Oh biryani, how I’ve missed you. It was a rare thing to begin with, my family usually reserving it for special occasions, but when my parents too became vegetarian, they sort of stopped making it altogether. Their specialty usually involved meat, most often, chicken, and they didn’t often attempt vegetable biryani. That prompted me finally (I have no idea why I waited so long…hoping that my dad or aunt would think up an alternative. Was I the only one missing this??) to come up with something to take the place of meat. In Sri Lankan cooking that’s easy–jackfruit is the perfect stand-in in curries. It’s a popular curry in its own right, but here, jackfruit is curried with a mild, un-roasted powder, for that subtle flavour found in biryani.
To say that my family and I were happy with the results of this experiment would be an understatement completely underselling this. This is a boafide, delicious biryani–yes, if I do say so myself. I don’t mean to boast, I mean to convince you to make this and not another type of biryani, because we all really loved this. And if you’ve never thought to make biryani, this is your next dinner party menu, trust me!
(See how this recipe fits into a biryani feast!)
Note: This is my (vegetarian) answer to chicken biryani. It can be made in a rice cooker, pressure cooker or even a slow cooker with adaptations. I tested the “old-school” method for those of us without contraptions and because I prefer to cook something like this on the stove top entirely. It’s also the most detailed/longest method so I thought you’d benefit the most from it and can work off of this if you’d like. For this biryani, you make a jackfruit curry that’s a little different that the other one on this site. For starters, you temper the spices and aromatics and you use an un-roasted curry powder. For a primer on jackfruit, see here.*
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-hight heat. Add the cashew nuts and fry/roast, stirring, until they turn a shade or two more golden and even start to show signs of browning in spots. Quickly remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the curry leaves, rampe, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, black pepper, curry powder, tomatoes, and salt. Sauté for 2 more minutes, then add the jackfruit, broth or water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
While the jackfruit is cooking heat a wok or large, wide-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Melt the butter and once it has quieted, add the curry leaves, rampe, cardamom and cloves and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the onions and stir-fry until starting to brown. Then add the turmeric and rice and stir-fry for about 5 minutes making sure all of the grains are coated in the mixture and touch the surface of the pan to toast evenly. By this time jackfruit should be ready. Transfer the rice mixture into jackfruit curry pan and add about 5 cups of water and the salt. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes until the water has evaporated and the rice is fluffy. Add the peas, raisins, and the reserved cashew nuts. Mix well and transfer to a serving platter.