I am spending the last few precious days of Ramadan in India with the extended family. Iftars here are rather different from the UAE. When fasting in Dubai, we tend to focus on the socializing aspect of Ramadan, and are spoilt for choice with the plethora of Iftars and Suhoor buffets on offer.
In my husband’s hometown of Shillong (Meghalaya), Iftars are far more solemn and people prefer to enjoy them within the privacy of their own homes with close family. Neighbours exchange dishes, but mainly meet up in the mosque for the extended prayers.
I spent the last couple of days at my maternal aunt Zuleikha Hazarika’s place, and had the pleasure of watching her very talented cook, Ali, whip up a giant pot full of traditional Chicken Pulao (an aromatic chicken pilaf fragranced with the spicy notes of cardamom, cloves and cinnamon). In the true spirit of Ramadan, the pulao was divided up into boxes, and distributed across the neighbourhood to close friends, as well as the less fortunate.
Ali, who is a trained Mughlai Chef, has very generously agreed to let me share the recipe for his Chicken Pulao with you today. This recipe yields a large pot that is sufficient enough to feed a crowd of 40, so you might want to brush up on your calculating skills and do divisions as per your requirements 🙂
Ali’s Chicken Pulao Recipe
Serves approximately 40 people
- 4 kilos rice (Ali used the very aromatic short-grained Assamese ‘Joha Sawl’, but you can replace this with Basmati)
- 4 kilos chicken, cut into medium chunks
- 3 tablespoons turmeric powder
- 4 heaped tablespoons coriander powder
- 4 heaped tablespoons cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt as required
- 1 cup mixed cardamom, cloves and cinnamon sticks, ground to powder
- 10-12 bay leaves
- 2 kilos onions, finely sliced
- 1/2 kilo freshly ground ginger-garlic paste
- 4 tablespoons biryani masala
- 4 tablespoons ghee
- 4 tablespoons rose water
- 1/2 liter cooking oil
- Wash the rice in several changes of water, and soak for about an hour.
- Wash the chicken, and coat with the turmeric. Add salt, and leave aside for about an hour to marinate.
- Heat a large vessel, and add half the oil. Fry the chicken pieces till brown.
- Drain the chicken, and add lemon juice. Set aside.
- In the same oil, add the ginger-garlic paste. Fry till aromatic, and add the coriander, cumin and chili powders. Fry for a few minutes, then add the chicken and stir to coat each piece well. Remove, and set aside.
- Drain the rice.
- Heat the remaining oil, and add the onions. Fry till they turn a pale golden-brown, and add the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon sticks powder, and the bay leaves. Fry till aromatic.
- Add the drained rice, and fry vigorously till the rice turns brown.
- Pour in the chicken mixture, and enough boiling water to cover the rice (the ratio of rice to liquid should roughly be 1 to 2).
- Add the biryani masala, stir and allow to simmer.
- Cook on medium heat till rice is cooked, and no excess water remains.
- Turn off the heat, and stir in the ghee and rose water.
- Serve hot with chili pickles on the side.