If I had saffron water to drizzle over the rice after cooking, and if I had used cashew nuts instead of peanuts, this would be a more authentic biryani. Well, whatever “authentic” means considering that biryani is found in the cuisines of more than a dozen countries, including the Philippines, and none is exactly the same as another. But I didn’t have saffron and cashew nuts so I had to content myself with calling this dish a biryani-style rice. At any rate, a lot of the traditional spices that go into cooking biryani went into this dish.
The idea and procedure I got from Malaysian cook Sherson Lian who hosts 5 Rencah 5 Rasa on Asian Food Channel. I liked the way he sautéed everything in a pan then transferred all the ingredients to the rice cooker. Modern and practical cook, I thought. That’s exactly how I did my arroz blanco and arroz amarillo — never mind purists screaming that you have to do it in a pot over burning wood or something. What the heck, eh? It is 2012, after all.
The rice goes into the rice cooker but, before that, there are some preparatory steps.
First, saute the spices in ghee until your kitchen smells delicious.
What’s ghee? Ghee is clarified butter. Meaning, the cream content has separated. To make ghee, melt butter in a pan, cook over medium heat until white froth forms on top. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the froth turns brownish and sinks to the bottom. Aayi’s Recipes says adding salt helps the solids to sink to the bottom of the pan.
Strain the oil (David Lebovitz uses a cheesecloth) and you have your ghee. The brown bits are actually curdled and toasted cream and it’s up to you whether to discard or use them. Veggie Belly has tips for using those browned bits.
If you don’t want to bother making ghee, just use butter. That’s what Sherson Lian of 5 Rencah 5 Rasa advised. In short, don’t sweat it bemoaning the lack of “authentic” ingredients — a good cook will always find some substitute.
Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with oil.
Next come the liquids. Yogurt and water.
We now leave the stove top and move everything in the pan to the rice cooker. For even more flavor and aroma, pandan leaves and lemongrass are thrown on.
While the rice cooks, it’s back to the stove top to fry the nuts that will later go on top of the rice. After that, it’s all just a matter of assembly.
Rice, Biryani Style
- 2 cups long-grain rice rinsed and drained
- 4 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
- 1 3-inch piece cinnamon bark
- 1 star anise
- 3 cardamom pods shells discarded
- 1 thumb-sized pice ginger thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 onion chopped
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt
- 2 pandan leaves
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 1/3 cup peanuts
- small handful raisins
- finely sliced scallions to garnish
- Heat 3 tbsps. of ghee in a pan. Add the ginger, garlic, onion, cinnamon bark, star anise and cardamom seeds. Cook, stirring often, until aromatic, about two minutes.
- Add the rice. Stir to coat every grain with oil.
- Add the yogurt. Stir. Pour in about two cups of water. Sprinkle with about a teaspoonful of salt.
- Pour everything into the rice cooker. Tie the pandan leaves and lemongrass stalk together and throw it in. Turn on the rice cooker and let it do its work.
- While the rice cooks, heat the remaining ghee and fry the nuts until lightly browned. Transfer to a plate and cool.
- When the rice is done, add the raisins, fluff the rice with a fork. Discard the pandan leaves and lemongrass, as well as the star anise and cinnamon bark.
- Ladle the rice into bowls. Top with nuts and sliced scallions.