Biryani Garnish NO. 2

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


Appears in

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka

By Bree Hutchins

Published 2013

  • About

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.


  • 80 ml ( fl oz/ cup) coconut oil*
  • 2 red onions*, very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Maldive fish pieces* (preferably flakes)
  • ½ teaspoon dried chilli pieces*
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • pinch of salt


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.