Chefs' Recipes

Tonka's Hyderabadi chicken biryani

A rich, spicy biryani by Melbourne restaurant Tonka.

By Adam D'Sylva
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 1 hr 15 mins cooking plus marinating, standing
  • Serves 6 - 8
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Hyderabadi chicken biryani
"This is richer and spicier than the biryani I grew up with, and has complex layers of spice flavour," says Adam D'Sylva of Tonka. Begin this recipe a day ahead to marinate the chicken.


  • 2 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp each black peppercorns, coriander seeds and cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp each ground turmeric and chilli powder
  • 3 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 3 dried red banana chillies, coarsely broken
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ cinnamon quill
  • ½ tsp finely grated nutmeg
  • 3 star anise
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp coarsely grated ginger
  • 220 ml vegetable oil, plus 1 tbsp extra
  • 1 Spanish onion, thinly sliced
  • 400 gm plain yoghurt
  • ½ cup each coarsely chopped mint and coriander
  • 1 long green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1.5 kg skinless chicken thigh on the bone
  • 80 gm butter, coarsely chopped
  • 500 gm aged sella rice (see note)
  • 50 ml milk
  • ½ tsp saffron threads
  • To serve: fried shallots, coriander and lemon wedges


  • 1
    Dry-roast paprika, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, chilli powder, cardamom pods, red chillies, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, 2 star anise and 2 bay leaves in a frying pan until fragrant and toasted (2-3 minutes). Finely grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and set aside.
  • 2
    Pound garlic and ginger with a mortar and pestle to a smooth paste (adding a little water to loosen if necessary) and set aside.
  • 3
    Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion and stir occasionally, until golden (6-8 minutes). Transfer to a large bowl, add yoghurt, mint, coriander, green chilli, spice mix and ginger-garlic paste, season to taste with sea salt and mix to combine. Add chicken, coat well in the marinade, then cover and refrigerate overnight to marinate.
  • 4
    Heat 30gm butter and extra oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add rice, remaining bay leaf and remaining star anise, and stir until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Add enough cold water to cover by 2cm, then add salt to taste (it should taste salty). Bring to the boil, then strain immediately and set aside.
  • 5
    Spread chicken and marinade in an even layer in a large casserole, spread rice evenly over the top. Stir milk and remaining butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter melts, add saffron and stir occasionally until infused. Pour over rice, cover with foil then a lid, and cook over low heat until chicken is cooked through and rice is tender (45 minutes to 1 hour). Remove from heat and stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove chicken, shred meat, then return to casserole, combine with rice and sauce, and season to taste. Serve hot scattered with fried shallots and coriander, with lemon wedges for squeezing.


Note Sella rice is an aged, unpolished long-grain basmati rice available from Indian grocers; or substitute regular basmati rice.
Drink Suggestion: Vadiaperti Coda di Volpe 2009 Campania. Drink suggestion by Travis Howe