Sana’s Traditional Yakhni Biryani Recipe

In the Middle East, weekends fall on Fridays and Saturdays. On Fridays, Muslims the world over offer the very special ‘jumma’ prayer, and this is traditionally followed by a lavish lunch with the family.

Biryani, a decadent rice pilaf layered with succulently spiced meat, tends to be a Friday lunch favorite.

My dear friend Sana Wahid makes the most delicious Yakhni Pulao, and has agreed to share her family’s secret recipe with us.

yakni pulao recipe2

Sana works full-time as a Sales Manager for an Indian radio station here in the UAE. Her chirpy personality and love for all things Bollywood made us click from the first meeting.


For Sana, cooking is her solace after a long, hard day at work. She loves whipping up new dishes, and her motto is ‘Make food as if you are making love’.

Although Sana can cook all kinds of cuisines, her favorite style of cooking is that of her Pakistani heritage. Sana’s main inspiration in the kitchen comes from her mother, and today she shares her mother’s famous Yakhni Biryani recipe with us.

Yakhni Biryani (or ‘Sadee Biryani’ as it is sometimes called) has been made for Friday lunches in Sana’s home well before she was born. It is served with a spicy garlic chutney and a cucumber raita (a yoghurt-based salad). Today Sana has a little daughter of her own and continues this very special Friday tradition.

Sana’s Yakhni Biryani Recipe
Chicken or mutton 1kg
Ginger coarsely crushed 1 teaspoon
Garlic coarsely crushed 1 teaspoon
Cloves, 4-5
Cinnamon sticks, 2 big or 3-4small
Cumin seeds 1/2 teaspoon
Black pepper corns 1/2 teaspoon
Black cardamom, 4-5
Coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon
Fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon
Nutmeg and mace coarsely crushed 1/2 teaspoon
Salt to taste
Basmati rice 1.5kgs
Onion finely chopped 1
Sultanas 1 teaspoon
Lurpak ghee 2 tablespoons
Orange food coloring, quarter teaspoon or so for sprinkling

In a pan, cook the meat with the spices and a little water. Once the meat is done and the water has completely evaporated, turn off the heat and add the yoghurt. Mix well. Your Yakhni soup is now ready.

You can then cook the raw rice in the Yakhni broth. Sana likes to layer hers like this:
Boil the rice till al dente and drain the water (as you would when cooking pasta). Place a layer of the Yakhni at the base of a cooking pot, and alternate layers of rice and meat till you end up with rice on the top layer. Sprinkle the food coloring over this layer to give the dish a pretty contrast.
In a separate frying-pan, heat the ghee and fry the onions until brown. Mix in the sultanas, and pour over the top layer of rice. Cover the cooking pot, and let it cook on a low simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve with garlic chutney and cucumber raita.

Garlic Chutney 

In a food processor, blend together the following ingredients and serve fresh:

Garlic pods, 10-15
Cayenne pepper bells 10-15
Salt to taste
Green chili small 4-5
Coriander leaves, one bunch
Mint leaves, one bunch
Lemon juice, 1 teaspoon

Cucumber Raita

Beat half a cup of yoghurt with a pinch of salt and pepper. Peel and finely chop 3-4 cucumbers, and mix into the yoghurt. Serve chilled.

yakni pulao recipe

Happy Friday everyone!