Hyderabadi Dum Prawn Biryani

It was always a given, my mother’s biryani was the absolute best!  She painstakingly prepared this highly seasoned layered rice dish on special occasions and often, just because she knew we loved it so much, we got to enjoy her biryani fairly regularly.  Relatives and friends enjoyed her lip-smacking biryani too.  On one of my trips to England to visit her, I sat with Mum and jotted down all the tips and tricks of her biryani recipe, of course she added some of her own personal touches too. I’ve made her recipe many many times, that’s before I found this quick Hyderabadi method.

What is biryani you might ask? By definition biryani is an Indian dish of meat, fish or vegetables cooked with layers of rice and flavored with saffron or turmeric.  Many historians believe that biryani originated in Persia and was brought to the Indian subcontinent by the Mughals.  Hyderabad, in south-eastern India is famous for its biryani which is prepared in a different way.  I’ve cooked this method with chicken before on the blog, but I’d never tried it with prawns.  I love cooking it this way as it is much faster and requires less steps for the finished dish.  The difference between regular biryani and cooking it this way, is everything is cooked separately with the regular biryani and then assembled.  In the Hyderabadi Dum method, the process of sealing in the ingredients whilst cooking is known as the “dum” method. The raw rice and marinated meat or fish with yogurt and other spices are cooked together in an earthen pot on a slow fire thus rendering it moist and succulent and locking in the flavors.

The above pictures show the various steps.  The first picture shows some of the spices being assembled.  Sliced onions are usually deep fried before adding to the layers.  I roast mine in the oven as I don’t generally deep fry anything.  I like to caramelize it to a deep brown color.  Some of the onions are marinated for a few hours with the yogurt and other spices. The last picture shows a layer of the shrimp and a pot of rice with whole spices about 75% cooked.  It is time to share the recipe now and show you how to assemble it.

Hyderabadi Dum Prawn Biryani

Yogurt marinade

  • 1 lb prawns deveined and cleaned
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon biryani masala (I used the Shan brand))
  • 1 tablespoon salt or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic
  • 1 cup or more roasted onions
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves (cilantro)
  • 4 green chillies cut in half
  • saffron threads

For the rice

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon biryani masala
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil


  1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients under yogurt marinade (except the saffron threads) and stir well.  Let it marinate for 4 hours or so, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. In the meantime, slice the onions and roast them on a greased tray in the oven till they caramelize and turn a pretty dark color.  When cool, add a bit to the yogurt marinade.  (You can also roast the onions before making the marinade) and have it ready.
  3. Wash the basmati rice until the water runs clear.  Let it soak in the water for a bit.  After half an hour or so, boil 3 cups of water and add the ingredients under “For the rice”.
  4. Stir the rice and spices to get it all incorporated, put the lid on and cook on medium-high heat for 3 minutes.  After 3 minutes, remove the lid.  You will see that there’s still a bit of water and the rice is cooked 50%.
  5. Turn the gas off, and put the cover on.  Leave in pot for another 5 minutes to rest.
  6. In another pan, empty the bowl of marinated prawns in the bottom of the pan, spread it out.
  7. Add some fried onions next, a handful of coriander leaves and mint leaves.
  8. Time to add the rice (it is about 75%) cooked at this point.  Add a thin layer of rice next.
  9. Another layer of fried onions, cilantro, mint and green chilli.
  10. Add the rest of the rice, then another layer of fried onions, cilantro, mint and green chilli.
  11. Lastly, but not least, warm up some milk in a cup, add some saffron threads and pour that on top next.
  12. Use heavy-duty aluminum foil to cover the top and press the lid down to seal it.  Pick up the excess foil and fold it around the pan so the steam will not escape.  This is cooking it “dum” style.
  13. Now turn the gas on and leave it for 10 minutes on high.  Now turn the gas to low and bring a griddle or frypan and put the biryani pan on top of the frypan to diffuse some of the heat. Cook it for 20 minutes on a very low flame.  Remove from heat and let it sit for another 10 minutes.

You will notice that the rice has fully absorbed all the spices and marinade and the grains are individual and fluffy.  Believe me when I tell you, this for me is the quickest way to cook biryani.  When serving, make sure you dig deep to get the prawns and all the goodness around it.  Now dig in and enjoy!

Of course, I still love mum’s biryani 🙂

5 thoughts on “Hyderabadi Dum Prawn Biryani

  1. Biryani to me is dish of celebration: for a wedding or an anniversary. Hugely special and you have been enriched by having it in more ‘ordinary’ circumstances as well, Thank you so much for your way of making it . . . The wondrous thing reading thru’ the ingredient list, is that most of us would have most of such in our fridge and pantry now . . . to try soonest. I have not bought the masala nor added the mint . . . have friends who shall so appreciate . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A lovely story. I love dishes that are passed down through generations. Biryani is a grand dish full of flavors and aromas when cooking. I’ve only made biryani a couple of times and never with prawns or using the Hyderabadi method of preparing it. The Hyderabadi cuisine is one I will endeavor to learn more about. I’ll be off to the market today for the biryani masala. A must make dish and one I very much look forward to. A wonderful post Loretta.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m going to look for biryani masala because I would really like to try your recipe. I’ve seen others but they all seemed very complicated.


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