Fish Briyani, A Localized Version of Briyani

I came across this recipe while scrolling through NLB’s extensive online cookbook collection and was intrigued by the use of fish as the main protein in this dish and the use of pandan and yogurt in the rice! It involved a fair bit of elbow grease but was so worth it in the end!

Fish Briyani

Adapted from Madam Krishnan’s South Indian Recipes

Serves 4

For the fried toppings:

Roughly 400-500g ghee (homemade or shop-bought)

500g onions, sliced

50g cashew nuts

Place half of the onions in a pan with enough ghee to roughly cover. Heat until golden brown and crispy before passing through a sieve. Return the ghee to the pan and fry the cashew nuts until nicely browned. Remove the cashew nuts from the ghee. Use this onion-infused ghee whenever this recipe calls for ghee.

For the rice:

6 tbsp ghee

½ stick cinnamon

½ star anise

2 cardamoms

2 cloves

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp ginger garlic paste

525g basmati rice, washed and soaked 10min, drain

½ tbsp almonds ground (use ground almonds)

125g yogurt

A handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped

A handful of coriander leaves

1 stalk pandan leaves, knotted

2-3 teaspoons salt

660g water

Heat the ghee with the cinnamon, star anise, cardamoms, cloves and bay leaf. Once the spices smell fragrant, add the ginger garlic paste and saute for a minute. Add the contents of the pan to a ricecooker bowl with the rice, ground almonds, yogurt, mint, coriander, pandan, salt and water. Stir and taste the liquid – adjust with more salt if necessary.

For the fish:

500g fish fillets, about 5-6 slices

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp salt

Rice flour, for coating the fish

Ghee, for frying the fish

4 tablespoons ghee

½ 5cm stick cinnamon

2-3 cloves

2-3 cardamoms

1/2 star anise

1 bay leaves

Remaining half of sliced onions

175g tomatoes, chopped

Handful of coriander leaves

Handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste

½ tbs smoked paprika or Kashmiri chili powder

½ tbsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp fennel powder

200g canned diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon ground almonds

125g yogurt

270g water

2 teaspoons salt

2 red chillies

½ lemon, squeezed

While the rice cooks, rub the fish fillets in turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt. Allow to marinate for 15 minutes. Coat the fish in the rice flour and deep fry in the ghee until golden brown. Set aside. In a large saucepan or pot, heat the ghee, cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, star anise and bay leaves. When the spices smell fragrant, add the onions and fry until softened. Add the tomatoes, coriander, mint, ginger garlic paste, paprika, cumin and fennel powder. Fry for a few more minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, ground almonds, yogurt, water, salt and chillies. Bring to a simmer then turn the heat off. Squeeze in the lemon juice and return the fish fillets to the pan.


80g milk, heated with 1 tablespoon turmeric powder or 1 pinch saffron

Handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped

Handful of coriander leaves

200g flour mixed with enough water to form a slightly sticky dough

Add some of the fish gravy to a pot to prevent the rice from sticking and burning. Spread out half of the rice over the gravy, then add the fish fillets and onions with some of the gravy. Reserve the rest of the gravy for serving on the side. Cover the fish with the rice, then spoon over the milk. Top with the fried shallots and cashews, and herbs. Press the dough on the rim of the pot and cover with a lid. Set over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and serve the biryani with extra gravy from the fish if desired!



Pamelia Chia is a Singaporean chef and the author of the bestselling cookbook ‘Wet Market to Table’. After graduating with an Honor’s degree in Food Science and Technology from the National University of Singapore in 2014, she decided to trade a food scientist’s lab coat in for chef whites. She has since been working in restaurants in Singapore and Melbourne, including Candlenut and Carlton Wine Room. Her deepest interest being the preservation and celebration of Singaporean food heritage and culture, she started Singapore Noodles in 2020 as a platform to share about Singaporean food to a global audience. Find her on Instagram @pameliachia.

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