So you want to know what the best Sri Lankan mutton biriyani tastes like. But is there such a thing as Sri Lankan biryani anyway?
Actually there is. And we island folk call it buriyani :D
Sundays were ‘buriyani’ days when everybody was at home. Some of my best memories consist of the smell of spiced rice cooking in fragrant chicken broth and the smell of my mother’s Neril shampoo competing with each other to reach my nostrils as I sat in the living room watching the Sunday movie on television. Satellite TV was unheard of. We watched what was available in the two or three TV channels there were.
And I would watch the bathroom door eagerly until mother emerged, wet hair streaming down her back with a heavenly cloud of Neril shampoo drifting behind her. She would head for the kitchen and serve us rice to our metal plates. Sometimes we wait for dad who has gone out for his lectures, sometimes if we are really hungry, we eat.
‘Buriyani’ was for special occasions – much like the very Sri Lankan fried rice
What I’m putting up here however is not the chicken ‘buriyani’ that I am used to from my childhood. This is more or less similar to the ‘Biriyani’ that we inherited from India but preserves the Sri Lankanness of it all with authentically Sri Lankan flavors.
So here goes!
Sri lankan Mutton Biryani
- Basmati rice - 2 cups
- Water - 4 cups
- Cinnamon - 1 stick
- Black peppercorns - 1tsp
- Onions - 2, chopped
- Ginger - ½ tsp, minced
- Garlic - 1 ½ tsp, minced
- Cardamom pods - 3
- Cloves - 3
- Fenugreek seeds - ½ tsp
- Fennel seeds - 1 tsp
- Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
- Chili powder - 1 tsp
- Sri Lankan curry powder - 2 tsp, unroasted
- Coconut milk - ½ cup
- Ghee - 6 tblsps
- Mutton marinade
- Mutton - 500gm, chopped to bite sized pieces
- Turmeric powder - 2tsps
- Chili powder - 1 tsp
- Salt - 1 tsp
To make the rice
- Combine the mutton and the spices and mix thoroughly. Keep aside.
- In a saucepan, heat 2 tblsps of ghee. Once heated, add to it the pepper corns and the cinnamon.
- When the cinnamon is fragrant, add the washed and drained rice. Fry for about 30 seconds.
- Add the water along with salt. Cook until the rice is done.
To make the mutton gravy
- In a pressure cooker, heat 3 tblsps of ghee.
- Add fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, cardamom and cloves. Fry until 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add onions and green chili and sauté until onions turn brown. Add the ginger and the garlic. Sautee for about 1 minute until slightly browned.
- Add the mutton and marinate till slightly browned.
- Add the chili, garlic, the Sri Lankan curry powder and sauté for about 2 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk, stir well and close the pressure cooker lid.
- Cook for 4 whistles.
To assemble the rice
- Combine the rice and the mutton gravy.
- Sprinkle the chopped coriander leaves on top of the rice before serving.
Deliciously aromatic rice dotted with refreshing bits of coriander and succulent pieces of mutton cooked to the point that the meat falls off the bone. The ghee gives the rice a beautiful smokiness while the coriander leaves give a refreshing start cleansing the mouth and cutting through the richness. The fennel, the Sri Lankan curry powder, the fenugreek seeds combine together in an aromatic embrace to envelop the rice and disperse itself in an enchanting whirlwind of aromas and flavors. A whiff of cinnamon delights the nose from time to time with the cardamom delighting and the clove pungent.
The mutton seeped in coconut oil brings together the beautiful gameyness of the meat with the spices and lends a richness that is intense and deep. Combined with the soft fragrance of the rice and the intense depth of the mutton gravy, this rice is truly a treat for the senses and a breeze to make!
Serve with this wonderfully refreshing mint chutney for a rewarding experience!