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My Mother's Biryani

BY AMAL BUMBIA (staff writer)

in wisps

dense steam rises from the pot

which heats on low flame

of mild blue and thin orange streams


is the aroma,

perfume of soft rice

and warm spice

onions in hot oil

brown alongside fresh ginger and garlic

had we allowed our minds to wander,

to be distracted by the harsh sizzling of the onion

or the chaotic state of our kitchen

knives out

vegetable scraps

chicken defrosting

they would have burned

i open the spice cabinet

garam masala,

chili powder,



others i do not recognize

my mother adds

spoonful after spoonful

into plain yogurt

it flavors

the aromatics

potatoes and chicken

and sweet tomatoes

aalu bukhara

this dull orange paste

they stew together in the pot

basmati rice


starchy water remains

soft in scent

as the rice is brought to a boil

in order to be layered with the chicken masala

red and orange colorings

they garnish the top of the rice

alongside fresh coriander

and dark fried onion

the biryani is complete.

Sharing culturally diverse stories to educate, inspire, and empower others

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