It's a blend of whole spices lightly roasted and powdered. Used specifically for biryani's, the masala powder adds not only flavour but the faint aroma that's required in a perfect biryani.
The blend is similar to garam masala which means "hot spices". It is not spicy but can add pungency or over flavour a particular dish when not used in the right proportions.
Various manufacturers sell biryani masala powder with the "secret ingredient" which makes it different from the others.
The important thing is to get the balance of spices right- each spice which includes aromatic spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, fennel seeds, staranise etc.
To make biryani masala powder at home, follow this easy recipe:
Dry roast each spice sperately on a moderately medium flame till the spice gives faint aroma- cardamom (10 nos), cinnamon (3 inch stick), nutmeg (1 no), cloves (10 to 12 nos), bayleaf (2 nos), fennel seeds (1 ½ tsp), peppercorn (6 to 8), shahjeera/caraway seeds (1 ½ tbsp), mace (5 to 8), staranise (2 small). Cool and powder. Store in a air tight container and use as required.
How to select
If making fresh masala at home, ensure that you check each spice for freshness before roasting them. If purchasing from variety of brands, ensure that you check the packaging, manufacturing and expiry date etc.
The basic use is to flavour succulent veg and non veg biryanis.
Combine with lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil and use as a marinade for meats, cottage cheese etc.
Instead of using nutmeg or cinnamon in carrot cakes or muffins, you can use a dash of this masala powder.
You can also replace this with garam masala in case you want to flavour curries.
How to store
Store in an air tight container away from moisture. Ensure that you don't use a wet spoon while using the powder.