Biryani Chicken

September: National Rice Month

Our Indian and Pakistani friends at university introduced us to biryani, a hearty rice dish made with fragrant basmati rice, spices, vegetables and sometimes meat and eggs. We ate biryani as guests at their student association gatherings and during special occasions (Diwali and Eid). It was also a favorite dish of the Mughals that biryani is often described as a “feast fit for royalty”.

A few years following graduation from university, as newlyweds setting up our own kitchen, we bought our very first cookbook that focused on classic Indian recipes, including biryani. For more than two decades, we have cooked this dish whenever we wanted a main Mughlai-style meal with rich flavors. The ingredients are ironically affordable for such a royal dish, and we get a lot of delicious leftovers, making it worth our while to prepare it to last us for a few days during a busy workweek—and for National Rice Month!

Recipe

(Adapted from “Classic Indian: Easy, Delicious and Authentic Recipes”)

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons biryani masala paste
  • 2/3 cup yogurt, plain
  • 3 ½ pounds chicken, boneless and skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 bag (3.5 ounces) crispy onions (salad toppers)
  • 1-2 green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, fresh grated
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 ounces cilantro, fresh chopped (plus additional for optional garnish)
  • 6-8 mint leaves, fresh chopped
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • pinch of saffron
  • 2 ½ cups basmati rice, washed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • boiling water (enough to cover the rice)
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1-2 cups frozen steak fries, defrosted and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2+ tablespoons ghee or butter, divided use
  • ½ cup cashew nuts
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • salt to taste

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the biryani paste with yogurt. Mix in the chicken.

Add the crispy onions, chopped chilies, ginger and garlic to the mix.

Stir in the cilantro and mint leaves. Cover, refrigerate and marinate for at least two hours. In a measuring cup, infuse the saffron with the milk until it changes color slightly. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the washed rice with cumin seeds, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Pour boiling water to cover the rice. Let soak for 15 minutes. Drain and discard the cinnamon and cardamom. In a large skillet, heat a little vegetable oil. Fry up the chicken and marinade mixture until the meat is no longer pink.

Stir in the potatoes and mix with the marinade. In a deep casserole dish, layer the chicken-potato mixture on the bottom. Add the basmati rice on top.

Poke a few holes in the rice. Pour in the saffron-milk mixture. Dot with a few knobs of ghee/butter. Cover the dish tightly with foil. Place in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F and bake for an hour, checking to see if the rice is softened and done at 45 minutes. Continue baking until cooked.

While the biryani is baking, heat a little ghee/butter in a skillet. Saute the cashews and raisins to toast the nuts and plump up the fruit. Set aside. Remove the biryani from the oven when done. Carefully remove the foil. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Stir in the cashews and raisins and gently mix until the rice is fully blended with all the ingredients. Serve hot.

Notes

  • The original recipe is made in a heavy pot over a stovetop (such as a Dutch oven, which we did not have at this time). We used a glass casserole dish and baked it in the oven, after several years’ experience of burning the bottom of our pot!
  • Search our blog for other rice recipes.

Side Street Inn-Style Fried Rice

Side Street Inn Fried Rice

September: National Rice Month

When we are back home in Hawaii, we eat comfort food for cheap at L&L Drive-Inn or Loco Moco. But our best friends wanted to treat us to something a little more “gourmet” and took us to Side Street Inn on Kapahulu Avenue near Waikiki. That restaurant is always packed with people for good reason. The food is filling and tastes so ‘ono! We all ordered different dishes to share but had to double-up on the fried rice because our group can consume it quickly!

Rice is a staple in Hawaii where the food is influenced from Asia and the Pacific Rim. Like Hawaii’s cuisine, fried rice is a mixture of many cultures. Side Street Inn’s fried rice features Portuguese sausage, Chinese barbecued pork (char siu) and Japanese seasoning.

Rice is usually served as a side dish but when fried with a variety of vegetables and meat, it becomes a main entrée. For National Rice Month, cook some comfort food like the locals do and make Side Street Inn fried rice.

Recipe

(Adapted from The Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked rice
  • ½ cup Portuguese sausage, diced
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • ½ cup green onions, chopped
  • ½ cup char siu (Chinese barbecued pork), chopped
  • ½ cup frozen peas and carrots
  • 4 tablespoons oyster sauce (not oyster-flavored sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons hon dashi (ramen/saimin noodle soup flavoring)

Directions

Refrigerate the cooked rice overnight to remove moisture. When ready to fry it, remove from the refrigerator and loosen up the kernels. Dice the Portuguese sausage.

Side Street Inn Fried Rice

Chop the bacon, green onions and char siu. In a large pot/pan/skillet, saute the Portuguese sausage and bacon until cooked through. Add rice and mix well.

Side Street Inn Fried Rice

Stir in the green onions. Add the char siu and peas and carrots. Season with oyster sauce, salt and hon dashi. Mix well. Transfer to a platter. Garnish with extra chopped green onions.

Side Street Inn Fried Rice

Notes

  • Day-old rice that has been refrigerated is best for fried rice dishes.
  • Although the Side Street Inn chef says that hon dashi is what adds flavor to the recipe, we eliminated the salt and lessened the oyster sauce so that the seasonings would not taste too overpowering. Hon dashi is available at most Asian grocery stores and markets.
  • Search our blog for more rice recipes.

Butter Mochi (Sweet Rice Flour Cake)

Butter Mochi

September: National Rice Month

Islander’s Daddy brings butter mochi and bibingka to church meetings and Islander has continued the custom on the mainland. When a few friends get together for a prayer social, the “local expatriates” often request a Hawaii-style dessert. Islander obliges and makes a mochiko (sweetened rice flour) cake because it can feed a crowd. Our haole friends refer to butter mochi as Hawaiian cornbread because it looks like it. Some cultures consider corn as king, but to others rice is royalty! For National Rice Month, make something ‘ono with sweetened rice flour and bake butter mochi.

Recipe

(Adapted from Hawaii’s Best Local Desserts)

Ingredients

  • 1 box (16 ounces/1 pound) mochiko (sweet rice flour)
  • 3 cups sugar (we used 2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 stick (½ cup) butter (plus more for greasing the pan and shining the top)
  • 5 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 can (12 ounces) coconut milk

Directions

Generously grease a 9×13-inch baking pan with butter. In a microwave safe bowl, place the stick of butter and microwave until melted. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large bowl, mix the mochiko and sugar.

Butter Mochi

Add baking powder and the melted butter to the mixture. Mix in the beaten eggs, vanilla and coconut milk. Stir well until smooth.

Butter Mochi

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes, testing for doneness with a toothpick (should come out clean). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Rub about two tablespoons of butter on top of the butter mochi until it shines. This prevents the dessert from drying and cracking too much. Cool completely. Slice into squares and serve.

Butter Mochi

Notes

  • Squares of butter mochi may be garnished with shredded coconut (optional).
  • Islander’s Daddy serves the sliced squares in cute cupcake papers for a pretty presentation.
  • Search our blog for more rice recipes.