Cape Malay Fish Biryani

"A very popular Indian dish that has been adapted by the Cape Muslims and is usually served at religious festivals. Ideal for entertaining large numbers of guests--the dish can be prepared in advance and the flavour actually improves with time."
photo by a user photo by a user
Ready In:
1hr 10mins




  • Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion, cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and garlic until the onion is tender and all the flavours have blended. Add the fennel seeds, cumin, coriander, garam masala and a little water. Simmer until an aromatic paste has formed.
  • Season the fish with salt with the 1 tsp garam masala and add to the paste, along with the potatoes. Fry until the mixture is a nice yellow colour. Cover and braise until cooked. The potatoes Should be tender but still whole (about 15-20 minutes). Add extra water if necessary.
  • Put the lentils in plenty of boiling, salted water and cook 5 minutes. Add rice and turmeric to water and continue boiling until done (about more 20 minutes). Drain and set aside.
  • Arrange layers of the fish mixture and rice in a saucepan. Add a little water, cover, and steam for about half an hour. Garnish with quartered hard-boiled eggs.
  • Variation: Layer the biryani in an ovenproof dish, cover, and bake for half an hour at 180°C (350°F) until heated through.

Questions & Replies

Got a question? Share it with the community!


  1. We made this for dinner last night using hake. We used the optional hard boiled eggs, which I really enjoyed and would not skip, and the oven method for cooking. We actually preferred the flavor of the dish today when we had leftovers and I enjoyed mine drizzled with olive oil. While this recipe has a long list of ingredients, there is little chopping and prep and it is quite easy to make. We added a generous amount of salt and pepper to our individual servings.
  2. My kids loved this. I used tilapia.
  3. Great spices, wonderful balancing flavours. Top stuff with the salmon we had tonight.
  4. I used a nice piece of red snapper and enjoyed this immensely. The spicing is complex abut does not overwhelm the flavors of the fish and the rice and lentils. The potatoes are a great textural element. I did garnish with some fresh herbs and a few cherry tomatoes, just to give the dish some color. Thanks, Ev!
  5. Very tasty, am on a low GI diet and this recipe is just ideal for that.I only had fresh salmon so used that and it was just right, thank you for this lovely recipe from a real non-fish lover!!


<style>body { background: url(""); background-repeat: repeat-y; }</style> OK, here goes. I live in Athens, Greece. I moved out here many, many years ago from Ottawa, Canada - so I am blessed in having two wonderful heritages! I suffer from compulsive obsessive behaviour with regard to food and my psychiatrist thought it would be a good idea to find a 'society' where many have the same problem and try to find a cure. So far, I've copied a couple of thousand recipes from this site and my psychiatrist has thrown the towel in and refuses to answer the phone when I call. What did I do wrong? Got 3 kids that keep me on the go - 10 and under at this point (2008) - I may not get round to updating this for a few years, so you'll have to do your own maths. I teach English full-time and Greek Cookery part-time. I would like to make the cooking part of it full-time and the English Grammar part of it part-time. That's all for now.
View Full Profile

Find More Recipes