Hake biryani is a popular fish variation of the traditional South African Indian mutton and chicken biryani. Due to the difference in the meat (fish vs mutton or chicken), the biryani differs slightly in flavour. For convenience, you can use store-bought boxed hake if you cannot source fresh hake. Snoek and baracuda may also be substituted if hake is not easily available. Oily fish like fresh sardines are not well suited for this type of biryani but can be used by reducing the vegetable oil in the recipe.

Please note that this recipe is for the South African Indian, sometimes referred to as Durban Indian, fish biryani and may differ slightly from south Asian versions.


5 fillets of hake (cleaned, washed and cut into halves)
6 grated low-acid tomatoes (also known as jam tomatoes)
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 green chillies (slit)
1 sprig each of thyme, spring onions, curry leaves
4 leaves of mint
2 onions
Oil for shallow frying the fish
1 teaspoon of mixed ginger and garlic paste
1 teaspoon of chilli powder
¼ teaspoon of mixed coriander and cumin powder
A pinch of tumeric powder
¼ teaspoon of mixed curry powder (masala)
2 ½ cups of cooked rice (½ of the rice should remain white whilst the other ½ should be coloured with tumeric powder by simply adding the powder to rice while cooking)
¼ cup of boiled lentils
50g of butter
Fresh coriander for garnishing

Additional spices for marinating the fish
Salt, flour, turmeric, chilli powder, cumin and coriander powder ginger and garlic mixed paste and curry powder


  1. Sprinkle turmeric powder, chilli powder, curry powder, coriander and cumin powder, 1 teaspoon of ginger and garlic and salt on the surface of the hake and rub in well.
  2. Turn each piece of hake and add a sprinkling of salt only.
  3. Dip each piece of fish into flour and fry till golden brown in colour.
  4. Using the same pot after frying, stir in ½ a sliced onion, curry leaves, 2 leaves of mint, thyme, 1 green chilli, spring onions and allow the mixture to simmer.
  5. Add in the coriander and cumin, chilli, turmeric and masala powders as well as the mixed ginger and garlic paste.
  6. Allow the mixture to fry for a few seconds.
  7. Stir in the grated tomatoes, ½ a grated onion and the remainder of the mint leaves.
  8. The mixture should simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the tomato begins to dissolve into a thick gravy which is more of a chutney.
  9. Place the hake into the tomato gravy / chutney.
  10. Set this aside on low heat.
  11. In another pan combine butter and a finely sliced onion.
  12. Fry the onions until it becomes almost transparent in colour.

Setting and Steaming the Biryani

  • Place a little rice at the base of the pot.
  • Pour in the tomato and hake mixture.
  • Over it layer the cooked lentils, freshly chopped coriander (dhania) and some of the fried onions with the different coloured rice. This should be alternating layers.
  • The last layer should be a mix of rice, fried onions, and lentils with a generous helping of chopped coriander.
  • Cover the pot with foil and place it into another larger pot that is partly filled with water. Cover the larger pot with a lid. Allow the breyani to steam for 45 minutes.