Sri Lankan Chicken Biryani or as many of the locals call it “Buriyani /බුරියානි” is a famous and delicious rice pilaf dish that is mostly served on special occasions.
I’m not sure about the history or from whom Sri Lankans adapted this dish, but I can definitely say this dish is very different from the famous indian dum biryani where the par-cooked rice and meat is cooked in a sealed vessel. Although I see many similarities between Indian chicken pulao (pilaf) dishes, South Indian Biryanis, and Sri Lankan Biryanis.
We find mainly two kinds of Biryanis in Sri Lanka. One where the chicken and rice are cooked together and serve together. But my favorite biryani is where I get biryani rice with a separate fried chicken leg, eggs, and onion salad on the side. The first type of biryani is more common in home cooking while most of the biryani restaurants serve Biryani rice separately with a Fried Chicken on the side.
The method I use to make my Biryani/Buriyani is a combination of both types of Biryanis. I first cook the chicken as a curry with spices, yogurt, and herbs. So the broth can absorb all the chicken flavor and chicken pieces can absorb all the flavors from spices and herbs and yogurt make the chicken more tender. Then I take the chicken pieces out. I put the rice into the curry/broth I made earlier. Adjust the water, salt, and sour flavors. And cook the rice as I would normally cook my rice. For the chicken pieces, I put some more spices, rub them well and air-fry until the skin gets nice and brown. (You can deep fry or bake too).
I use my instant pot to make this biryani as it’s easy and quick for me. You can use your rice cooker or pressure cooker too. If you neither of those you can make it on stove too as you normally cook your rice.
How to decide the amount of water to put in to make rice?
The amount of water to put in depends on the variety of rice you use, the amount of water your chicken releases, and the amount of water evaporates while you cook the chicken. When you wash the rice, a cup of rice absorbs about 1/4 cup of water. As a general rule of thumb, I use 1 1/2 cup of water for 1 cup of washed and drained rice in the instant pot. You might have to use a bit more water than that if you use a rice cooker or stovetop method.
You can always check the measuring guide that’s in the pot. Or use a spoon as a guide to do the famous knuckle test for rice. (you should have a little less than an inch of water in depth from the surface of rice) I don’t recommend sticking your finger in as the liquid is hot when you put the rice in. If you use “Keeri Samba” rice that variety of rice is pretty forgiving.
This Sri Lankan Chicken Biryani is a little dry so I recommend you to serve this with a yogurt salad or Raita and Mint Sambol and hard-boiled eggs.
If you try this recipe please let me know how it turned out. I love your feedback. Leave any questions you have in the comment section.
Sri Lankan Chicken Biryani
Easy Sri Lankan restaurant-style chicken Biryani (Buriyani/ බුරියානි) recipe with fried chicken. A quick recipe to try for your next party/ celebration.
For aromatic paste
Spice mix for Biryani
Other ingredients for Biryani/Buriyani
For frying chicken
Make aromatic paste
Grind cardamom pods and cloves in a mortar and pestle. You can remove the cardamom shells if you want.
Then add other ingredients under ‘aromatic paste’ above to the mortar and pestle. And grind them into a rough paste.
Make chicken curry
Mix the ingredients for the spice mix in a small bowl. So it’s convenient for you when you’re cooking. (optional step)
Mix yogurt in a separate bowl until there aren't any lumps
Heat the Instant pot/ Rice cooker or the pot you’re going to cook the curry. Add butter or ghee or oil (You can even use a mix of these). Then add pandan leaves, curry leaves, and cinnamon sticks.
Add the ‘aromatic paste’ you made and mix well.
Add your chopped onions. Turn off the heat if the bottom is burning. Add more butter/ghee if needed. Fry until onions become soft and translucent. Keep stirring to avoid the bottom from burning.
Add all the spices along with salt.
Add the yogurt and cilantro. Mix well with the spices. Turn on the heat if you turned it off in the previous step.
Add the chicken pieces. Mix well with the mixture in the pot.
Add a cup of water. Cover the instant pot/ rice cooker or the pot you're using. Cook for 8mins in the instant pot or 12mins in rice cooker or until the chicken pieces are completely cooked.
When the chicken curry is done, turn off the heat and take the chicken pieces out using tongs. And transfer to a bowl. Turn off the heat
Add your rice to the curry (washed and drained)
Add 1 ¼ cup of water or as needed depending on the remaining liquid in the pot and the type of cooking equipment you’re using. Please read the recipe description to know more details.
Taste the liquid and add salt until you can taste the saltiness in the broth. It should balances out when the rice cooks. If the curry lacks sour taste you can add more yogurt too at this point. If the curry needs more aroma you can also add a few cardamoms, pandan leaves, curry leaves, or even cilantro as your choice.
Cook the rice as you normally cook rice. If you’re using an instant pot, use the ‘Rice’ preset. Turn of the switch if you’re using a rice cooker. Or cook on the stove until rice is completely cooked. Fluff the rice carefully when it’s done cooking.
Fry chicken drumsticks
Mix all the ingredients for frying chicken given in the ingredient list. And place them in the air fryer. (you can also deep-fry or bake in the oven. If you chose to deep-fry be careful with splattering.)
Air-fry for 10mins on 390F/ 198C or until chicken pieces are golden brown on the outside. Make sure to turn the chicken pieces halfway through.