This garnish is served as a side dish and sprinkled on top of the biryani by the head of the family. It adds a crisp texture to the biryani and a typical salty-sour Sri Lankan flavour from the Maldive fish and lemon. The flavours and textures contrast perfectly with the caramelised onion garnish and help to balance its buttery richness.
Heat the coconut oil in a small wok or heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and shallow-fry for 10-12 minutes, or until the onions are dark brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Set aside to cool.
Using a mortar and pestle (or spice grinder), pound the Maldive fish into a fine powder. Reheat the wok over medium heat and dry-roast the ground fish for 2 minutes, or until it starts to turn a little darker in colour. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
Combine the roasted ground Maldive fish with the fried onions, then add the dried chilli pieces, lemon juice and a pinch of salt; mix well. Set the garnish aside until the biryani is ready to be served.
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