Cook the Book: Shrimp Biryani

Cook the Book: Shrimp Biryani
  • Yield:6
  • Active time:25 minutes
  • Total time:35 minutes
  • Rated: 4.5

[Photograph: Sarah Shatz]

Rice can sit on the sidelines sometimes, acting as a starchy support. Not so in the case of biryani. Baked with all sorts of sweet, heady aromatics as well as deeply caramelized onions, this Shrimp Biryani from The Food52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs makes a main event out of delicate basmati rice.

The rice is soaked (a great trick for cutting down on cooking time) then tossed with a bright green chile-ginger-cilantro paste, then baked in the oven until cooked through and just a little crusty on the bottom. Shrimp rubbed with turmeric and salt are briefly sautéed, coated with that same bright green chile paste and spooned over the cardamom scented rice.

It's a lovely plate, full of all sorts of exotic spices that pop up in each bite—heat from the serrano chiles and black pepper, warmth from cinnamon and cloves, and bright bursts of ginger and cilantro.

If you're looking to add more to the dish, a vegetable-heavy yogurt raita works quite nicely, balancing the heat and adding a welcome creaminess.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Food52 Cookbook to give away this week.

Adapted from The Food52 Cookbook by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. Copyright © 2011. Published by William Morrow. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved


  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • One 1-inch piece ginger
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro
  • 2 serrano chiles
  • 4 tablespoons neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • One 1 1/2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 10 whole green cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 mint sprigs, chopped 


  1. 1.

    Heat the oven to 350°F. Wash the rice and soak it in cold water until needed.

  2. 2.

    Wash the shrimp and drain it well. Add the salt and turmeric and mix. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  3. 3.

    Peel the ginger and garlic and use a food processor to blend it to a paste with the cilantro and chiles. You can add a little water if it’s too dry.

  4. 4.

    In a large Dutch oven or oven-safe pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the peppercorns, cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom, and 1 of the bay leaves. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.

  5. 5.

    Add the onion and sauté until light brown, stirring constantly.

  6. 6.

    Add half the ginger paste and sauté  for another 1 or 2 minutes.

  7. 7.

    Add 3 cups water and salt (1 to 2 teaspoons, depending on taste) and bring the mixture to a boil.

  8. 8.

    Drain the rice and add it to the boiling water along with the butter and mint. Bring to a boil, cover, and put it in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.

  9. 9.

    When the rice has been in the oven for about 10 minutes, heat some oil in a sauté pan and add the remainder of the ginger paste along with the remaining bay leaf. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes and add the shrimp. Sauté the shrimp until done (they should be light pink), 2 to 3 minutes.

  10. 10.

    Remove the rice from the oven. Top it with the shrimp and serve.

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