Monday, October 5, 2009

Shrimp Biryani With A Dose Of The Weird & Wonderful

All of a sudden there's a lot going on in the news these days. Oh, there's always something interesting to report, in my opinion, but it may not be juicy enough for the media to focus on. So sometimes we have days at a stretch when all you hear about are petty arguments between the right and left wing parties here in the US, someone bashing the President (again), or a new political scandal erupting. Thank goodness we have shows like Jon Stewart's and John Colbert's, where they use humor to throw some levity over the more ridiculous politicking going on currently. Once in a while, you hear a news story that makes you smile rather than groan in frustration or break out in a panicked sweat. Some reporters call these "human stories", which always sounds a bit weird to me, but I suppose it refers to stories that help restore some of our faith in humanity. Too bad there aren't more of those! In a way, each of us is a living, breathing human story.

For instance, today on BBC's WorldService website (my personal fav), I read about a new train service that's begun in India. Many of us have been exposed to Indian culture in recent years, thanks to movies and media. So we are aware that the majority of the working population in India's big cities (Mumbai, Calcutta, Delhi etc.) commute to work and college via public trains. They work just as well as your typical US subway system, with the exception of taking into account the sheer number of people using it. Think of it as the NYC subway to the power of 10! Anyway, so this little news article talked about how they now have special a ladies-only train operating in India. Surprise surprise, the ladies are loving it, while some of the men are pissed! The girls get to travel more comfortably, instead of having only standing room (like in many of the regular public trains during rush hour), where they are free to stretch out, apply their morning make-up, chat freely, sing songs, feel secure (without the constant annoyance and fear of being leered at by men, groped at, or being the victim of purse-snatchers) and basically look forward to their commute. It was funny to listen to some of the men's complaints against this new system, and how some of them still try to get on this train by force (you really can't wait for the next regular one, buddy?!). Honestly, they sounded like petulant little kids when you ask them to share something they don't want to! The image of those grown-up working women, laughing out loud and singing on the train, truly made me smile. It reminded me of when I was in school, and our girls-only class would sometimes go on field trips, and how much we would enjoy the ride to our destination because we would be all piled into one bus, and have it all to ourselves - not half-filled with boys, like it was during our morning and afternoon commutes - and we just felt free! Funny how that works, huh?!

Erm, what does all this have to do with this delicious Shrimp Biryani I'm about to introduce you to? Absolutely nothing. I tried to think of a connection, and I could have come up with a lame one (like oh let's say, Mumbai is a port city, hence the shrimps yadayadayada) but I didn't want to insult your intelligence, dear readers. Please just accept this recipe as an extension of the life I lead and stuff I talk about. This is not a recipe I grew up on - as a matter of fact, I discovered it through a friend who made this for a dinner we were invited to. But DH and I fell in love with it, and luckily enough, it's pretty easy to put together. I also like the use of dill in this biryani, which is something I've rarely seen in Indian/Pakistani cooking.
Shrimp Biryani
Serves 6-8

Click here for printable recipe

25-30 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 packet Shan Fish Biryani mix
2 onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp garlic paste OR 3 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 cups plain yogurt, whipped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
6-8 small green chillies, slit on one side
Juice of 1-2 lemons
3 tbsp oil

4 cups basmati rice

1 tbsp oil
1/2 cup dill, chopped
2 tsp salt
Water for boiling the rice

1. Marinate the shrimp in lemon juice, Shan Fish Biryani Mix and garlic for a half hour.

2. Heat up the oil in a large pot. Saute the onions till golden brown, then mix in the tomatoes. Wait till then soften, another 5 mins or so, and throw in the potatoes. Cook for another 5 mins.

3. Then add in the marinated shrimp (along with all the marinade), green chillies and cilantro. Stir around for 1-2 minutes, then pour in the yogurt. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 10-15 mins, till potatoes are tender (but not falling apart!). You may add some water if you think the potatoes need more liquid to cook properly. Once done, turn off the heat and set aside.

4. Soak your rice for half an hour. Heat up a tbsp of oil in a large pot, then quickly throw in the dill. Fry it up for a minute, then add about 10 cups of water. Bring all this to a boil, then add in the rice and salt. Stir once and wait for the rice to cook till almost tender - shouldn't take more than 8-10 mins. Drain the rice well.

5. To assemble: Spread 2/3 of the rice back in the bottom of the same large pot. Pour the shrimp & potato mixture over the rice, and spread it out evenly. Then top it off with the remaining 1/3 rice. Sprinkle over some additional chopped dill, cilantro and fried onions, if you like. Cover the pot, and put it in a preheated 300 F oven for about 15 mins. Take it out and remove the lid - inhale that perfumed steam carefully! Slowly mix up the rice and shrimp layers, so that all the flavors permeate the entire dish. Serve with raita.
Verdict: Chicken biryani is usually the norm at Pakistani dinner parties because everyone loves it, and it caters to a crowd. So serving shrimp biryani for a change, will make you stand out from the rest. And I love this dish, because of its interesting blend of flavors and it is so satisfying and filling (thanks to all the carbs, I suppose!). I make this for DH and myself on weekends sometimes, when we've just had enough of chicken and red meat. This dish may be outside the comfort zone for a few cooks out there, but I encourage you to try it, because it's one of those recipes that you can always count on for utter deliciousness. Try it for your next dinner party if you want to impress your guests.

I'll be sending this dill-centric recipe to Susan from The Seasoned Cook, who is hosting this week's Weekend Herb Blogging event.


Mari said...

Wow I wish we had trains and buses like that in NY lol that would be fabulous!

That dish looks amazing =) anything with shrimp in it, makes me a happy girl

Yasmeen said...

Wonderful indeed! I always enjoyed my travel in "Ladies Special" buses :).I can almost smell the fragrant Dill in the biryani,fantastic!

Varsha Vipins said...

yummm..I was planning to make n post a shrimp Biriyani soon,pucca in our authentic style n then you come up with this...slurpp...heavenly it looks,Muneeba..:)

Kerstin said...

I also love the idea of a women's only train too! Your shrimp Biryani sounds so good - yum!

Donna-FFW said...

This shrimp dish sound swonderful. I like the idea of the shrimp marinating in citrus. Delicious!

Sushma Mallya said...

Lovely pic muneeba...looking really mouthwatering...surely will try this one..thanks for the recipe...

Joanne said...

Thanks for sharing this tidbit of info with us about what is going on in the world. I think there doesn't need to be a link to the food in order to blog about it. I, myself, like to type extemporaneously. It IS my blog, after all.

This shrimp looks delicious. So much flavor!

Finla said...

You may start your post how ever you want as long as you give me that delcious shrimp biriyani.

Anonymous said...

Nevery had a biriyani with shrimp before, sounds wonderful! Can't wait to try it!

nandini said...

Was in kerela last week and had this amazing prawn biriyani at a friends place and decided to look for a recipe when i return home. U read my thoughts!!!. I know what i will be making this weekend. The prawn biriyani looks wonderful.

jp said...

I want to make this, this is one of my favorite dishes!

Jamie said...

You are too cute! And I know what you mean about sitting and watching the news, groaning and pulling hair at not only the bad news but the bad players and idiots. I would love to live any place there are girls (women) only trains or anything. Sounds not only safe but fun!

This Shrimp Briyani is fabulous! It looks so good! I do need to hone my Indian cooking skills.

(and thanks for your kind words on my blog, much thanks)

Doppelganger said...

I love your posts, my friend! Not just for the food, which I can count on stretching my admittedly narrow culinary circle, but also your view of the world. I would never have heard of a Ladies only train if it hadn't been for you and the concept of this train just makes me smile! Not so much a commute to work or study, but a girls' train ride out! ;)

And congratulations on your Shrimp Biryani recipe being featured on Tastespotting! Way to go! I know my hubbs would really enjoy this one. And I finally know what to do with shrimp!

Susan said...

I adore rice. Thanks so much for your beautiful WHB recipe. A half cup of dill is wonderful in taste and fragrance. : )