Throughout all of your cooking ventures, I am sure that you have had a plethora of chances to cook one of those dishes that have everything in it: rice, meat, vegetables, you know, the works. While these meals are quite homely and even more economical than your average restaurant meal, their roots come from far away countries and cultures.
I want to introduce you to one of such dishes. Its name is Beriany, and it is a Chaldean (Northern Iraq) dish that is as easy to make as it is delicious to eat. Think of a take-out favorite, chicken fried rice, on steroids.
Beriany has its origins in the Mediterranean, where several countries share a similar culinary traditions. They cook rice in spices and load up their pots with plenty of local ingredients. It is a way to maximize the use of food, especially locally sourced foods, and it is a way to feed an entire family with basic nutrients such as starches, protein, grains, fruits, and fats.
From Persia, with love
The actual creation of the authentic Beriany dish has been attributed to many people and countries. What we can tell for sure is that the name of the dish derives from a Persian word “Birian”, which stands for the phrase that is tantamount to “fried before cooking”. It also comes from another Persian word, “Birinj” which means “rice.” The countries of Iraq and India are the most commonly associated with the creation of the first recipe.
The legend says that Northern Iraq came up with it first, and then it influenced the dish into India through the Mughals. So, if I were to add my two cents to it, I would say that Persia created it, and India marketed it. That’s just a theory, anyway.
But, why so much food?
There is no record of anybody complaining about the amount of food contained in a typical order of Beriany. If anything, people get fascinated to see so much goodness mixed with so much other goodness.
Yet, there is a reason behind everything. It is yet another legendary story that helps to understand why this authentic dish is so incredibly substantial, to the point that it could be a one-meal-a-day kind of deal.
Here it goes: It is said that, when the idea of the dish was brought up via the Mughals, it was first used to feed the very hungry and not-so-well treated royal army. As such, whatever was contained in the original Beriany dish went from ordinary to extraordinary. If Beriany was ever a simple dish, it stopped being one right at this point in history.
It would not surprise me at all that this is where the idea came from to mix two starches together, such as potatoes and rice. Add to this that the rice also calls for even more starches via peas and carrots. Add to this the inclusion of dried fruit (mainly dates) and pine nuts. And, why not? Let’s just add an entire chicken into the mix! Go big, or go home!
You can almost see it in your mind, too: A group of undernourished soldiers suddenly treated to a magnificent dish of rice, meats, vegetables, nuts,the works. A dish so filling that they would not need to eat again for the rest of the day. A dish that undoubtedly replenished their whole list of macros: carbohydrates for energy, protein for muscle mass, and fat (from the chicken) for good joint health. The spices and flavors that came out of this dish were just extra points. If the legend is true, I bet the dish got its blessing straight from the mouths of those courageous men.
This delicious recipe calls for a plethora of hearty veggies, chaldean spices, chicken, and rice. One pot, the right ingredients, and lots of hungry folks are the elements that make this recipe a true winner. The key to a perfect Beriany is using long, thin grain rice. Using short-grain rice may result in the rice absorbing too much moisture and the consistency will not be the same. Another tip is that I use the broth from the chicken instead of store bought broth. It still comes out great with store bought, but if you are making everything from scratch, you may as well use the left over broth from the cooked chicken. Also, my recipe does not call for dates or carrots but I’ve seen it where they’re incorporated and it is actually really good.
The traditional chaldean Beriany consists on a big pot of spicy rice that contains:
- Rotisserie Chicken
- Vegetable Oil (5/8 Of a Cup all together)
- Beriany Spice, 1 1/2 Teaspoons all together
- Curry Spice, 1 1/2 Teaspoons all together
- Onions, 3 small (Vegetable Oil, 1 Tablespoon) (Salt, 1 Teaspoon) (Beriany Spice,1 Teaspoon) (Curry Spice, 1/2 Teaspoon)
- Frozen Pees, 1 Cup (Vegetable Oil, 1 Teaspoon)
- Pine Nuts, 1 Cup (Vegetable Oil, 1 Teaspoon)
- Potato, 1Large (Vegetable Oil, 1/4 Cup) (Salt, 1/2 Teaspoon)
- Chicken Stock, 2 Cups
- Rice, 2 Cups ( Vegetable Oil, 1/4 Cup) (Curry Spice,1 Teaspoon) (Beriany Spice, 1/2 Teaspoon)
- Cut up/ shred apart the rotisserie chicken throwing away the skin and bones.
- Slice up 3 onions into uniform half moon. Very thin.
- In a medium Sauce pan, add one tablespoon of vegetable oil and add the onions.
- Two minutes after sautéing the onions, add one teaspoon of salt. Then add Beriany Spice, one teaspoon. Then add Curry spice, 1/2 teaspoon. Sauté for 5 more minutes, then turn off and add to the bowl of chicken.
- In the same medium sauce pan, add one tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add one cup of frozen pees.
- Sauté the frozen pees for approximately 5 minutes or until cooked. When done, add to the bowl of chicken and onions.
- In the same sauce pan, add one tablespoon of vegetable oil. Add one cup of pine nuts. Sauté for a couple of minutes or until golden brown. Remove the pine nuts from the sauce pan and add to the rest of the mix.
- Peel one large potato and dice it into small cubes. Add salt to the potato to your liking.
- In the same sauce pan, add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. Make sure it is hot before adding the cubed potatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes or until golden brown. When done, add to the mix.
- Wash 2 cups of basmati rice with water and set aside.
- In a large sauce pan, add 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. Then add, curry spice 1 teaspoon. Then add, beriany spice 1/2 teaspoon.
- Before the oil gets too hot, add 2 cups of chicken stock.
- When the chicken stock comes to a boil, add the washed rice.
- Set on medium/low heat to cook the rice all the way.. Approximately 12-15 minutes.
- When rice is cooked, combine everything to it.
Cut up cubed potatoes into uniform sizes so they cook evenly.
You do not have to fry the potatoes. You can roast them in the oven 425º for 25-30 minutes.
Sure, each Beriany is different and it is entirely dependent on your preferences. However, here are other optional ingredients that make this dish incredibly delicious:
-an additional meat, such as small ground beef meatballs
-any additional dried fruit or dates
Here is when it gets good. Those chaldean/mediterranean spices are the secret weapon that gives Beriany the kick that separates it from any other fried rice dish. If you are not familiar with these spices, here is a handy list for you to use and explore:
There are also commonly known spices included in Beriany, such as oregano, dried lime, dill, biryani and curry. These are the most commonly used spices, partly because they are also the easiest to find.
To make your life easier, create your own combination of spices and create your very own signature chaldean taste. If you are new to Beriany, or are unfamiliar with chaldean spices, go with dried thyme, cumin, cinnamon, and saffron to start your journey to mediterranean cuisine.
Beriany is done with a lot of love and attention. The right thing is to consume all the ingredients.
Do not try to season the rice with sauces or cream. The idea is to focus on the chaldean spices and mediterranean flavor.
There are no dairy products in this dish, so even if you want to make your own, please do not include cheese or cream. There is an Indian version of this dish, Biryani, which calls for yogurt to make a sauce. This is not that dish.
When you mix soft foods, like potatoes, with thicker foods, like meat, the potatoes will be likely to fall apart. Try to put the potatoes toward the end of the cooking process, and be sure that they are golden fried.
Remember to use long, thin grain rice as your rice of choice for this recipe.
You can use any meat you want for Beriany, but chicken may be the easiest
Mediterranean and chaldean spices are not hard to find. However, the taste you want to achieve can only happen when you experiment with your flavors.
Do you have a different Beriany recipe, or a family recipe for Beriany that you would like to share? If so, sound off in the comments section and let us know all about it! It is important to keep family recipes alive, and there has never been an easier way to show your heritage pride with this amazing dish!