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Spicy Chicken Biryani The Cape Malay Way

We honour the holy month of Ramadan with this spicy chicken biryani Cape Malay dish. Dominated by fruity, mild spices and full-bodied flavours, Cape Malay cuisine is food for the soul.

Spicy chicken biryani 

Serves 4-6 • Total Time 2 Hrs Plus Marinating  


1 kg chicken drumsticks and thighs  
6 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered 
2 cups buttermilk 
2 salad tomatoes, grated 
1 tsp salt 
1 tsp chilli powder  
1 tbsp biryani masala 
1 tbsp garam masala  
1 tbsp medium curry powder  
1 cup brown lentils  
3 cups basmati rice  
¼ cup canola oil 
2 large onions, chopped 
1/3 cup water
Pinch saffron (optional) 


  1. Combine chicken, potatoes, buttermilk, tomatoes and spices in a large bowl to marinate for about 45-60 minutes.  
  2. Par-cook lentils (10-12 minutes) and rice (8-10 minutes) separately. 
  3. Drain and set aside. 
  4. Preheat oven to 180°C. 
  5. Heat one tablespoon oil in a pan and fry onions for 4-6 minutes. Set aside. 
  6. Cover the base of a large oven dish with water and remaining oil. Use a dish that has a tight-fitting lid. 
  7. Mix rice and lentils and add half to the dish. 
  8. Cover with chicken and potato mixture, and top with half the fried onions. 
  9. Add another layer of lentils and rice, and then the remaining chicken and potato mixture, finishing with the fried onions. 
  10. Sprinkle with saffron, if using. 
  11. Cover and bake for 1 ½  hours or until cooked. 
  12. Serve with fresh coriander, tomato sambal and yoghurt. 

Foodie Fact: Dhai is made with buttermilk, grated garlic, ground cumin and fresh coriander. 

Words by Sjaan Van Der Ploeg 

Photography: Fresh Living Magazine

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