautiful.

    • Hi Liz, IMHO more often than never it is the quality of rice, and sometimes that is has been overcooked. I use India Gate basmati. Works well for me.


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