19 August 2018 Lorraine 0Comment
Share this recipe

My mum definitely makes the best Fish Biryani, there is no doubt about that. I always found it challenging cooking this dish to perfection but I am getting there. I cooked my version of Fish Biryani with Basmati Rice. You must know from all my posts that I have a real fussy husband, everything has to be cooked like it is in a 5 star Indian restaurant.

I’m not sure if I will get that five stars from hubby, for this dish, but I do know it’s reaching my mum’s level of perfection. Indian cooking can be intimidating even for someone that cooks with spices often. Even I can mess up my cooking on my bad days, it’s all about getting the balance of flavours right.

Biryani is a dish that looks really complicated but it is not all that bad. With any Biryani it’s about showcasing the whole spices. It is the whole spices that’s the star of any Biryani recipe, therefore you have to go easy with the masala and chilli powder. It is rather difficult not to use masala in South African Indian Cooking, almost all of our dishes are cooked with masala. I did try to go easy with the masala in this recipe, although it may not seem like it from the quantities.

We never use frozen fish when cooking Fish Biryani, it’s always fresh fish straight from the fishmonger into our pots. This is what adds to the authenticity of a South African version of Fish Biryani with Basmati Rice. I do live far from the coast but we are lucky that we are able to source fresh line fish from our local stores.

I know a lot of people will cringe at the thought of adding boney fish to any dish but it’s exactly how it’s done here. The fish is cleaned and sliced but the bones are still intact so it can be a mission when trying to eat it, however there’s something about the boney fish that adds all the flavour to this special Biryani. If you love Biryani’s as much as we do you can try my vegetarian Biryani recipe, https://itsallaboutthekitchen.co.za/recipe/south-african-vegetable-biryani/

Fish Breyani

Cuisine Indian
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 1 minute
Servings 4


  • 1 & 1/2 cup Basmati or any long grain rice half-cooked
  • 2 elachie/cardamom pods
  • 1 piece cinnamon
  • salt
  • 1 kg fish any firm fish will do
  • 3 tspn ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp masala
  • 2 tspn Kashmiri chilli powder
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tspn garlic minced
  • 1/2 tspn tumeric
  • salt
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil or any cooking oil for frying the fish
  • 3 roma tomatoes blanched and grated, about 3/4 cup when grated
  • 2 onion finely chopped
  • 1 tspn ginger/garlic paste
  • 2 green chillies slit in half
  • 1 sprig curry leaf
  • handful mint
  • handful coriander
  • handful thyme
  • 2 pieces cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 1 star aniseed
  • 1 tbsp masala
  • 1/4 tspn ground elachie
  • 1 tspn ground cumin
  • 1/2 tspn ground fennel seeds/soomph
  • 1/2 tspn turmeric
  • 70 gram butter cut into cubes, you can use more or less


  • STEP 1 - Cook rice with the spices as stated in STEP 1, once it is half cooked, strain the rice. You can add a little egg yellow food colouring to the centre of the rice, cover with a lid and set aside. When you are ready to assemble the breyani fluff it up with a fork and the colour will spread to some of the rice grains.
  • STEP 2 - Marinate your fish with all of the ingredients as stated in STEP 2, except the oil and refrigerate for half an hour. Heat the 1/4 cup oil and sear both sides of the fish, do not overcook and set aside. Do not discard the excess marinade as you will add this to the sauce.
  • STEP 3 - The ingredients in STEP 3 is used to make the sauce that goes with the fish. In South Africa we call it a chutney. Fry one onion until golden brown and crisp, drain on a paper towel and set aside. Fry the second onion in the excess oil from the fish, add thyme, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, star aniseed, curry leaf and chilli Once the onion is translucent add ginger/garlic paste and fry for a minute Add the masala, hilli powder, cumin, turmeric, ground fennel seeds, ground cardamom and fry for a minute Add any excess marinade from the fish Add masala, cumin, tumeric and fennel. Mix well and add a few drops of water if required, to prevent scorching and fry for a minute Add tomatoes and chopped mint Season with salt Cover and simmer until tomatoes are cooked
  • Add the tomatoes and the excess marinade from the fish. Season with salt and simmer on low heat for about 15-20 minutes until tomatoes are cooked.
  • LAYERING - Spread half the chutney in a flat, thick based pot Assemble fish on top Layer half the rice on top of the fish. Place half the cubes of butter on the rice. Add half the chopped mint Repeat this process, ending with a final layer of rice. Sprinkle the fried onion over the rice and place the remaining cubes of butter on top. Pour over a cup of water and allow the biryani to simmer on the stovetop on the a very low setting for 40 minutes to an hour until the rice is tender and the liquid has reduced Place the cubes of butter on the final layer of rice Sprinkle the onion on top Pour in about a 1/4 cup of water and cook in the oven at 180 deg celcius for 1 hour. You may need a little bit of extra time if the breyani is still too moist

Share this recipe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.