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Afghani Zarda Pulao: Delicacy From Kabul


It is a well known scientific fact that your appetite depends on your sense of smell and sight. In that case, you would find Afghani zarda pulao an extremely appealing dish. This pulao recipe is straight from the highlands of Kabul in Afghanistan. What is special about Afghani zarda pulao is its aroma and also its beautiful orange colour. Needless to say that this pulao recipe is the crowing glory of Afghani cuisine.

The Afghani zarda pulao is flavoured with the peel of special Seville oranges. But don't worry if you can't find them in your local market. You can always use normal orange peels to colour and flavour this pulao recipe. Afghani zarda pulao can be made with any type of meat. But we will be making a chicken pulao today.

Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 1 hour

Cooking Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients For Rice

  • Biryani rice- 2 cups
  • Cardamom pods- 5
  • Cinnamon stick- 1 inch
  • Cloves- 5
  • Peppercorns- 10
  • Star anise- 2

Ingredients For Orange Syrup

  • Orange Peel Syrup
  • Orange peels- 1 cup (grated)
  • Sugar- 2tbsp
  • Water- 2 cups


  • Chicken- 500 grams (medium sized pieces)
  • Onion- 1 chopped
  • Garlic- 5 pods (crushed)
  • Ginger- 1 inch (crushed)
  • Yoghurt- 1 cup (beaten)
  • Garam Masala- 1tbsp
  • Fennel seeds- 1/2 tsp
  • Coriander seeds- 1/2 tsp
  • Red chilli powder- 1tsp
  • Oil- 2tbsp
  • Ghee- 1 cup
  • Saffron strands- 1/2 tsp
  • Salt- as per taste


  1. There are 2 parts to this recipe. First, you need to boil the rice with all the spices mentioned.
  2. Tie all the spices in a cloth. Place the cloth-wrapped spices with the rice in a large pot. Add 3 cups of water. Cover and cook on a high flame for 15 minutes.
Drain away the excess water and you will have rice that is flavoured with various spices.
  • While the rice is still cooking, heat oil in a deep bottomed pan. Add the onions to it and saute till they turn golden.
  • Then add fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and red chilli powder to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes on a low flame.
  • Add crushed garlic, ginger, salt and garam masala. Mix it up and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
  • Add the chicken pieces and mix it up with the spices. Add curd and mix it up with the curry.
  • Reduce the flame to low and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Add water if the chicken gravy gets too dry.
  • While the chicken is cooking, heat water in a deep bottomed pan. Add sugar to it.
  • When the water comes to boil, add grated orange peels to the pan. Cover and boil until the gravy thickens (which should be about 10 minutes).
  • Now that all three parts of the recipe are done, you need to put the pulao together.
  • In a large pot, put one layer of rice. Add some chicken curry and then pour orange syrup.
  • Heat some ghee and add a little ghee on every layer. Repeat this process of layering until all the rice, curry and syrup get finished.
  • Now cover the pot and cook on a low flame for 10 minutes.
  • When it is done, add saffron from the top.
  • You can garnish the Afghani zarda pulao with strips of orange peels and dry fruits. Serve it hot with raita and raw onions.

    Story first published: Friday, March 15, 2013, 17:47 [IST]