Navroze Mubarak to all our readers! Today’s post has to do with Parsi cuisine as today is the Parsi New Year, and because food is so very important to us Parsis (and also upon the suggestions of our readers and commentators).
Jamva Chaljo Ji
The eyes of the guests at a Parsi wedding or Navjote (an initiation ceremony into the Zoroastrian faith) collectively light up when the much awaited pronouncement of Jamva Chaljo Ji (loosely translated as “come get the grub folks”) is made.
To give you an idea about how important food is to the average Parsi, ask a Parsi about a Parsi wedding they just attended. Chances are, they will be rather foggy about what the bride wore or how handsome the groom looked or what the flower decoration was like.
However they will likely give you a blow by blow account of the food: if the akuri was sufficiently festooned with dry fruit, if the Sali-boti was too runny, whether the Marghi na Farcha were frilly enough, if the Patra ni machchi was Pomfret or some other unmentionable fish variety, whether the Pulav-dal passed muster and if the lagan-nu-custard was the optimal colour and consistency. Oh and it also matters how good the booze was and whether or not Duke’s Raspberry Soda was on offer along with the meal.
Excuse us – We are Non-Vegetarian
Parsi cuisine is influenced by a lot of different cuisines – Iranian, Gujarati, British – but in the end it is unique and unlike any other. For instance there is our habit of putting meat into pretty much everything, so that we have unlikely dishes such as bottle gourd (lauki) cooked with meat, meat cooked along with palak, methi and peas (our much loved bhaji dana ma gos), bhindi with meat, kheema (mince) with peas and potatoes and many other strange and wondrous concoctions.
Then there is the Parsi fondness for eggs. Breakfast is incomplete without eggs; and there many other bizarre egg-veggie combinations such as bheeda par eedu (eggs on okra) or bhaji par eedu (eggs on mixed leafy greens) and do on. Parsis are also very inventive with organ meat: aleti paleti, bheja cutlet, khurchan…. The list goes on.
Probably the best known Parsi dish is Dhansak – you can reliably find it cooked in any Parsi home on a Sunday afternoon – Dhansak is typically preceded by the consumption of a mandatory beer and followed by a mandatory nap – you know because you ate so much and cannot keep your eyes open. Dhansak consists of several different dals and certain vegetables cooked along with malasas and what else? Meat! This is then served on a bed of caramelised rice along with mince kababs, kachoober and slices of lime. And just in case you expect dhansak at a parsi wedding or feast, don’t. Dhansak is traditionally served on the 4th day (charum) of someone having passed away – it is popular but not exactly auspicious. Far better to crash a Parsi house on a Sunday.
The Parsi Restaurant – A Mumbai Speciality
Mumbai has a population of over a crore with a tiny proportion of Parsis numbering about 45,000, a tiny minority that is however a very visible and vocal one. Mumbai is the place where you can reliably find Parsi restaurants and the authentic Iranian café – Pune, Ahmedabad and Bangalore are some other cities where you will find good Parsi food.
Some well known and popular Parsi Cuisine restaurants in Mumbai are Britannia at Ballard Estate, Jimmy Boy, Wayside Inn, Café Military, Café Mocambo, Ideal Corner, Picolo, Ripon Club in the Fort area, Jumjoji at Bandra. And if it is snacks that you look for: various Parsi cutlets (including bheja culet), kebab, farcha, mini meals, sandwiches and so on, you can head to Grub Corner or Roshni, both near Flora Fountain from where innumerable lunches emanated during my lawyer days.
Dorabjees in Pune deserves special mention as being an excellent Parsi restaurant and caterer. Zamu’s Place in Pune is also known for serving great Parsi food. Blue Nile, also in Pune does Parsi food too. In Ahmedabad there is Goodies near IIM that also serves some good Parsi stuff. Places in Bangalore that do Parsi food are Daddy’s Deli, Juke Box and Ebony.
This is a far-from-exhaustive list; it only has recommendations based on personal experiences and those of friends. Readers are welcome to contribute any information about Parsi food or restaurants that serve Parsi food.
By – Reena Daruwalla
‘Dhansak Image credit: Peri’s Spice Ladle
Some Resources On Parsi Cuisine:
A tried and tested recipe book of Parsi cuisine is Jamva Chaloji by Katy Dalal
A Facebook Group devoted to Parsi food is a good place to go if you want to know more about Parsi food or want some recipes.