My friend Anita who hails from Kerala makes biryani using only her mother’s recipe. An acquaintance who is descended from a Rajasthani maharajah boasted that his recipe was royal. While I used to associate biryani only with Arab Street previously, I no longer do so. With the realisation that nasi biryani is rooted in Mughal culinary history and hence the evolution of India itself, I could now understand how an Indian-Muslim restaurant owner would pride his restaurant’s success on this one special dish.
It is often thought that the South East Asian version uses coconut milk, curry leaves and green chillies. The recipe below actually uses evaporated milk and a meat curry powder which my mother sourced from the wet market. I never recalled her adding her own home-made curry powder which was a Nonya version. Using a ready-made powder differed from the recipes of my Indian friends who may have ground their own fresh spice paste at the same time as they prepared this dish. I am very particular about the brand of ghee I use. I find ghee to be one of the richest and most flavourful ingredients, so it is important to use a brand that imparts a palatable taste.