Dindigul Thalappakattu Chicken Biryani

“Thalappa” means a turban/traditional head dress, “kattu” is to wear it around one’s head….this authentic dish is named after the man with the turban, who first brought it to the public eye.

Thalappa- Tradional head dress of  South India
Thalappa- Tradional head dress of South India

The origin of this spicy festive rice preparation is in the city of Dindigul, in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu.To say that I love this dish would be an understatement, when I lived there,I would use every excuse I could find to dine in this restaurant, such was the lure of this delicious dish.

This morning , woke up with a craving to taste this “Thalapakattu Biryani”, alas, no such restaurant in sight, so what’s better ? …recreate the magic in your own kitchen starting from scratch, after all you remember the flavor only too well .

A wee little bit about the history of this dish…Like they say behind every successful man is the big heart of a woman, who downplays her talents to make her man look good, this recipe has a flavor of that generous heart too.Started by a man named Nagasamy Naidu in the city of Dindigul, in 1957,who after trying his hand at various other jobs and not succeeding, decided to start a restaurant with his wife’s delicious cooking of which her Biryani was the masterpiece…the rest as they say is history. Currently, the third generation is running the business successfully with various branches all over the State, with plans to expand Internationally.

What started as “Ananda Vilas Biryani Hotel “in Dindigul, was soon addressed as the “Thalappakattu Biryani Place” to honor the man with the turban/traditional head dress whose vision gave birth to the popularity of this amazing dish from it’s humble beginnings.Needless to say, the aroma of the dish drags you into the restaurant even if you were driving past it.

The secret lies in the rice that is used for this dish called the “Jeeraga Samba” rice, which is supposed to resemble a cumin seed, hence the name “Jeera”(cumin) in its looks & has the amazing quality to imbibe the flavors of the spices it is cooked with, unlike the Basmati rice which has its own flavor and is widely used in preparing festive rice dishes in India.

Jeeraga Samba Rice
Jeeraga Samba Rice

Another striking feature of this dish is that it is cooked with meat from farm raised cattle & poultry, especially in the “Kannivadi” & “Paramathi” areas.
Thought, I’d add a clipping of the making of this dish, the spices, the way the rice is cooked, traditionally for those who have never been to these parts of India….


Chicken Biryani ( Dindigul Thalapakattu)
Chicken Biryani ( Dindigul Thalapakattu)


Recipe by Maya Shetty
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  • 3 tbsp Ghee

  • 2 tbsp Oil

  • 2 1/2 cups Basmati Rice / Jeeraga Samba Rice ( I used Basmati Rice, since I could not find the other here)

  • 1 Bay leaf

  • 1 large Onion – sliced thinly

  • 3 slit Green Chilli –

  • 3 tbsp Ginger Garlic Paste –

  • 2 tsp Red Chilli Powder –

  • 1 tsp Turmeric Powder –

  • 1/2 bunch Coriander Leaves – chopped

  • 1 handful chopped Mint Leaves –

  • 1 cup Thick Coconut Milk –

  • 2 cup Water –

  • Salt to taste

  • For Marinating:
  • 4 large breast pieces – Chicken

  • 1 cup Yogurt/Curds

  • 1 tsp Chilli powder

  • Salt to taste

  • For Biriyani Masala Powder:
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Fennel Seeds / Saunf

  • 2 small stick Cinnamon Stick

  • 4 -5 Cardamom

  • 1 Star Anise

  • 4 -5 Cloves


  • Clean & cut chicken pieces in desired shape & marinate it with yogurt/curds, red chili powder, turmeric powder & salt for half an hour.
  • Meanwhile wash & soak the rice in water & set it aside for half an hour.
  • Next chop the onions fine, mint & cilantro/coriander leaves fine.
  • In a blender blend the masala mix into a fine powder making sure all the spices are ground fine.
  • Warm ghee& oil in a wok, add the finely chopped onions & green chillies, once the raw smell disappears, add the ginger garlic paste & stir, then add the turmeric & chili powder & stir a while.
  • To this add the marinated chicken & allow it to cook in its own steam for the next 10-15 minutes with the lid covered adding enough salt to taste.
  • Transfer the above chicken gravy into a pressure cooker on the stove. Now add a spoon of ghee to the same wok & fry the soaked & drained rice in the ghee for a few minutes before adding it to the chicken gravy in the pressure cooker.
  • To this add the coconut milk, required amount of water to cook the rice, chopped mint & cilantro/coriander leaves, and bay leaf .Stir them all together gently & close the pressure cooker lid with a stopper in place.When you hear the third whistle it’s time to remove the Biryani from the stove, let it sit for a few minutes before you open the lid, serve hot with sweetened yogurt or raitha .Enjoy, the joys of a traditional meal in the confines of your home to travel back in time when you relished this dish . Go on , wear that turban & flaunt your skills .

Some of the links to my published blog post recipes using mint leaves are listed below for your interest :

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4 years ago

Add the tomatoes and mix well, now add salt, turmeric, chilli powder, and coriander powder. Mix everything well.