Biryani is one of the most celebrated rice dishes in India. For Diwali, when the food is predominantly vegetarian, this completely plant-based version starring potatoes is front and center at my house for the holiday. It’s a vibrant recipe steeped in tradition and color, while accessible to everyone. Our biryani is a top seller at Desi Galli in New York City, where guests love its versatility and abundance of flavors.
Combine the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, peppercorns, green cardamom pods, cloves, black cardamom pod and cinnamon stick in a small skillet. Toast, stirring, over low heat until fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Grind in a spice grinder to a fine powder and set aside.
Heat 4 inches of mustard oil in a Dutch oven to 325 degrees F on a deep-fry thermometer. Meanwhile, pierce the potatoes all over with a fork or sharp knife then pat them dry thoroughly. Working in two batches, add the potatoes to the hot oil and deep-fry until 70 percent cooked (tender on the outside but only partially cooked inside). Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool.
Meanwhile, combine the Kashmiri red chili powder with 1 cup water in a small bowl. Combine the oat milk and saffron in another small bowl. Set both bowls aside for 15 minutes.
Combine the yogurt and ground ginger in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside.
Heat the 2 tablespoons mustard oil in a deep cast-iron pot over medium heat until smoking. Add the caraway seeds, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the turmeric, hing and spice mix and stir well. Slowly stir in the Kashmiri chili water and lemon juice and cook until combined, 30 seconds. Lower the heat, gently add the yogurt mixture and whisk slowly and continuously. Add the potatoes, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are completely cooked, 5 to 7 minutes. Cover and bake for 20 minutes.
Top the potato mixture with the par-cooked rice in a single thin layer. Pour the saffron mixture on top. Cover and cook over low heat, steaming the rice until fully cooked, about 20 minutes. Garnish with the fried onions and mint leaves.
Wash the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. Soak in cold water in a large clear bowl for 20 minutes, then drain.
Meanwhile, add the oil to a Dutch oven and heat over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes; add the green cardamom pods, cloves, star anise, bay leaf, cinnamon and caraway seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until the oil is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Bring 8 cups water to a rolling boil in a large pot over high heat and add the salt. Add the rice, stir and cook until some of the rice starts floating to the top, 8 to 10 minutes. Use a strainer to remove the rice to a rimmed baking sheet; spread into an even layer and let cool. Makes about 3 cups.
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