Malabar's own 'Kuthirabiryani' that bears no relation to the traditional biryani


There once was in Malabar, a biriyani, which was in no way remotely related to the biriyani we know as it is today. This went by the name of “kuthirabiriyani”.

Our familiarity with this peculiar brand is through the S K Pottekkatt’s novel Oru Deshathinte Katha and this is how he refers to it: “Sreedharan sat down on a bench by the corner. He then snapped his fingers at the server and placed his order, ‘Kuthirabiriyani’.

“Enter the biriyani. Kuthirabiriyani was a merry mix of puttu and kadala (Bengal gram) curry and pappadam. There were two pieces of puttu steamed from their cylindrical moulds and dressed lavishly with scraped coconut. The dish was a sight to behold. The thick and spicy gravy, with the aroma of fresh coconut oil, had red chillies, cut coconut pieces and generous helpings of bubbly pappads in it.” This was how Pottekkatt more or less chose to describe the not-so-familiar name given to an all-too-familiar dish.

Mulankutti puttu

Since kuthirabiriyani is served with kadala, the dish cannot be called a typically old Kerala serving as Bengal gram was introduced in Kerala just about 75 years ago. Hence, kuthirabiriyani too must be only as old as kadala is.

Since the dish sounds pretty appetizing, a recipe would come in handy for those who’d like to try out this special brand of biriyani. Usually, the kadala gravy that’s served with putta has lots of gravy. But with Pottekkat’s kuthirabiriyani, it’s got to be very thick.


500 gm Bengal gram

3 tbsp coconut oil

½ tsp mustard seeds

6-10 dried red chillies

½ cup sliced onions

1 tsp chopped ginger

1 tsp chopped green chillies

10 garlic cloves

2 tsp red chilli powder

2 tsp coriander powder

¼ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp garam masala

2 cups of coconut milk

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 sprigs of curry leaves


Soak the Bengal gram overnight, this helps the gram to turn soft

Cook the Bengal gram and set it aside

heat oil in a pan

Sauté mustard seeds, red chillies and curry leaves

Add the chopped onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies and sauté again

When the onions turn light pink, add the red chilli, coriander and turmeric powders

Add the cooked Bengal gram along with its water and salt as required, mix well

Add garam masala, coconut milk and coconut oil

Turn off the stove when this gravy thickens

Serve along with puttu

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