Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Vegetable Biryani Pulao

Wikipedia differentiates Biryani and Pulao (aka pilaf, pulav, pilau) as:

“The difference between biryani and pullao is that while pullao may be made by cooking the items together, biryani is used to denote a dish where the rice is cooked separately from the other ingredients.”

Also, a biryani usually has rice layered with either meat or vegetables and flavoured with spices such as saffron.

For this reason, I have never attempted to cook a biryani. I find it too complicated even though there are numerous recipes which are available on the internet. And yet, I discovered last weekend that my pantry included an unopened box of “Biryani Masala”.

The memory rewound to the fateful month last year when I had employed a cook and she had claimed to be an expert at making biryani. The day never came and she left within a month (not her fault). The Masala had been purchased especially for her. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, the packet indicated that the expiry date was still a few months away and I could make use of it…if I wanted to. And I did use it. Not to make the traditional biryani. But to make pulao – which tasted quite like biryani! And hence the name Biryani Pulao. Since I donot cook non vegetarian food, this is a vegetarian recipe.

Rice (preferably Basmati): 1 cup

Onion, sliced: 1 medium
Potato, cut in small cubes: 1 medium
Cauliflower: a few florets
Soya Chunks: ½ cup
Peas: ¼ cup
Biryani Masala: 1 – 1 ½ tsp
Turmeric Powder: ½ tsp
Bayleaf: 1
Cumin Seeds: ½ tsp
Oil: 1 – 2 tbsp
Salt: To taste


- Soak the soya chunks in hot water for around 5 minutes, or till they are soft. I usually microwave them for around 2 minutes. Drain the water and squeeze the chunks till they are dry. Keep aside
- Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan or a pressure cooker. When the oil is hot enough, add the cumin seeds and the bayleaf.
- When the seeds begin to splutter, add the sliced onions and sauté on medium heat till they start turning golden
- Add the potato cubes and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes
- Add the rest of the vegetables, soya chunks, biryani masala and turmeric. Stir for another 3 – 4 minutes
- Add the rice, 1 ¾ cup water, salt and pressure cook on high heat till 2 whistles. Remove from heat and open the lid when the steam has subsided
- In the absence of pressure cooker, add 2 ¼ cups water and cover and cook on low heat till the rice is cooked.
- Serve hot with raita / curd and pickle


  1. I think someone needs to go to Wikipedia and correct the definition. There are biryanis made with rice and meat cooked together, and not in layers. Like many dum biryanis. And, there are biryanis which do not use saffron, like many mutton biryanis.
    What does differ between the two is how the spices are added. While in a biryani one usually puts them in a 'potli' in muslin and specifically, do not fry them, in a pulao you usually saute them in oil/ ghee and then add the rest of the ingredients.
    a Pulao is a much lighter meal, while Biryani though seemingly lighter on spices is richer overall. And like you mentioned, a Pulao is easier to cook ;)

    Psst - liked the pulao you had made for me once.

  2. this ismy favorite pulav...though we call it tahiri if it is cooked with veggies and i like it hot n spicy...

    so many names for rice cooked with different things ..huh..

    yes biryani can be layered , one pot , dum cooked with already cooked meat or kacchhe gosht ki biryani.....hundreds of versions but one thing is common that the spices are used whole and tied in a muslin so than only a subtle aroma comes to the rice grains...

  3. I love all kinds of biryani, urs makes me drool...

  4. This looks amazing and tasty -- I haven't had good Indian food in a while and looking through these photos makes me crave it that much more!!


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