I am very fortunate to work in an office where I am one of about 3 caucasians for around 100 people originating from Asia. Yesterday, we had a pot luck, and one of the dishes was a fantastic chicken biryani. I got to bring home some leftovers! However, there are some ingredients I am trying to identify. Here is a picture of the dish (sorry, it's been cooled and reheated by nature of being leftovers): Chicken Biryani

Now, as one would expect from real Indian food, it was fantastically spicy. Star anise, cardamom, and curry leaves. But there were other things that we can't quite identify.

There was something that seemed like a "glob," I don't know how else to describe it. It was small, about pea-sized. But it was bright pink in color, and had the awesome visual effect of giving sections of the rice a gorgeous magenta-pink color. It also had a light savory flavor.

Next, we have this ingredient: Mystery Ingredient 2

It had a VERY strong, peppery anise flavor, very much like cardamom but significantly stronger. It was about an inch long, almost like a walnut, but a bit smaller. Inside, there were several small pellets. Here is a picture: Mystery spice 3

If anyone can let me know what the pink "glob" was that gave the brilliant color, and what the pod was that gave such a great taste, I'd really appreciate it!

  • Regarding the color, you might find this interesting.
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 11:49
  • What was the texture of the 'glob' thing? Could it have been a dried and reconstituted berry?
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 15:07
  • I've noticed the "pink glob" thing too in the biryani that I ordered from a restaurant. It looked like a bunch of onions + spices had been pressed together into an egg shape. In your case you found it to be pea-sized. I found it to be pigeon egg-sized. I tried crushing it and taking photos (that I've uploaded to my question here: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/96443/… ). It looks more like brownish/red. Is this what your glob looked like too?
    – Mugen
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 6:30
  • Similar question: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/119487/…
    – hb20007
    Commented Mar 31 at 14:11

3 Answers 3


That looks like "Black Cardamom". You can probably find it in an asian grocery. I'm not sure what the pink thing was.

  • 1
    I agree with @steve, definitely black cardamom. I prefer to use it over green. It's possible that the pink thing is a pink peppercorn.
    – GdD
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 9:15
  • 2
    I have often used dry pink peppercorns, and they never gave off any color. Unless they behave radically differently when fresh (and I don't know where they can be sourced fresh), I would try to search for other explanations.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 10:43
  • 2
    It is possible that the OP has assumed a causal relationship between the pink 'blobs' and the pink color, where in fact there is none. Most multicolored rice is achieved via food dye (I was disappointed too!), so the pink blobs may indeed be peppercorns and have nothing to do with the color?
    – jam
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 11:52
  • Thanks so much! After doing some more research you're right, it has to be black cardamom. I think I need to get some for my kitchen! I'm rather disappointed about the food dye, but it did give it a lovely color. C'est la vie!
    – Matthew
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 17:43
  • FWIW, I've never seen that pink/red behavior in Indian food, but my experience is limited to what is available in San Francisco. If you'd like to add some red, you could consider adding some chunks of ripe tomatoes, perhaps tossed in a little ground cumin and coriander.
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 28, 2013 at 3:54

I am unable to comment, hence trying to put my comments here. The color is supposed to be a natural one, (Orange, and NOT pink) but these days people are in a hurry and are pouring food color which is not healthy or doesn't add good flavor. Traditionally the color comes by soaking saffron flowers in medium hot water for a few hours, and pouring it over the rice when its cooked. This, apart from giving a great Orangish color gives brings the saffron flavor.

Yes, its black cardamom. Biriyani gets its flavor from spices. Look at the video here for a traditional Biriyani.

  • I'll accept that saffron broth is used to add an orange color, but that doesn't say much at all about where the pink color comes from.
    – logophobe
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 19:17
  • 1
    The pink color I guess might be because of the (1) pink food color used instead of orange (2) orange food color gets mixed with other ingredients like red chili powder, curd, turmeric, oil, mint etc. has changed color. I don't see any spice that emits the pink color.
    – oneworld
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 19:25
  • 1
    I can confirm that the pink is the color. Me and my roommate tried Biriyani adding artificial colors and the color turned to be pink though we added Orange. See here
    – oneworld
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 3:58
  • 1
    You can get quite a red color from indian-style chili powders (deggi or kashmiri mirch) already, wonder what the point of the food coloring is? I know some of these chili powders are adulterated, but some brands I tried have featured in product tests that scanned for such adulterants and found none - and they still color intensely. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 20:59

That is definitely Black Cardamom as Steve said and the pink color comes for sure from the food dye what they used to color certain parts of the Biriyani. May be this one got nicely settled in that part of the rice where there was the food color (dye) and attained its texture.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.