MIY 101: Burmese-style Biryani

MIY 101-Burmese-style Biryani- Headnote Image

In Burmese, it is called danbauk. As a kid, it was one of my favorite dishes. I thought my Aunt Sally made the best Biryani, but let’s keep that between us. Traditionally, danbauk is a braise of rice, chicken, spices and aromatics, yogurt, shallots, peas, carrots, raisins, and cashews. With a few adjustments, danbauk translates beautifully into a grain-free side dish. I use cauliflower grated with a food processor instead of rice. This has two important implications for this dish. First, it takes a lot less time to cook than rice, which is awesome. And, second, because the cooking time is much shorter, I prepare my protein separately.

I also decided to do something about the raisins in the more traditional version. I enjoy the occasional raisin in an oatmeal cookie but, in general, I don’t much care for it. So, I’ve substituted dried currants, blueberries, and cranberries. And, while I was at it, I added sliced almonds and coarsely chopped pistachios in place of the cashews. You can do the same and substitute whatever dried fruits and nuts you prefer. Just keep the ratios the same.

Burmese-style Biryani
  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut up into florets
  • 1 tbsp micro-planed ginger
  • 2 large garlic cloves, micro-planed
  • 1 fresh serrano chile, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ c. sliced blanched almonds, toasted
  • ½ c. raw pistachios, toasted
  • ¼ c. each dried currants, dried blueberries, and dried cranberries
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 5 or 6 green cardamom pods, crushed lightly to break the skin
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ½-1 c. low-sodium chicken stock
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • finely chopped cilantro (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 325F.
  2. Set up your food processor the the grater disk. Feed the processor with florets. You should end up with rice-shaped pieces of cauliflower. Set aside. Set up your food processor with the blade and run the chopped serrano chile through it until finely minced and add it to the micro-planed ginger and garlic. Set aside.
  3. When the oven has reached 325F, toss the sliced blanched almonds and raw pistachios on a sheet pan and toast until golden brown and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes. Set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the dried fruits and cook for 1 minute. Set aside. Add the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in the same pan and add the cinnamon stick and cardamom and stir for 1 minute. Add the cumin seeds and onion. Cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger-garlic-chile paste, turmeric, garam masala, and 1 tsp of salt, then, add the cauliflower, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add as much chicken stock as needed to cook the cauliflower, about 5 minutes.
  5. When the grains of cauliflower are tender, remove the skillet from the heat and lightly fork in the reserved nuts and dried fruits. Taste for salt and pepper. Sprinkle with finely chopped cilantro before serving.


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