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Kerala Fish Biriyani (Malabar Style)

Malabar Fish Biriyani, is one of the most authentic biriyani dish from North Kerala!

Living in Malabar has introduced me to many of their wonderful cuisines....though I have not posted any Malabar Cusine here on my blog. My kids love of Malabar food, they get to taste them during their lunch break at school....and sometimes bring home for me to taste also....then I'd call up their friend's mom and get the recipe...but never thought of blogging it....until someone recently asked me whether I know any traditional Malabar recipes....and since I have been making them for pretty long...I hope to include a few here on the stay tuned for more Malabar dishes.

Calicut, the city I live is considered to be the capital of Malabar....a city popular among foodies!. Zaines Bakery, Cochin Bakery, Bombay Hotel, Paragon Hotel are some places you should never miss.

You might wonder what's the big thing about  "Malabar Biriyani", as you know biriyani is made with basmati rice, but here in Malabar it is made with "kaima rice" a short grain mildly flavored is also known as the biriyani rice of Kerala....I have fallen in love with this short grain rice, and if you pass through Calicut/Kozhikode, do make sure you get a bag of this awesome rice from Palayam will not get the perfect kaima rice anywhere is said that restaurateurs from far Kochi and Trivandrum....comes to Calicut just to get kaima rice for their Malabar dishes. Now those of you, who do not have access to kaima rice, sadly I can only ask you to try it with basmati, jeera, or jasmine rice.

It is said that there are more than 56 different types of biriyani!! wow!! although most of the biriyanis are almost similar...its just a minute change that makes each one here in Malabar biriyani its the kaima rice, sprinkling of garam masala powder over the rice, adding saunf/perunjeera a tad bit more (even though garam masala has lots of saunf in it).

This is a fairly big post, so pls excuse.
Fish is marinated, and lightly seared in coconut oil, searing or lightly frying the fish is to seal the juices of the fish and thus the fish will be tender and juicy.
I used sear fish (Aikora), you can use butter fish (modha), pomfret (avoli) etc.
Yogurt is mixed with khus khus (poppy seeds) and made into a paste.
Ginger garlic and green chillies are coarsely grinded....but coriander leaves and mint leaves are chopped and added towards the last.
I normally cook the rice on another burner, and start making the gravy simultaneously ...when the rice is 3/4 cooked I strain it....the rest 1/4 will be cooked in the dum.
While layering rice, a fast pinch of garam masala powder is sprinkled on each rice layer.
Ghee plays a prominent part in Malabar cuisine, so if you omit ghee that authentic taste wont come.....but if you are health conscious, you can use half and half....or even cook with refined oil and drizzle a bit of ghee while layering the dum.....leaving it entirely up to you do decide.
And generous sprinkle of saffron milk over rice....if you do not have saffron, you can substitute with fresh turmeric powder.

Author: Nisa Homey
Recipe lightly adapted from here
Preparation time: 30 minutes.
Sear Fish (Aikora): 500 gms, cleaned and sliced.
Kaima Rice: 2 1/2 cups.

Kashmiri Chilly Powder: 1/2 tsp
Pepper Powder: A fat pinch.
Turmeric Powder: A fat pinch.
Perumjeera/saunf: 1/4 tsp.
Salt: 1/2 tsp.

For the garnish: 
Fried onions.(I used one large onion)
Fried nuts and raisins.(I used 25 gms each)
Chopped coriander leaves.(/very little maybe a 2 tbsp)
A pinch of saffron dissolved in 1 1/2 tbsp of warm milk.

For the gravy:
Onion: 2, sliced.
Ginger: 1 inch.
Garlic: 3/4 pod.
Green chilly: 2
Tomato: 1 medium, chopped.
Curd: 2 tbsp.
Khus khus(poppy seeds) : 3/4 tsp.
Kashmiri chilly powder: 1 tsp.
Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp.
Garam masala: To sprinkle over rice.
Coriander leaves: 1 handfull, chopped.
Mint leaves: Half handful, chopped.
Salt as needed.
Oil/Ghee as needed.(about 4-5 tbsp)

Whole spices:
Perumjeera/saunf:: 1/2 tsp.
Cardomon: 5-6.
Cloves: 6-8.
Cinnamon: 2 sticks, broken.
Mace: 1/2.

Grind coarsely ginger, garlic, and green chillies...keep them aside.
Soak 3/4 tsp of khus khus in yogurt, make a paste...keep it aside.
Chop coriander and mint leaves...keep aside.
A peek into the kaima rice, I was talking about. Wash the rice and put it on a strainer...keep it aside.

Marinate fish with all under "marination"

I used three large for frying and the other two for the gravy.

Heat a heavy bottomed large pan, I like to make biriyani in my " aluminum uruli", you can use a nonstick pan or large pan...we will be doing all the cooking right from frying nuts to frying the fish to making the dum in this .

Heat 3 tbsp ghee or oil, add in the nuts...once brown...remove it to a plate.

Then add in the raisins...raisins fry pretty fast...

And then fry the onions....remove to a plate...keep this aside.

In the same pan, slowly put the marinated fish.....and lightly shallow fry it....remove to another plate...keep aside.

Heat another burner and in a big vessel or kalam bring water to a boil....add half of the spices mentioned under "whole spices". Add salt, when water comes to a boil add the strained and cleaned rice...when the rice is 3/4 cooked, strain the rice and keep aside.

Squeeze one whole lime into the 3/4 cooked rice....mix well or rather shake well...we do not want the rice to be broken with all the mixing...keep it aside.

Okay back to gravy making, in the same pan (in which we fried the fish) add in half of the whole spices.

And the sliced onions....add in 1 tsp salt.

Once color starts to change, add in the grinded....ginger-garlic-green chilly paste...simmer the fire and let it fry for 2 min.

Then add in the Kashmiri chilly powder and turmeric powder....mix well for a min.

Add the chopped tomatoes....mix well. Add in the yogurt/khus khus paste....mix well.....remember the heat is on low.

Once everything is nicely mixed and oil comes out....sprinkle in the chopped coriander and mint leaves, mix.... (keep a little coriander leaves for garnish).

Gently place the fish on top of the gravy.....close the lid and simmer for a few that the fish absorbs all the flavors and incorporate the gravy.

Now slowly turn the fish over, not break the fish...simmer for 1 min.

Remove half of the fish into a plate.

Spread half of the cooked rice evenly on top...our first layer....and sprinkle fried onion, nuts, raisins, coriander leaves, and garam masala powder.

Then place the fish on top of this...remember fire is still running on low we really have to be quick...other wise...the bottom might get burned (though it is said...a little burned biriyani tastes best)

Again top with the rice, fried onion, nuts, raisins, garam masala, chopped coriander leaves, and sprinkle little saffron soaked milk....cover tightly with a lid...if you want you can put a flour paste on the sides of the pan and then that steam does not escapes....I always put a heavy thing on top of the lid...keep it on for 3-5 min...switch off the fire...Keep it closed for a few more min.

Serve immediately, with pappad and onion piping biriyani is so yum especially during winters.

Hope you will enjoy making this :)

Some more biriyani recipes which you might like.


  1. Wow, the pictures of the biryani look so fresh and yum!! I have never tried cooking fish biryani since I'm terrified of breaking up the pieces!!! And I agree, the rice completely changes the flavor and fragrance of the biryani. I live in Kannur and I would not hesitate to make a trip to Calicut just to eat at Paragon!!! There is nothing there that doesn't taste good!!!

    1. Yes!! I admit Paragon is simply awesome...everything tastes so yum!! Thanks Fabitha for stopping by :)

  2. Wow this looks delicious. Wl hv to try it out at the earliest.

  3. Wow...good one sure to try on 6th jan my wedding aniversary, so far when it comes to fish biryani...I make your madka fish family loves to eat sure to try this too...Thankyou for the post

    1. Thank you Anon for the kind feedback!! So glad you enjoyed it :)

  4. Nisa can you tempt me anymore at this hour in the night wow just too good and makes me drool almost literally ;)

  5. Oh My Nisa that looks soo good. I am not a big biryani fan, but your clicks are tempting me..

  6. Your fish biriyani looks mouthwatering!

  7. ah, adipoli biriyani recipe... bookmarking this for sure!

  8. The look itself says...ithoru kidilan biriyaniyanennu......

  9. recipe looks are just fab :)

  10. Hi nisa,
    Got to know about this site while surfing for some recipes a few months back. I got hooked as soon as I saw some of the recipes and comments that followed. I must say I am an average cook even though I have been cooking for the past 12 years. This site has helped my confidence in cooking after trying out a few recipes from here. Yesterday I tried the malabar style fish biriyani and it came out very well. I have not even tasted a fish biriyani before. My husband and kids liked it a lot. Thank you for helping people like me and keep on doing good work. God bless you!!

    1. Hi Jincy, welcome to my blog...Its always a pleasure to read such amazing feedback from a new reader.....I am so glad that your family enjoyed the meal....thank you so much for trying the recipe...and for the inspiration!.

  11. Hi
    Can we make calicut CB in the same method as FB?

  12. Sorry....CB means CHICKEN BIRIYANI & FB means FISH BRIRIYANI...

    1. You are such a genius Ramya, can make...I have a chicken biriyani recipe ready to be posted.

  13. Hai nisababhi, ur recipes r realy awesome & realy helpfull for beginers. Am happy to say dat its tealy working well. Thanking uu

  14. Hi, I am new to your blog ....somehow just slipped into this while surfing for fish biriyani recipes... i must admit, that was the best thing ever happened to me ... thank u for this wonderful dish ... tried this and it came out really well(even though i didnt have kaima rice) ... ur clicks r so gud...

  15. Hey Nisa...tried this came out yummylicious....keep posting

  16. very nice recipe i loved your fish biriyani very much. made it last week.

    Hey can you please post Malabar Chicken biryani recipe .


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