Sindh Biriyani: A Cornucopia of Influences


Sketch of Old Hyderabad, Sindh, by Lt. William Edwards, 1846 (with modified skies)

We make a detour to Sindh in the NorthWest. A region which like India, is named after the River Sindh (Indus). This is a land that gave rise to the Indus Valley civilization. Sindh was occupied by the first Persian Empire, established by Cyrus the Great.

It would go on to be occupied by the forces of Alexander the Great, who remarked of Sindh, “I am involved in the land of a lions and brave people … everyone in this land can be called an Alexander“. Sindh also interfaced with the Ancient Greeks and the Mauryan Empire. There were episodes with the Persians, Huns, the Gupta Empire and the Umayyads.

These cosmopolitan influences naturally came to be integrated into local Sindhi cuisine. A popular, distinctly flavourful preparation of biryani, Sindhi biryani brings into play select ingredients. The involvement of saffron and turmeric suggest the Persian connect. Make sure to keep ready the dried Asian plums required for this preparation; they are a distinct addition and deliver a winning touch of Afghan flair.

Main Ingredients
Ingredients Quantity
Mutton 1 kg
Basmati rice 1 kg
Tomatoes (chopped) 500 g
Potatoes (peeled and halved) 500 g
Lemon 1/2
Medium-sized onions (chopped) 1 kg
Garlic (lehsan) paste 2 tsp
Ginger (adrak) 2 tsp
Green chillies 2-3
Coriander (dhania) leaves (chopped) 50 g / 1 cup
Mint (pudina) leaves (chopped) 50 g / 1 cup
Yoghurt 250 g
Oil/ghee 250 g
Saffron 2 pinches
Masala (powdered spices)
Ingredients Quantity
Red chilli powder 1 tsp
Coriander powder 1 tsp
Cumin powder 1 tsp
Garam masala 1 tsp
Nutmeg powder ¼ tsp
Javitri ¼ tsp
(Salt 4 tsp)
Whole Spices
Ingredients Quantity
Green cardamom (chhoti elaichi) 8
Cloves (laung) 8
Cumin seeds (zeera) 1 tsp
Black cardamom (bari elaichi) 4
Cinnamon stick (small) 2
Bay leaves (tezpatta) 2
Dehyrdrated Asian plums* 10-12
(Sugar 1 tbsp)

* also known as aloobukharay

1. Marinate the mutton and potatoes for 5-6 hours in yoghurt, ginger garlic paste, salt, turmeric, chilli powder and liquidized fresh coriander leaves, mint leaves and green chillies.
2. Set aside some chopped coriander and mint leaves for seasoning later.

1. Heat oil in pan and add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and some green cardamom, then add rice, water and salt.
2. Squeeze half a lemon
3. Cook the rice till 70-75% done.
4. Ensure all the water has dried.

Saffron Solution
1. Dissolve saffron in milk and keep aside

1. Heat oil in a pan and add the whole spices and fry the chopped onions till golden brown. Add the tomatoes and cook till ready.
2. Add the marinated mutton, coriander powder, cumin powder and dry plums and cook till the oil leaves the masala. Then add water and cover cook on low heat.
3. Keep stirring occasionally till the meat is tender and the oil separates.
4. Remove excess oil and keep aside for seasoning.

1. Divide the cooked meat into 2 parts. Over the first part of meat sprinkle green seasoning (mint and coriander), jaiphal powder, javitri powder and garam masala and pour hot oil in it and spread half of the cooked rice over this.
2. Layer the rest of the meat over the rice and again sprinkle green seasoning, jaiphal powder, javitri powder, and garam masala; pour hot oil on it and layer the rest of the rice.
3. Finally pour the saffron and milk solution on top of the rice and drain out the oil from the cooked meat. Dum cook it for 10-15 minutes.
4. Serve by scooping out through the various layers.
5. The biryani can be served with kachumber raita or mint raita and kachumber. Enjoy.


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