Moti Pilaf – Basmati with edible Pearls


Pilaf / Pulao are flavorful spiced rice and probably few of the easiest dishes to prepare. Depending on what spices and additional ingredients go in there, they can be a treat fit to serve the king. Pulao/Pilaf is usually treated as a main dish in many cuisines and is generally enjoyed with a fresh salad or a side of yoghurt condiment. It can be an everyday meal cooked in a less complicated way with few vegetables or beans, or a lavish one with several components.

If you are willing to deviate a little from the traditional Pilaf recipes, this is for you. Fragrant Basmati rice is interlaced with the caramelized onions and the tender, subtly spiced meatballs.


What Ingredients are Required?

  • Rice: Use the best quality Basmati rice! Wash and soak them in cold water as described in my Basmati Guide.  It is very important to have the grains stay separate for the right texture and look of Pilaf.
  • Minced Meat: Mutton, beef or chicken, or even a mixture of beef and lamb would work. Adding some breadcrumbs and milk to the minced meat ensures soft and juicy meatballs.
  • Spices: Some whole spices like green and black cardamom, cumin, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper corns, bay leaves for an aromatic stock. And some ground spices to add more flavor to the rice and meatballs. 
  • Onions for the beautiful golden brown color of the rice. How dark, light or even you caramelize your onions decides the final brown shade your rice will yield in the end.
  • Ginger, garlic and green chili for taste and fragrance. 
  • Edible garnishes: silver leaves, sesame seeds, dried herbs like parsley and/or dried berries or mild spices to coat the meatballs. Remember, the eyes eat first! A colorful Pilaf definitely looks more inviting and pleasing to eyes than a simple one.

Is It a Difficult Recipe?

Don’t let the long list of ingredients and procedure intimidate you! This dish is really easy to make.

The koftas and stock can be made ahead of time or even the day before. Also the carrots can be caramelized a day before so in the end it becomes more like a one pot meal that can be thrown together in no time.

What Steps are Involved?

  • Preparing the stock: with soup bones, water and spices. Adding a carrot, onion, ginger and garlic enriches the flavor. You can use ready made bouillon cubes too to save time.
  • Koftas: can be made several days ahead of time and stored in the freezer. Make sure you roll them into smooth crack-free balls that dont break while frying. The best way to do that is dipping your hands in water before rolling each meatball.
  • Caramelizing the carrots: takes few minutes but these too can be prepared ahead of time and kept in refrigerator. 


Are You Making This Moti Pilaf?

Do watch the step by step video instructions in my Instagram Highlights. I hope you will love this recipe as much as I do and will come back to leave me a comment.

Looking For More Rice Ideas? Try These Delicious Recipes From Chef on Rhine:

Shahi Moti Pilaf

Fatima Sadal - Chef on Rhine
A delectable Basmati rice pilaf with soft, pan-fried meatballs decorated with edible silver and colorful garnishes.
Servings 6



  • 500 g beef /mutton mince
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 2 green chili minced
  • 1 medium onion minced
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 1/3 cup oil for frying


  • 1/2 kg soup bones
  • 1 medium onion halved
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp ginger slices
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 3 black cardamoms
  • 3 green cardamoms
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 tsp black pepper corns
  • 2 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1500 ml water


  • 600 g basmati rice washed and soaked in cold water for 30 min
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 medium onion thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 Tbsp garam masala powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp crushed black pepper


  • caramalized carrots optional
  • edible silver leaves
  • dried bright green herbs e.g. parsley
  • sesame seeds
  • dried red berries optional


Prepare the Stock:

  • Take all ingredients listed under `stock` and allow to boil on medium heat until nearly 1 litre liquid is left. Discard the bones and other stuff and keep the stock.

Prepare the Meatballs:

  • In a small food processor, mince onion, green chili, ginger and garlic.
  • Add in to the minced meat.
  • Add the spices, breadcrumbs and milk.
  • Combine everything thoroughly.
  • Make 30 small balls. Dip your hands in water to avoid stickiness and make sure there are no cracks and the meatballs have a smooth surface.
  • Take oil in a non stick frying pan.
  • Fry the meatballs on medium heat. Don't brown! And don't overcook!
  • Take out half of the meatballs in a plate and keep the rest in the frying pan along with the oil.

Cook Rice:

  • Take oil in a big, wide bottomed cooking pot.
  • Fry onions in it until light golden.
  • Add cumin seeds and garam masala.
  • Add in one litre stock and bring to a boil.
  • Carefully add the soaked rice, crushed black pepper and the meatballs from the pan.
  • Also add the entire fat in which the meatballs were prepared.
  • Bring to a boil, adjust the salt and then reduce the heat to medium.
  • Cook until most water has evaporated and rice is 95 % cooked.
  • Cover the pan tightly and allow the rice to steam for another 15 min.

Decorate the Pearls:

  • Carefully roll some meatballs in edible silver leaves.
  • Coat a few with dried parsley, sesame seeds, dried rose petals etc.
  • Dish out the rice in a serving platter and place the colorful pearls on top.

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