No mum? No problem: The only biryani recipe you’ll need as an Indian student abroad

biryani recipe
Are you an international student carving for some good biryani? Here's you can make it in a student kitchen. Source: Anna Ziemenski/AFP

What comes to mind when you’re looking to cook a hearty meal, fight the cold, or cure your homesickness? Food from home

For Indian students in the UK, you might be looking for the right biryani recipe to recreate in your kitchen. 

After all, biryani (Indian mixed rice) is a staple in Indian food — but it is also so much more than that.

“It means celebration and evokes memories of childhood … as my mother laboured for hours in the kitchen preparing it,” says Yesrab Ali Mirza, a Hong Kong resident who grew up in Chennai.

Lucky for you, a biryani recipe is easy enough to recreate on your own and without mum’s help.

First, though, let’s take a look at what it takes to make a tasty biryani without local ingredients from India and how you can cook this dish in under an hour: 

biryani recipe

Need help to source for the right ingredients for your biryani? You can get most of the stuff you’ll need from your local supermarket, apart from the masala. Source: Loic Venance/AFP

What do I need to make a biryani?

The best part about living in the UK (especially if you are living in a major student city) is that it is relatively easy to source the right ingredients to whip up Indian food. 

Let’s take a look at this authentic biryani recipe by an international student who ate it almost weekly before moving to the UK. 

Start by looking for the following ingredients which are available at most supermarkets: 

  • One or two big onions 
  • Three tomatoes
  • A few cloves of garlic (add a lemon if you’re feeling fancy)
  • A few tablespoons of oil 
  • A few tablespoons of  yoghurt (preferably full fat)
  • Two cups of rice — you can adjust the portion according to how much you want to eat, but remember to adjust the amount of masala that you are planning to use

You can easily get these for cheap through apps like Too Good to Go or OLIO — which is helpful when you’re doing your grocery shopping during winter.

These apps aim to reduce food waste by offering fresh but unsold food discounts. 

Supermarkets such as Lidl and Asda offer great prices for food items. Shop before 8 a.m. or at night for the best price, according to Manchester Evening News.  

How to find authentic biryani masala in the UK

Biryani masala is the key ingredient in any biryani recipe. If you omit this, it’s no different from any other regular rice dish — and we don’t want regular, we want an extraordinary taste from home.

Masala is the Hindi word for spice. It refers to a blend of spices which can be dry or a combination of dry and fresh ingredients (masala sauce or masala paste).

We recommend you get these from your local Asian supermarket, instead of large supermarket chains.

If this is your first time attempting this dish, ask the store’s uncle or aunty for help. 

biryani recipe

Follow these eight steps and you can make this authentic biryani recipe in your kitchen. Source: Gulshan Khan/AFP

A tasty biryani in seven easy steps 

This biryani recipe is perfect for three servings. If you plan to make a big batch, freeze it and simply reheat it to enjoy over the next few days.

Here’s how you make this biryani: 

  1. Cut up the onions and garlic. After that, dice the tomatoes and anything else you’d like to add, such as beans, potatoes, chicken, fish, etc.
  2. Coat a pan with oil and put it on medium heat. When it’s moderately hot, place your onions and garlic into the pan. Sauté them until there’s minimal browning before adding the rest of the dry ingredients.
  3. Add a few spoons of yoghurt and a bit of biryani masala to get some colour on the yoghurt. Keep mixing and add in more yoghurt and masala to your liking. 
  4. Keep mixing it periodically and leave it on high heat to cook. Remember to mix it regularly, so you avoid burning the onions and chicken. 
  5. Meanwhile, start cooking your rice. Once it’s ready, lower the heat and place your rice into the mixture. (It should smell good!) 
  6. Mix it well. Make sure the rice is sufficiently yellow — you’ll know when you can’t see the hints of whiteness in the rice. You can add more masala to give it colour. 
  7. Cover the pan to allow your biryani to steam up so you get that heavenly dissipation of flavours. 

Congratulations, you just made your own biryani!

Feel free to use a whole pack of yoghurt or half a packet of masala if you’re cooking for three portions. You can always adjust the amount to suit your taste.