Suni’s Goan Fish Biryani has aromatic basmati rice, layered with a base of Goan flavours and perfectly cooked Pomfret fish. You can use other firm white fish or prawns with an equally delicious result.
The sole reason food is at the centre of my life is my mum, Sunita (Suni for loved ones). We ate so well at home thanks to her. But like typical children, we were rarely grateful and took it for granted all the time. It was only after I moved out of home that I realised just how awe-inspiring it was that my mum cooked like she did for us while still being a full time banker.
Our birthdays and Sunday family lunches showcased some of her most popular dishes. Her prawn pulao is still the talk of the town (recipe here)! And the way she makes a Chicken Xacuti (a traditional Goan chicken curry) is one many have tried to replicate. No matter how many dishes were at the table, it always felt effortless. That’s the hallmark of a great cook, isn’t it? Food is her love language.
While I don’t remember exactly when my mum invented Suni’s Goan Fish Biryani, its easily been at least 15-20 years. It is no traditional biryani – Goan cuisine doesn’t really have one! There’s no dum cooking, no crispy onions (birista), no saffron, no meat even. This recipe requires very few ingredients, requires very little active cook time and still yields an incredibly rich flavourful result. I particularly recommend making it as a centre piece of a family dinner that everyone tucks into.
About the Biryani
There are a few elements to bear in mind when making Suni’s Goan Fish Biryani – the basmati rice should be perfumed with whole spices, elongated and fluffy. The ghee is non-negotiable, the flavour it lends is unparalleled. The fish should be cooked just right so it flakes to touch. And the rice and the sauce should be mixed while eating. The ubiquitous Goan green masala is the hero here – it brings a freshness that makes the fish stand out and not get lost in spices. Eating with hands is recommended! A little cucumber and yogurt raita on the side would be great.
Suni’s Goan Pomfret Fish Biryani
- 1.5 cups Basmati Rice
- 2 whole White Pomfret
- 1 cup Onion thinly sliced
- ½ cup Tomatoes finely chopped
- 1 inch Ginger roughly chopped
- 4 cloves Garlic roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup Coriander leaves roughly chopped
- 1 whole Green chilli roughly chopped
- 1 pinch Tamarind paste
- Lemon juice a few drops
- 1½ tbsp Ghee
- 2 Bayleaves
- 5 Peppercorns
- 4 Cloves
- 2 Green cardamom
- ½ inch Cinnamon stick
- ¼ tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- Salt to taste
- Wash your basmati rice until the water runs clear. Soak for atleast 30mins upto an hour. This step is a must as it is what gives you perfectly elongated fluffy rice.
- In a mortar pestle, roughly pound together ginger, garlic, green chilli, coriander and tamarind to a paste. Use a pinch of this paste, salt, little turmeric and chilli and marinate your pomfret fish for 15-20mins.
- In a pot of boiling hot water, add your soaked basmati rice, salt and all the whole spices (Bay leaf, cardamom, cinnamom, cloves, peppercorns). Cook the rice until 90% done, the rest it will cook in its own residual heat. Drain the water and save the rice. Let it cool down a bit (until not steaming so it won't break easily).
- In a deep bottomed pan, add ghee. Pan fry the fish for about 1½-2 minutes on each side until golden and then set aside. You are not trying to cook the fish, just sear it.
- In the same ghee, add the sliced onions and fry until completely softened and starting to turn golden. Do this on a low-medium flame as you don't want to brown the onions.
- Once your onion is golden, add the remaining chilli-ginger-garlic-coriander paste, salt and fry until the raw smell goes away. Then add the chilli and turmeric powder and fry lightly.
- Add the tomatoes, cover and cook until they start to leave ghee from the sides and turn really pulpy. Add the pomfret fish and cover and cook until done (should take a couple of minutes, be careful not to over-cook).
- Taste the mixture to make sure you're happy with it. Adjust with lemon juice if neccesary (even a pinch of sugar is good if the tomatoes you use weren't particularly sweet).
- To serve (option 1): Add 2/3rds of the cooked basmati rice on a serving platter. For the remaining 1/3 rice, add a few spoonfuls of the onion-tomato base and mix through gently. Then top the plain basmati rice with this flavoured rice, and then put the fish and the remaining mix at the top. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve hot.
- To serve (option 2): Add all the basmati rice on top of the fish/onion-tomato mixture and serve and garnish with coriander leaves. Some ghee and lemon juice work well too. Mix throughly while serving.