Ethereal Egg Biryani

October  5, 2021
7 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth. Food Stylist: Lauren Lapenna.
  • Prep time 40 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

Biryani always reminds me of my mother. We ate it every Sunday for a whole year. My cousin—an ardent, undying fan of chicken biryani—would visit us from school, and my mother would fill a white Corningware casserole with steaming heaps of rice and meat. Her biryani was, quite frankly, terrible (she’s going to read this, and then I’ll be dead)—mushy or overseasoned or undersalted. Luckily, we were young and hungry and couldn’t have cared less.

Though biryani is usually a celebratory, special-occasion dish reserved for birthdays, weddings, or weekend family gatherings, using eggs instead of chicken or goat makes it much more accessible and less of a lift. There are many kinds of biryani—Sindhi, Awadhi, Hyderabadi, Chettinad, Dindigul—each with subtle variations in the blend of spices or how the ingredients are cooked and layered. This one combines the stronger spicing of southern-style biryani with the layered assembly more prevalent in Hyderabad and the north (though mine is less elaborate).

My favorite brands of basmati rice are Daawat or Tilda. It’s really hard to find good-quality basmati rice in the average American grocery store (steer well clear of any not grown in Southeast Asia), so I make sure to stock up at a specialty Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi store. Always look for basmati rice that’s been aged for at least a year; it cooks up fluffier, with long, individual grains that rarely stick. The best basmati smells perfumed, with a fine, powdery coating from the aging process. (Legend has it that in the olden days, buyers would plunge their hand into a sack of rice, and if it came away covered in white dust, the basmati was deemed up to par.)

Oh, and reader? I am pleased to report that my mom now makes an ethereal biryani that all of us clamor for any day of the week.
Shilpa Uskokovic

What You'll Need
  • Rice
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 large eggs
  • Sauce
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 (½-inch) piece ginger, peeled
  • 1 serrano (or other hot green chile), stemmed
  • 2 large shallots, halved and peeled
  • 1/3 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil, plus more for finishing
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup finely chopped cilantro, leaves and tender stems
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  1. Rinse the rice in a strainer until the water no longer runs opaque (it won’t be fully clear). Transfer the rinsed rice to a medium bowl, then add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and enough cool water to cover by 3 inches. Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, steam the eggs: Bring 1 inch of water to a rolling boil in a large, heavy pot over high heat. Place the eggs in a steamer basket and lower them into the pot (or gently transfer the eggs directly into the water using a pair of tongs). Cover and cook the eggs for 8 minutes. Transfer to an ice bath (a medium bowl filled halfway with ice and water). Let cool completely before peeling. Empty and dry out the pot.
  3. Cook the rice: Fill a large pot (you can use the same one from steaming the eggs) with water and bring it to a boil. Drain the soaked rice and add to the boiling water. Stir well and cook for 6 minutes; the rice should have a slight bite to each grain. Drain into a colander in the sink, running cool water on top to arrest the cooking. Dry out the pot.
  4. Make the sauce: Place the garlic, ginger, serrano, shallots, yogurt, mint, fennel seeds, paprika, coriander, garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and 1 tablespoon of water in a small blender (a personal blender works great here). Purée until mostly smooth, adding another tablespoon or so of water if needed.
  5. Heat the ghee (or vegetable oil) in the same pot over medium-high heat. When the ghee shimmers, add the sliced onion along with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are limp and golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste is caramelized and looks darker, about 1 minute. Pour in the blended spice paste. Cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping constantly, until the mixture smells fragrant, takes on a slightly shiny appearance, and small droplets of fat bead on the surface, 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Pour in ½ cup of water, scraping any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, and simmer until the sauce is thick, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, making it a touch saltier than you’d like the finished dish to be, to account for the muffling effect of the rice.
  8. Assemble the biryani: Reduce the heat to low. Arrange the eggs in a single layer over the sauce. Pile the rice on top. Scatter with the chopped cilantro. Drizzle the lime juice and a few spoonfuls of ghee on top. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook over the lowest possible heat until the rice is steamed and fully cooked though, 6 to 8 minutes.
  9. Gently stir a couple times, so the rice and sauce are swirled but not fully blended, taking care not to mash the eggs. Serve hot. Egg biryani will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for up to 3 days. Reheat in a loosely covered container in the microwave or in a skillet over medium-low heat.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Deneb Zeenat Latif
    Deneb Zeenat Latif
  • Ccrosw01
  • KM
Shilpa Uskokovic is recipe developer, food writer and budding food stylist and photographer. She was previously a line and pastry cook in some of NYC's top rated restaurants like Marea, The NoMad Hotel, Maialino and Perry Street. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Shilpa loves books, Bundt cakes, cute Basset Hounds and peak millennial memes. She was born and raised in Chennai, India.

3 Reviews

Deneb Z. October 1, 2022
This was a delicious recipe and easy to put together. I mad some slight changes. I scored the eggs and marinated with 1/4 TSP each of salt and Kashmiri chilli powder then fried them till slightly brown. I used fresh tomato puree (2 medium-size tomato worth) I stead of the tomato paste (don't have any at hand). I cooked it down a bit longer. Also in the water for par boiling the rice, I threw in 2" cinnamon, 2 cardamom and 1/2 TSP whole cumin seed.
Ccrosw01 November 6, 2021
Such a treat of a dish! Would agree that the rice could be cooked a little bit longer. We also opted to make the eggs soft boiled but that’s just a personal preference. So happy we stepped outside the box with this one!
KM October 24, 2021
The flavour was really great. I ended up cooking the rice a little longer but it was still a little firm. Next time, I might wait til the water was at a rolling boil before I put the rice in. And it was so delicious I will double the recipe