Malabar fish biryani

Fish Biryani is every ones favourite dish like any other mutton Biryani or chicken Biryani. Malabar Fish Biryani is similar how we cook in our house but slight changes are there. In Malabar muslim biryani they use coconut milk (optional), raisins and cashew nuts as this recipe was shared by our neighbour when we were in Coimbatore and they used to serve with pickle and raitha. Raisins, fried onions and cashew nuts were used as garnishing. I have used the same ingredients but not coconut milk, as some use and some not. In Malabar (Kerala) every one makes Biryani as per their recipe and taste. In Kerala, most of my friends house, while making biryani , they have not used even saffron colour and basmati rice, their biryani is light brown colour and the rice used is normal Keralan rice. My neighbour used to make fish biryani and fried chicken in coconut oil, served with any pickle and raitha. In every recipe I have said that it depends on your taste whether you want to make Biryani spicy or light. If you want fish Biryani to be light, then add spices according to you. If any spice is not available in the kitchen just add what you have, you will get the new taste.

In my previous Biryani recipes chicken and mutton Biryani, I have tried to explain how to cook it. From those recipes also, you can prepare fish Biryani. But you have to be very care full, while cooking fish Biryani, as fish is very delicate. About oil or ghee it is up to you, how much to use, I am just giving you the tasty food which I like.

For fish Biryani, you can use king fish, koduva (tamil), sea bass, tilapia, pompfret any firm fish you like. Can use boneless fish pieces also, but I have used fish steak, I have used king fish, it has only one bone. Do not use very thin slices of fish, it can break easily. I have made slight changes as I have used saffron colour, basmati rice and cooked as per my taste.


  1. King fish or any firm fish – 600 gms
  2. Marinate

  3. Chilli powder – 1 tsp
  4. Pepper powder – 1 tsp
  5. Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  6. Salt as per taste
  7. Gravy

  8. Oil – 1/2 cup
  9. Bay leaf – 3
  10. Cloves – 5
  11. Green cardamom – 5
  12. Cinnamon sticks (1 inch size) – 3
  13. Onion (medium size, sliced) – 4
  14. Tomato (medium size, chopped) – 3
  15. Mint - 1 cup
  16. Coriander leaves – 3/4 cup
  17. Ginger and garlic paste – 2 tbsp
  18. Chilli powder – 2 tsp
  19. Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
  20. Coriander powder – 3 tsp
  21. Curd – 1 cup
  22. Green chillies (slit) – 4
  23. Water - 2 cups
  24. Rice

  25. Basmati rice – 500 gms
  26. Water as required
  27. Cloves – 3
  28. Green cardamom – 2
  29. Salt as required
  30. Garnishing

  31. Fried onions
  32. Mint – few
  33. Coriander leaves – few
  34. Saffron colour or biryani colour – a pinch
  35. Lemon juice – 3 tbsp
  36. Ghee – 2 tbsp
  37. Fried cashew nuts – 20
  38. Fried raisins – 2 tbsp
  39. Raitha (yoghurt mixture)

  40. Onion (sliced) – 1
  41. Tomato (chopped) – 1
  42. Coriander leaves (chopped) – few
  43. Green chillies (sliced or chopped) – 2
  44. Salt as per taste
  45. Curd - 1 cup
  46. Water as required



  1. Marinate the fish with all the marinade ingredients including salt as per taste and keep it in the fridge for 4 hrs to overnight.
  2. Frying fish

  3. Take the marinated fish from fridge 1/2 hr before cooking.
  4. Use the same vessel (big enough for making Biryani) for frying the fish in which you want to cook the gravy.
  5. Add oil and when it gets hot add fish pieces one by one and shallow fry them.
  6. Fry the fish on medium heat and do not turn the fish immediately. You can drizzle some more oil if required.
  7. Each side 2 to 3 min is enough or till brown colour comes as the fish has to be cooked in the gravy also, so do not cook fully just cook till that frying colour comes on it. My fish pieces were thick and big. When all the fish pieces are cooked well on both sides, take them out and keep them aside. Fry the fish in batches. Turn them carefully as they can easily break.
  8. This fried fish can be used as a starter or side dish apart from using for the Biryani.
  9. Gravy

  10. Cook the gravy in the same vessel, in which fish was fried. The idea is to get as much flavour of fish into the gravy as possible, can see the oil colour has changed.
  11. Add whole spices and stir it for about 3 seconds.
  12. Add onions and fry until it is soft and brown. It will take about 10 to 12 mins. You can close the lid and cook.
  13. When the onions are cooked well, take 1/4 of onions and keep it aside for garnishing and use the rest 3/4 for gravy.
  14. Add ginger and garlic paste to the fried onions and stir for a few seconds.
  15. Add mint and coriander leaves, sauté for, 2min, and then add tomatoes cook for 3min.
  16. Add chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder; mix well, sauté for few min, till tomatoes are soft.
  17. Add curd and water mix well, close the lid and cook till the gravy is cooked and starts leaving oil; it will take 12 to 15min.
  18. Simmer the flame, add salt, fish pieces and green chillies, the fish pieces should be well immersed and coated with gravy. Add about 1/3 cup of water if it is very thick.
  19. Close the lid and cook for a few minutes on medium heat until you get to a gravy consistency. It will take about 12min.
  20. You can see that the gravy has got to a good consistency with oil on top. The consistency should be such that it is enough to mix with rice.
  21. Take the fish pieces with a little bit of gravy and keep it aside.
  22. Taste and see if you require any spice or salt and adjust accordingly.
  23. Cooking rice

  24. Cook the rice about 3/4 when the gravy is almost ready and keep it aside.
  25. You can cook the rice in advance as well.
  26. Boil the rice with the other ingredients, with required amount of water. When it is 3/4 cooked, strain it and keep it aside. You can rinse with cold water if you want. While the rice is boiling do not stir very often. In doing so, the grains can get broken. Add required amount of salt.
  27. I have added the whole spices. It is optional. You can add a little oil so that the grains do not stick to each other while cooking.
  28. Fry the cashew nuts and raisins in oil or ghee (clarified butter) till golden brown and keep it aside.
  29. Layering

  30. Add the rice to the gravy. Spread the rice evenly and keep some rice for further layering.
  31. Add the fish pieces, fried onions and a few mint and coriander leaves. Arrange it evenly.
  32. Pour the remaining gravy, then all the rice on top. Sprinkle colour, fried onions, mint and coriander leaves, lemon juice and colour water (biryani colour), all evenly.
  33. Simmering and mixing

  34. Close the lid tightly (can stick the wheat dough, refer mutton dum Biryani with nuts) and simmer for 20 to 25 mins or until the rice is cooked.
  35. If the rice is cooked, aroma starts coming from the lid, it means Biryani is ready.
  36. After you switch off let the Biryani rest for 10 to 15 mins. If you want you can serve immediately as well.
  37. Open the lid and take the Biryani out with a wide spoon.
  38. You need to be careful while mixing. Mix it from the bottom to top slowly from one side. Then cover all sides.
  39. As soon as you open the lid you can smell the full flavour and aroma from the biryani.
  40. This biryani is spicy and tastes good. It goes well with raitha or brinjal curry.
  41. I have served it with fried fish and raitha.
  42. The combination of raisins and fried cashew nuts gives a sweet taste to spicy Biryani.
  43. Raitha

  44. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with salt.
  45. Mix with your hand and crush the chillies onion and tomato slightly, so that its juice gets mixed well.
  46. Add curd and mix well.
  47. Can add little water or more curd if required.
  48. Can add little lemon juice 1 tsp for the sourness.


  1. If the bottom of your utensil is thick the rice will not burn.
  2. The heavy aluminium utensils are good as roasting can be done well.
  3. If non-stick then take wooden spoon only, to stir the spices.
  4. While giving dum or simmering you can keep a flat tava below the vessel and simmer it to avoid the burning of rice.
  5. You can reduce the chillies, if you do not eat spicy food or your chillies are very hot.
  6. Rice should be 3/4 only cooked, the grain, might have become longer than its usual size, but when pressed in thumb, not cooked fully.
  7. While cooking the rice can add few drops of oil or vinegar also, while draining wash it under cold water to keep the rice grain separate.
  8. Can fry the fish in tava or deep fry it also, then can add to the gravy, it’s your wish.
  9. The gravy quantity should be such that, it should be enough for the rice, when you mix it.
  10. If you want to reduce the oil, and then reduce it, it’s your wish. But the onion has to be roasted in oil or ghee well.
  11. Carefully add salt for the gravy and rice also. Divide the salt quantity and put, it will be easy for you.
  12. When ever I grind 300gms ginger and 300gm garlic paste, I have grounded with whole spice. View my ginger and garlic paste recipe.
  13. Can add aloo bhukhara (dry prunes), potatoes and dill leaves (soya leaves) also for a change.
  14. For this gravy, I have used water as per requirement, do not use much.
  15. Mix colour (kesar) with 2tbsp of water or with milk also and put on rice. Saffron can be used instead of colour or can just like that sprinkle on biryani.
  16. Always whenever biryani is cooked equal amount of fish and rice is taken, or 1kg fish for 500 to 700gm rice, but sometimes if rice is more and meat is less, it does not matter.