Fish Biryani (Nasi Biryani Ikan)



Both me and my wife love Nasi Biryani or Biryani rice. When we are not eating with kids, we will pack back nasi biryani from the nearby Indian Muslim or mama restaurants. I will pack chicken biryani and she usually opt for fish biryani..


I have long wanted to prepare this dish and I purposely bought a small pack of saffron from Mustafa Centre, Singapore solely for this purpose. It dragged for many many months until today when I passed by an Indian Muslim restaurant, it reminded me of this dish that I wanted to cook.


I am struggling  whether to cook chicken or fish biryani…..Since there are some fish sitting in the fridge and realizing that wife and kids all  love fishes, I have decided to cook this dish tonight.


All this while,  i knew how to cook biryani but it is a shortcut method and for this illustration, I have decided not to use my rice cooker short cut  version and follow some rather traditional method. I prepare this recipe with reference to two recipes; Chicken Biryani (Cache Biryani) and Fish Biryani | Fazio’s Kitchen Fun.


As per Wikipedia:

“Biryani (pronounced [bar-yankː]) is a mixed rice dish from South Asia. It is made with spices, rice and meat or vegetables. Historically, the most common varieties of rice used for preparation of biryani were the long-grain brown rice (in North India) and Zebra Samba rice (in South India). Today, the basmati rice is the most common variety. In Bangladesh, puffed rice is also used. The spices and condiments used in biryani may include, but are not limited to, ghee (clarified butter), nutmeg, mace, pepper,cloves] cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander, mint leaves, ginger, onions, and garlic. The premium varieties include saffron.]For a non-vegetarian biryani, the main ingredient that accompanies the spices is the meat, chicken and mutton are the most commonly used meat for cooking a biryani, special versions may include pork, beef, fish, or prawn. The dish may be served with dacha chutney or Raito, korma, curry, a sour dish of aubergine (urinal), boiled egg, and salad.”



Servings: Adult servings about 5-6


Fish Marinating

  • 500 grams of fish (mackerel or bating fish)
  • 3 tablespoons of ginger garlic paste (half ginger and half garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon of chilli powder*
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder*
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin powder*
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder*
  • One lemon (squeeze into juices)
  • Few pieces of bay leaves
  • Pinches of salt

* Can be substituted with 2 tablespoons of masala powder


Fish masala ingredients

  • 2 big onions sliced into small pieces (red onions preferred)
  • 2 tomatoes cut into big chunks
  • 5 sprigs of coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons of ghee
  • 3 tablespoon of ginger garlic paste (50% ginger and 50% garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon of chilli powder*
  • 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder*
  • 1 teaspoons of cumin powder*
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 hard boiled eggs (optional)
  • Juice of half a lemon

* Can be substituted with 2-3 tablespoons of masala powder


  • 4 cups of basmati rice, washed
  • 2 tablespoons of ghee
  • A generous pinch of saffron mix with about 2 tablespoons of hot milk (optional) – can be replaced by turmeric powder.
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5-6 bay leaves
  • 5 cardamoms
  • 5 –6 cloves




  • Squeeze the lemon juice to the fish and add all other ingredients. Mix well and let it marinate for about one hour.


  • In a pan,  add the ghee and pan fry the fish until the exterior of the fish just set. It is okay that the interior will not be cooked since it will be cooked again in the stir frying stage later. This is pretty fast and you can also in the meantime sauté the onion until it is soft and turn a bit brownish. (Note that red onion is preferred and if you use red onion, the colour tone will be much darker). Once the fish is done and the onion is soft, take out half of the onion and the fish out for later use.

PicMonkey Collage1

  • With half of the onion in the pan, add all the various, herbs  and tomato. Stir fry until the tomato is soft. Add in the yoghurt and stir fry until the paste starts to emit oil at the side of pan. Add the fish and half of the chopped coriander and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add the eggs, stir until well mix and lastly squeeze the lemon juice. Off the heat and set aside for later use.


  • Wash and soak the basmati rice for at least 15 minutes. (Note: Depending on your rice, some are old rice and more difficult to cook. It is best to refer to the packaging instruction. Soak the saffron in the hot milk.

  • In a pot, put the ghee, add the herbs and spices, sauté until fragrant. Add some water to the pot and  add the rice. Have water just adequate to cover the rice (above one inches above the rice). Bring to boil and cook the rice until half cook meaning the exterior is cooked but the inside is still hard.


  • Drain the rice and transfer half of the rice to another or container (for steaming).  Put the fish masala on top of the rice.


  • Put the other half of the chop coriander and place the other half of the rice on top of the fish. Use something to make some holes in the rice and pour the milk saffron mixture into the holes. Level the rice and place the other half of the onion on top of the rice. Steam the rice for another 15-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Fluff the rice before serving.



  • If you do not want the steaming method of cooking the rice and you can use rice cooker to cook the rice. Just sauté the raw rice with ghee and herbs and  transfer to the rice cooker and cook until the rice is cooked. Once cooked, take out half of the cooked rice, layer with the fish and followed by the rice and onion. Add the saffron milk mixture and let it sit in the rice cooker for at least another 20 minutes before serving.

  • For the cumin powder, curry powder, chilli powder and turmeric powder, you can also substitute these powders using the ready mix Masala powder. You can get this rather easily in provision shop or supermarkets.



We just had our dinner and it is so happy to know that my wife liked the dish.. Not because that it is prepared by me… and she complemented that the rice is very flavourful.. Ha-ha. She volunteered to pack the unfinished portion to her office as lunch… To me, it is rather special and it is unusual for her to complement what I have cooked not to mention her favourite, fish masala.. Do give it a try., forget about the traditional steaming method if you are short of time and remember that you can always cook it using the rice cooker.


Hope you like the post today. Cheers and have a nice day.


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