PRAWNS BIRYANI (kerala style)

Prawns Biryani (kerala style) is simple, easy, scrumptious and a seafood lover’s delight. Fresh, succulent and juicy prawns is cooked in aromatic spices, layered with fragrant rice garnished with caramelized onions and slow cooked in dum. The aromas and effervescent flavours of kerala style prawns biryani can leave anybody drooling.

Today, am posting one of my favourite biryanis. The consistency of the biryani is light, moist and finger-licking. The aromatic spices are added to the biryani to enhance flavour and are not eaten. For the dum-pukht, I have used a moist kitchen towel taking care that the edges are safe from the heat; sealing the vessel and keeping the lid closed tightly to trap all the beautiful aromas. The recipe looks lengthy but only requires a little prep-work and planning. There is plenty of leeway to improvise with the blend of spice powders as per preference. I have used fresh mint leaves from our garden which gave a lovely sweet flavour to it. In Kerala, kaima or jeerakasala rice which is a fragrant short grain rice is used to prepare biryani. However, age-old good quality basmati rice can also be used.

Here, the rice is stir-fried along with spices, onion and cooked till the water is absorbed; it should be separated from each other and should not be over-cooked. Do not forget to add salt after adding water. The fresh prawns is marinated, lightly fried and then added to the masala. In this biryani, the rice and prawns are cooked separately and then layered. I have not prepared in an exotic way by adding rose water, cashewnuts or raisins like my easy chicken biryani. Enjoy this delicious home-made biryani with zingy pomegranate raita or refreshing cucumber, dill and raisin raita.

Simple, tasty and finger-licking prawns biryani (kerala style) with aromatic spices and effervescent flavours for any family celebration.

prep time : 1 hr, cooking time : 1hr, cuisine : kerala, serves : 4, author : gloria


500 gms fresh prawns (shelled, de-viened & cleaned)
2 onions sliced finely for frying
salt to taste
ghee and oil as per required

To garnish:
few chopped mint leaves
few fried onions
2 saffron strands (soaked in 4 tbsp lukewarm milk)**

for the biryani masala:
1 dried bay leaf
3 nos. cloves
4 nos. green cardamom
1 cassia cinnamon stick (dalchini)
1 mace
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp shahjeera
1/2 tsp fennel seeds

for the prawns masala:

3 medium sized onions (sliced or chopped finely)
1″ ginger (minced)
3-4 large garlic (minced)
7-8 bird’s eye green chillies (chopped)
3 tomatoes (chopped and crushed)
2 tsp of the above prepared biryani masala powder
1/2 cup prawn stock or plain water

Spice powders* :
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder + 2 pinch
2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp pepper powder

for the rice

2 cups basmati or kaima or jeerakasala rice
4 cups water
2 rounded tbsp ghee
spices : 1 bay leaf, 3 green cardamom, 1 cinnamon stick, 4 cloves, 1 star anise
1 onion
1/2 tsp lemon juice


for biryani masala :

Dry roast the above ingredients mentioned under ‘for biryani masala’ in a small pan on a low heat until fragrant; cool and grind into powder. Cover with a lid so that the aromas stay intact. Reserve.

for preparing the barista (fried onions) :

Slice onions finely. Take a wok, add oil and when the oil heats up, tip onions and fry till golden brown in colour and crispy, taking care not to burn the onions. Drain it on a sieve, remove and spread it on a paper towel. Reserve.

for the prawns masala gravy :

Marinate prawns with salt, 2 pinch turmeric power, 1/4 tsp chilli powder and 1/4 tsp pepper powder. Keep aside for 10 mins.

Into a pre-heated oil, add the marinated prawns and shallow fry on both sides lightly. Remove the fried prawns into a bowl or plate.

Add more oil if required and tip in green chillies, ginger, garlic, onions and salt. Saute till onions turns brown in colour.

Put the spice powders* and saute till aromatic on low heat continuously for a minute or so, till raw smell leaves, without burning the masala. Add the tomatoes; increase heat to medium and saute again till it becomes mushy and soft; oil emanating at the top which will take at least 10-12 mins.

Now, add the prawns stock or plain water and allow it to cook till it is slightly thickened and reduced.

Tip in the shallow fried prawns; Stir to combine.

Finally, add 2tsp biryani masala and give a good mix to incorporate everything together. Switch off heat after 2 minutes.

for the rice preparation :

Wash rice well with water till it runs clear. Soak it for 30 minutes. Keep aside.

Add ghee in a heavy bottom pot or vessel with a lid. Now, add the spices and stir for few seconds until fragrant.

Into this, add the onion and salt; saute till it turns light brown in colour, stirring occasionally. Meantime, using a strainer or sieve, drain the rice completely.

Once the onion turn brown, add the drained rice and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes continuously, with the help of a spatula, so that the ghee is well coated, taking care not to break the rice.

Add water, lemon juice and salt; bring it to a boil. Reduce heat; cover it with a lid allowing it to cook slowly undisturbed over low heat for about 10 minutes or until you notice that the entire liquid has been completely absorbed by the rice. Switch off heat and let it sit for few minutes (the rice here is 90% cooked).

Once opened, gently spoon the rice to a wide platter. Using the prongs of the fork, carefully separate the rice to give a light and fluffy texture. The grains should not be sticky. Cool.

for the final layering/dumpukt (stove-top method) :

Take a thick deep bottom pot/handi spread the prawns masala evenly.

Add half of the rice over the prawns masala and spread gently.

Add ghee over the top.

Sprinkle caramelized onions, little chopped mint leaves, a teaspoon of saffron solution** and 1/4 tsp of biryani masala. Repeat same process with the remaining rice.

Cover with a moist kitchen towel (water completely squeezed out) and close the lid tightly.

Now, place the vessel over a flat pan/tawa, keeping the heat on low, cook slowly for 25-30 minutes or till done.

Switch off heat. Allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before uncovering.

Serve this delicious kerala style prawns biryani with poppadums, pickle and raita. Enjoy!

my observations/notes :
– use fresh ingredients
– never over-cook rice; keep a vigil eye
–Β don’t shy away from using fried onions
– can use shallots instead of onions for preparing the prawns masala
– 1 cup measurement = 250 ml


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