“Tehari is also known as Old Dhaka-style beef biryani, and is one of many dishes that has its origins in the narrow, busting streets of the old part of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city. As a child, most of my family holidays were spent as a guest of my Fufu, which means paternal aunt.
“They had the most wonderful old house, dating from the 19th century, built by the estate manager of the celebrated Ahsan Manzil, which was the residential palace of the Nawab of Dhaka. The house was right in the middle of the commercial district of Dhaka, with its tiny, winding narrow streets containing every type of human, animal and vehicular mode of transport you could possibly imagine,” recalls chef and cookbook author, Saira Hamilton.
“Lining every street are lots of eating establishments, tiny places specialising in the Nawabi cuisine for which this part of Dhaka is so well-known. Tehari is one such dish. It looks a little like a biryani with its mix of rice and chunks of beef, but it is quite spicy and has the meat cut very small so that you get little pieces in every mouthful. It’s a very easy dish to make, all in one pot, and is delicious served with a dollop of yogurt and some salad.”
750g lean braising or rump steak, cut into 1cm cubes
325g Basmati rice
2tbsp vegetable oil
3 onions, 2 finely sliced and 1 cut into 1cm dice
4 x 5cm pieces of cassia bark, or 1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom pods
6 hot fresh green chillies, cut in half lengthwise
2 bay leaves
2tsp chilli powder
2tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp garam masala
1tbsp garlic paste
1tbsp ginger paste
250ml + 500ml water
1. The beef should be prepared by removing most fat and any gristle until you have only lean meat remaining. Then cut this into small 1cm cubes.
2. Place the rice in a large bowl and wash it by swirling the rice around thoroughly in plenty of water, before carefully pouring away the cloudy water. Repeat this process three times. Then cover the rice with more fresh water and let it soak for 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, take a large saucepan or casserole dish and place over a medium-high heat. Add in one tablespoon of the oil and one tablespoon of the ghee and then add in the sliced onions. Keeping the heat quite high, but stirring frequently, fry the onions until they are a dark golden-brown colour and quite crispy (this is called beresta). This should take around 15 minutes. Once they are done, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside until later.
4. Without washing or wiping the pan, add in the remaining oil and ghee and then add the third, diced onion. Cook the onion for seven to eight minutes until golden-brown in colour and fully softened. Then add the cassia, cardamoms, cloves, green chillies and bay leaves. Stir the spices around for 30 seconds or so.
5. Add in all the ground spices and salt, the garlic and ginger pastes, and the 250ml of water, and stir everything together well to combine. Keep the heat up high and keep stirring for another three to four minutes until the spice mix comes together and thickens into a paste with a sheen of oil on the top of the pan.
6. The next stage is to add the cubed beef and stir it well in the spice paste. Once the pan is bubbling again, reduce the heat to a low simmer and then cover the pan. Cook the beef for 10 minutes with the lid on. After this time, remove the lid and increase the heat a little to boil off some of the excess liquid from the pan. Cook for another five minutes.
7. Drain the soaked rice in a sieve or strainer and then add the grains into the pan. Stir together well then add in more water, about 500ml. Stir again and keep the heat quite high until the water starts to bubble. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and allow the pan to cook away for another 25 minutes. After this time the rice and beef should be perfectly cooked. Turn off the heat.
8. Finally, stir through the crispy onions you prepared earlier, re-cover the pan and allow to sit and steam for another 10 minutes to ensure the rice is perfectly fluffy. Serve.
My Bangladesh Kitchen: Recipes And food memories From A Family Table by Saira Hamilton, photography by Ian Garlick, is published by Lorenz Books, priced £20. Available now.
- Press Association