Ma’s Kachchi Biriyani


In a previous post entitled “Bored with Biriyani” I had mentioned this dish. Here is my mom’s version of the classic Biriyani.

2 lbs goat meat

1 cup yogurt

1TBS ginger

1TBS garlic

1TSP red chili powder

¼ TSP nutmeg

¼ TSP mace

½ TSP white pepper

1 TSP Fennel Seeds

1 TSP Postodana or white poppy seeds

1 TSP salt

8 small whole red potatoes

2 cups sliced shallots (onion) fried in ¾ cup ghee

½ cup combination of pistachios and almonds sliced

1 TBS saffron

¼ cup rose water

6 cups Basmati or Chinigura rice

4 cardamoms

2 sticks of cinnamon

1 bay leaf

½ cup prunes

½ cup dried apricots


½ cup milk

½ cup “khoa”, dried milk

Red or Green fresh Chilies

* The key to this recipe is a large pot with a tight fitted lid!

1. Marinate (one hour to overnight) goat meat in yogurt and a grounded mixture of ginger, garlic, chili, nutmeg, mace, pepper, fennel, postodana, salt.


2. Boil potatoes until halfway cooked. Fry lightly in oil until roasted. Red coloring can be added.


3. Soak the dried fruit (prunes and apricots) in milk.


4. Soak saffron in rose water.

5. Fry onions and nuts and raisins until golden in ghee.

6. Boil rice until half cooked in 12 cups of water, cinnamon and cardamom, bay leaf and 2 teaspoons salt.


7. Add strained rice to meat (reserve the water) mix.


Add fried potatoes, Add fried onions and nuts and the ghee (reserve a bit for garnish)…….mix gently.




Add dried fruit and milk….mix gently.

Add ½ saffron and rose water (reserve other half)

Add dried milk powder or mawa

Add reserved water

8. Simmer gently in a tight fitted heavy pot until the liquid evaporates, rice and meat is cooked.


9. Garnish with green chilies, fried onions and remaining saffron water.


Serve with salad, achar/ pickles or raita.


DHUA’S CHICKEN PULAO (American Kitchen Update)


Chicken                   1

Yogurt                      ¼ cup

Onion Puree         2 tbs

Ginger Paste         1 tbs

Garlic Paste           1 tsp

Mace                         ¼ tsp

Nutmeg                   ¼ tsp

Salt                            1 tsp

Cardamom             3 or 4

Cinnamon              ½ inch stick

Bay leaf                    1

Shan Morog Pulao or Biriyani spice 1 tsp

Dried Plum/ Prunes          6 or 7

Butter / Ghee       4 tbs

Eggs                          6

Potatoes                  4

Onions/Shallots    1 cup (sliced and fried)

Saffron                     1 tsp

Rose Water            1 tbs

Vinegar                    1 tsp

Rice                           2 ½ cups

Green chilies            7/8

1. Quarter chicken and marinate at least half an hour in yogurt, onion, ginger, garlic, mace, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, bayleaf, plums, Shan Biriyani spice and 1 tablespoon ghee.







2. Soak saffron in rose water.



3. Half potatoes. Boil potatoes and eggs.


4. Lightly fry eggs and potatoes (add yellow coloring, if desired)



5. Fry onions or shallots until golden brown. Reserve a portion of fried onions for garnish.


6. Add  1 tsp vinegar and another tbs ghee to marinated chicken and simmer for 20 minutes until liquid is reduced. Add ½ tsp sugar.



7. Rinse and strain the rice.


8. Heat on tbs of ghee, add rice and ½ tsp salt, cook until opaque.DSC_0146

9. Add 5 cups of hot water to rice. Cook until half done.

10. Add half cooked rice to chicken. Stir. Add more water if needed to fully cook rice.


11. Add potatoes, eggs and green chilies.

DSC_0156  DSC_0152

12. Stir in saffron infused rose water and garnish with fried shallots. Serve.





YUM! Thank You, Dhua for sharing your recipe!


I tried the recipe recently and here a few notes of adjustment for the American kitchen.

1. I used two cornish hens quartered and skinned instead of one regular roast chicken.


2. Instead of whole spices that my daughters do not appreciate biting into, I added 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and cardamom each.


3. I used 4 medium yellow potatoes (halved).


4. I added 6 cups of water. The rice was almost done by the time I added it to the chicken.

5. I added another tablespoon of ghee and simmered until the oil separated from the chicken in order to gently fry the pieces in the spices.


6. I also added 1 teaspoon of salt in the rice water.


It was moist, delicious and so aromatic with the spices, the rose water and the saffron. Truly a special occasion treat!

Jackfruit, revealed

First, a confession. (For those of you who enjoy jackfruit, I apologize if my comments offend you.)

I’m not the biggest fan of jackfruit……..something about the heavy scent, stinging sweet taste and slimy mouth feel. Occasionally, I have enjoyed a piece or two of the fleshy sweetness that seems to cross a banana, mango and a taste totally its own. Despite my ambivalent enjoyment, the jackfruit is a marvel. One fruit can feed many, the skin and husk is used as feed for livestock, the trees are beautiful and majestic, the seeds can be roasted and eaten like nuts or cooked like potatoes, and the wood of the tree is highly prized. No wonder its the national fruit of Bangladesh. Here is a demonstration of how its opened by Tofajjal Hossain in Dhaka, Bangladesh.


These giant fruits hang from the trunk of big trees. The thump when tapped and change in color to light green and speckled yellow show when its ready to eat.


The skin is prickly. Almost jurassic looking. The outside hints at the many pods hiding within.



DSC_0287First, he cut a line down the middle with a knife.

DSC_0288Split open to reveal in soft interior.

DSC_0289  DSC_0291


DSC_0293Once the interior is exposed, he scoops out the individual pods.



DSC_0296DSC_0110The seeds are dried, roasted and cooked.

Visually, the fruit is fascinating in its pattern, color and texture. The contrast between interior and exterior is dramatic, as is the cushioned natural packaging of each pod.  In the context of poverty, it has the look of plenty, of generous sharing and of multiple uses.  Despite its special taste, I am visually drawn. Perhaps, there’s a design lesson here………. in its ability to combine functionalism, surprise, sharing and transformation.


Eating Glocal


photo 1 3.44.05 AM

photo 2 3.44.01 AM

My lunch in Dhaka, Bangladesh today. It was surprisingly good. Fried chicken meets South Asia…chopped, stir  fried with onions, green chilies, cilantro and served with rice. Did it taste like something from KFC? Not really. But, the packaging insisted otherwise. By the end of the meal I was almost convinced that it was an “authentic” KFC experience. Share your experiences of eating “glocal.” What did you have? Was it good?

Bored with Biryani

Seventeenth century Dutch traveler, Frans Jansz van der Heiden, describes Biryani, a rice and meat dish in South Asia, in his travel account, as follows:

“…..We were brought int a beautiful hall [and] there we were served a very rich dish, biryani. The guards told us that it was never prepared better for kings and princes than for us at that time. The prince of Bhulua probably ordered his people to do so because he privileges whoever is known to be Christian over his own people.

We were given this rich dish and as a result we quickly regained our flesh. But gradually the heaviness began to bother us and we longed for lighter fare that we could digest more easily. Biryani is very oily and filling. It is prepared, without water, from fine white rice, a whole goose or two chickens, and many cloves, mace, fine white sugar, cinnamon or cassia leaves, saffron, and many other spices. All these are braised together in butter, and in this way the goose and the chickens are cooked in the rice till they are well done. This dish was so filling that ultimately it began to upset us; in the end we would have been happier eating just dry rice with salted fish.”

from the Bangladesh Reader, edited by Meghan Guhathakurta and Willem van Schendel

The seventeenth century description of a dish still enjoyed today is fascinating. It also makes me wonder when does something life saving and tasty turn into something heavy and sickening?


Reading stolen pages in the Kitchen

I read in and around my kitchen habitually. And, took the privilege for granted. Until, I came across an essay in The Bangladesh Reader (Duke, 2013) about Rashundari Debi, a housewife who taught herself to read and even more miraculously who published “My Life,” the first Bengali autobiography written by a woman in 1897. This is an excerpt about her hiding pages taken from her son’s book:

When the book had been taken inside, I secretly took out a page and hid it carefully. It was a job hiding the it, nobody must find it in my hands. That would lead to severe rebukes and I would never be able to put up with that. It was not at all easy to do something that is forbidden and then to face the consequences. Times were very different then, and I was an exceptionally nervous person. Such days! Where could I hide it that nobody would come across it? Eventually, I decided that it must be a place where I would always be present but which nobody else visited much. What else could it be but the kitchen? I hid it under the hearth.


Food, Color and Happiness


Truck Image from:

A blogger from Tasmania, Australia, Harry wrote an entry entitled The Happiest City in the World that referred to Rajshahi, Bangladesh, voted the happiest city on earth by the World Happiness Survey in 2006. What accounts for the happiness in such a difficult social, political and economic context? He asked. His blog entry was again published in The Bangladesh Reader (Duke, 2013) for its vivid description of his dinner and travel experience in Bangladesh. For me, hungryphil, the association of dinner and colorful trucks with general happiness supports my suspicion regarding the inherent sociality and creativity of consumption, both food and design. Here is an excerpt from Harry’s blog:

Dinner last night, had at Aristocrat roadhouse halfway between Rajshahi and Dhaka, was a perfect illustration of this. After my favourite Bangladeshi meal, dhal makhani, was served I watched as each of my Bangladeshi colleagues served each other before serving themselves and, having noticed the plate of the person next to them emptying, stopped eating mid-mouthful to add yet more naan to their culinary neighbour’s plate. Such displays of caring and gentleness cycled around the table throughout the meal, naturally amongst the customary pleas of ‘No, no, that’s too much.’ But it would be rude to deny the friendship and, after approaching proficiency in eating with my hands (right hand puckered into the shape of a badminton shuttlecock as it gathers up the food and elephant trunks it into your mouth; left hand avoiding direct food contact but used to spoon yet more dhal onto your plate and the plates of those around you) we rolled down the ornate Aristocrat stairs and into the waiting minibus. It was time to see more of Bangladeshi’s colour, and the road was as good a place as any to observe it.

Bangladeshi trucks must be of the most colorful in the world. With a framing coat of canary yellow, each panel is painted with utopian scenes of snow-capped mountains, meandering rivers, enchanted forests and fairytale palaces; verdant greens, royal blues, crimson reds and burnt oranges. No pastel shades for vibrant Bangladesh. Even the central hub of the rear differential is painted, usually mimicking that of half a large soccer ball. Whereas the trucks are simply glaringly colourful, the passenger rickshaws are both colorful and ornate. Gold, silver and bronze are added, as is the standard shocking pink. The flat-tray rickshaws don’t escape colour either: the slatted sides are painted in alternating blocks of yellow, red, blue, green and orange. Even the twin-light Victorian-style Rajshahi lampposts get the colour treatment with one bulb shining pink, the adjacent one green.

I wonder how I might conduct a study that attempts to find correlations between food sharing, use of color and happiness. In a land of poverty, sharing transforms into a self-negating and revolutionary act. The performance of serving and attending to fellow diners is both an obligation and right of the host. One always offers to fill up another’s plate. If only this sentiment translated into all our actions. Similarly, the brightly decorated trucks attempt to ameliorate the confusion of Bangladeshi roads and aggressive driving. As if the well dressed deserves the right of way. Hmmm. Color masks and highlights the threat of the Bangladeshi roads, just as dinner gestures of sharing masks and highlights scarcity. Is this another expression of what Dan Gilbert names synthetic happiness? The willful construction of joy. Synthetic happiness, Glibert argues is as potent as the natural happiness we experience when we get what we want.

Could it be that food and design are both activities of synthetic happiness through which we fabricate shared joy despite our human condition? Is that the lesson of the World Happiness Survey?