Parsi winter warmer – Vasanu

Meet the makers of vasanu, a Parsi speciality that takes 30 ingredients and calves of steel, and promises to energise the immune system.The first of a series on little-known community sweets
Not even Google, in its infinite wisdom, can spell out what precisely goes into vasanu, an exotic Parsi fudge. We hear its ingredients -chaar jaatna magaz, baval nu goonder, cummar kakri, jabar jas and karlu batrisu -tease the tongue just as does its potent blend of flavours. Prepared exclusively when the mercury drops, the sweet-spicy “Parsi equivalent of Chyavanprash,“ vasanu is a herbal recipe that fortifies the immune system and energises it, Parsis will tell you. Now of course, most families have long since traded in the tedium of preparing it for the luxury of ordering in.
Click Here for the full story

Know your batasas

287, Dukargully, Dhobi Talao (presently Dr. C. H. Street).

When customers at the Paris Bakery ask about the price of a packet of batasa biscuits, Paris’ proprietor Danesh Nejadkay offers them a sample instead. ‘Once you taste, you are trapped,’ Nejadkay insists. Indeed Paris’ Maska Batasas are the tastiest dollops of butter (with a hint of jeera cumin) in town.

Nejadkay shares some batasa wisdom with us- Bite into a batasa don’t break it, offer or accept it with your right hand, soak it in a cup of tea for a minute or two, let it ‘blow up’ and then have it with a spoon.


Courtesy : Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman of Secunderabad and Hyderabad

Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu


Home-style Parsi food, like your friend Dhun’s mummy used to make it.

There’s a sudden flood of appreciation for Parsi food in Delhi, and I’m not at all surprised. With its abundance of meaty fare, decadent curries, and fried potatoes, there’s no easier cuisine for the meat-loving North to get stuck into. But this isn’t the food of Bombay’s Irani cafés. Nope, Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu is going where no Parsi restaurant has gone before: straight into the home recipes of the Parsi community.

Run by former food writer Kainaz Contractor, and partner Rahul Dua (of Café Lota fame), this tiny twenty-seat restaurant in Adhchini is primarily aimed at home deliveries, and if our first sampling of their menu was any indication, they’ll be doing roaring trade once the full menu’s in effect.

Contractor’s dipped into her own family’s repertoire to put together the menu, supplemented by other Best Of’s from friends and family, and there’s more than just dhansak on the menu, thank heavens. Personally, that meat-and-lentil stew’s always been my least favourite, paling in comparison to things like prawn patio, with its tangy tomato gravy (Rustom’s excellent version is Rs 495, and comes with yellow dal and rice), or the rich jardaloo marghiu ma salli, with ghee-fried apricots and topping of crisp, fried potato straws (Rs 395).

The kheema pattice (Rs 298) come in a pair, are ginormous, and divine. With mutton mince encased in potato, topped with egg and fried, there’s not much that can go wrong here, but Rustom’s version is so, so right that I’d be tempted to just order multiple rounds and make them my meal. They’re a little reminiscent of the ‘chops’ served in Bengali homes, but just…better. Classicists never fear, there is dhansak, and you can choose between the trad mutton (Rs 495) or even give a veggie version a spin, with spiced aubergine kababs (Rs 395). Definitely order the malai na paratha (Rs 80) to mop it all up; they’re unbelievably pliant and, when wrapped around one of those keema pattice, make one of the best rolls I’ve ever had.

Work’s still underway on the restaurant, so the kitchen is currently operating only for deliveries. We’re told that a longer menu will emerge once the place opens, but until then, their current list encompasses all that is good about Parsi home-cooking, and is on the menu for dinner tonight.

Taste of India set to spread roots and flavor in China

You could call it a gut feeling. It was certainly a taste for adventure. Mehernosh Pastakia was sitting down at a well-adorned table at his restaurant in the China Overseas Plaza in Jianguomen Wai Avenue, one of three in Beijing, recalling his decision to come to China in 1991.

A business venture in India had failed to get off the ground, but the then-24-year-old from Mumbai was undeterred and determined to prove he had the ability, and a menu, for success.

“I was disappointed at that time, so I said I will work abroad, and then go back and start again,” Pastakia said.



Mehernosh Pastakia (middle), owner of the Taj Pavilion, poses with his wife Zheng Xiaowen and son Kershasp. Pastakia opened his first Taj in 1998 which is now a firm favorite for diners among the approximately 20 Indian restaurants in Beijing. Provided to China Daily

All went according to plan, except for the return.

His Taj Pavilion, which regularly hosts visiting Indian politicians and business people while providing a taste of India for anyone residing in Beijing, has seen its customer numbers increase annually.

Pastakia has seen the proportion of Chinese customers grow from a modest 10 percent of the total initially to about 50 percent now.

His first Taj opened in 1998, and is a firm favorite for diners among the approximately 20 Indian restaurants in Beijing.

He is quick to point out that his Chinese wife played a pivotal role in his success.

“My wife is my backbone; she is the one who takes care of all the back office stuff while I take care of business at the front of the house,” he said.

Pastakia met his wife Zheng Xiaowen soon after he arrived in Beijing and started to work as the manager of an Indian restaurant. She was then preparing for an English test in Beijing and working at the restaurant as a part-time accountant.

Zheng readily admits her motives were not romantic when she struck up conversation with the new arrival.

Cultural advantage

“At that time, there were only a few foreigners in Beijing, and there weren’t many Chinese who could speak English. I thought it was a good opportunity to practice spoken English for my exams, so we talked a lot,” Zheng said.

Pastakia and Zheng became close friends and then realized the spice of romance was in the air. Six years after meeting, they got married.

A year later, they opened the first Taj Pavilion in Beijing’s central business district.

The couple spend most of their time operating the restaurants and plan to open more “if there is a good opportunity”, Pastakia said.

Pastakia speaks Mandarin and understands the business and cultural advantage that it offers.

“If a Chinese guest comes in and you talk Chinese to them, they feel more at home, more relaxed,” he said.

But back in the 1990s, cultural differences and Pastakia’s few Mandarin phrases meant that Zheng’s relatives did not immediately take to him.

In India, a guest eats the full amount on the plate to show respect to the host. In China, one should leave a small amount on the plate to show that you have eaten as much as you can.

“When I found I liked one of the dishes, I just kept eating, because I wanted them to be happy,” Pastakia said. The more he ate the bigger trouble he was in.

However, both Pastakia and Zheng believed that culture, once the eating difficulty was overcome, actually brought them closer together.

“China and India both have cultures that value family ties,” Pastakia said.

Zheng, a Buddhist, also has a deep knowledge and appreciation of India’s culture.

The couple have a 14-year-old son, Kershasp, who was born and brought up in China, and Pastakia believes that his son will benefit immensely from the combination of the two cultures.

“He has the best of two countries in the world to draw on when he grows up,” he said.

Real thing

It is rare for the family to cook at home, but if they do, Chinese cuisine, prepared by Zheng, appears most of the time.

Like most foreigners, Pastakia’s favorite Chinese dish is kung-pao chicken, while his wife, a vegetarian, likes the lentil-based Indian dish, maaki dal.

Taj Pavilion customers tend to opt for the butter chicken, priced at 78 yuan ($12.50). This dish, coincidentally, is also one of the most popular Indian dishes globally.

Authenticity will never be sacrificed for more profit, Pastakia said, and the size of the restaurants allows the delicate flavors of Indian food to come through.

“It is better to get the real thing rather than a version, otherwise you will never know what is the real thing,” he said.

Many shops in Beijing are now selling the ingredients, but when he started up they had to be imported.

During the interview, Tang Lu, a Chinese journalist who is going to work in India was having a farewell lunch with her colleagues.

“Have the dinner today and you will know exactly the best kind of Indian food I’m going to have there,” she told them.

Despite the booming business, Pastakia is quite cautious about expansion plans.

“If you see the history of our restaurants, we wait at least five years before opening a new restaurant,” he said. “The difficult part is not opening it but running it. It takes time for a restaurant to settle down.”

With Indian cuisine growing ever more popular, potential customers may ask him to reconsider the five-year plan.


Sali Boti with a twist

Chef Gautam Mehrishi tells us why Salli Kheema, his variation of Salli Boti, the popular Parsi delicacy, is his favourite dish.
It all began with a challenge. “Once a Parsi friend challenged me to cook something from their cuisine with a twist yet retain the authenticity of the dish,” recalls Gautam Mehrishi, executive chef,Sun n Sand hotel.

Salli-KheemaChef Gautam Mehrishi

Chef Gautam MehrishiHe made a Salli Kheema, by tweaking the dish Salli Boti. “I replaced the chunks of meat in Salli Boti with minced meat  (Kheema) so that it could go really well with the crispiness of the potatoes,” explains the chef.

“The dish impressed my Parsi friend and his family, which I guess is a great achievement as they are known to love perfection in everything,”he adds. “The beauty of a Salli Kheema is that the dish can be had as a snack, a breakfast item with pav and as a main with parantha. So, I can actually relish my favourite dish any time of the day!” says the chef.

Salli Kheema

For Salli
>> 2-3 potatoes
>> Oil for frying

For Kheema

>> 2 tbsp desi ghee
>> 2 whole dry red chillies
>> 1 tsp cumin seeds
>> 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
>> ¼ tbsp red chilli powder
>> ¼ tbsp turmeric powder
>> 1 cup finely chopped onion
>> 1 tbsp sugar
>> 1 medium deseeded finely chopped tomato
>> ½ kg kheema (minced meat)
>>2 tsp vinegar
>> 3 tsp Worcestershire sauce
>> Salt to taste

For garnish
>> Coriander leaves
>> 1 dry red chilliMethod
>> Slice the peeled potatoes and deep-fry them to prepare salli
>> Heat desi ghee (clarified butter) in another pan
>> Fry dry red chillies, cumin seeds, ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder. Add onion in it
>> Now add sugar and tomato in it to cook for 4 to 5 minutes
>> After the mixture is cooked, add kheema and water and cook it further for another 5 to 7minutes.
>> Now add vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and water in it and cook for 15 to 18 mins
>> Keep the prepared kheema in the cutter ring and top it with the prepared salli
>> Garnish the prepared kheema with coriander leaves and a whole red chilli

8 Places To Shop Like A Parsi

5705653602_e7246c7308_zAlways wanted to visit those secret Parsi shops and shop like one? Here’s a list of stores across the city that sell everything right from batasas and bhakras to malido and methya nu achaar.

Ratan Tata Institute (RTI), Bandra West
Toss a stone in South Mumbai and in all likeliness, it’ll hit an RTI outlet. There are outlets on Turner Road, Colaba’s gracious Holland House, Flora Fountain, Dadar and Hughes Road. You’ll even find one tucked away amidst Parsi General Hospital’s vast, verdant compound: it doubles as a cafeteria for visiting relatives and friends. The shelves at RTI are lined with snacks loved by Parsis – crisp Macrooms (Rs 129 per 85gms), Badam Pak(Rs 225 per 250 gms), and coconut-soaked Chaapat or pancakes (Rs 23 per pancake).

kulfi (14)
Parsi Dairy Farm, Kalbadevi
On Princess Street reins dairy queen, Parsi Dairy Farm. The milkmen in their unmistakeable blue uniforms bustle around behind the counter, offering customers a taste of everything from Mawa Ni Boi(Rs 200 per boi) delightful fish-shaped sweet made of mawa, to flavoured kulfis like pista, mango, chocolate (Rs 52 per kulfi). PDF is also the only place to stock white unsalted butter (Rs 110 for 150gms).

Paris Bakery, Marine Lines
The convivial staff at Paris Bakery presses Batasas (Rs 100 for 250gms) and Khari Biscuits (Rs 100 for 250gms) into your hands, coaxing you to try them. The batasas are buttery and speckled with jeera and the flaky khari collapses into your hands. As soon as you take a bite, you’ll know they’re worth the hype.

Paris Bakery 278, Dr. Cawasji Hormusji Street, Navajeevan Wadi, Marine Lines, 2208 6619

Also Read: What Parsis Eat In Winters?

dink ladoo
R N Kerawalla & Co., Marine Lines
The crowd at Kerawalla may be thin today but its old world charm still attracts many customers. Established in 1887, the store once sold a litany of everything from sapaat (slippers) to agarbattis and silverware. But the sands of time shifted and today, not only does it stack day to day items, but also all manner of food like Dar Ni Pori – fat flat-breads stuffed with sweet lentil mix, (Rs 75 per pori)andKhaman Na Ladoo – sweet, coconut laddoos available on order. (Rs 40).

R N Kerawalla & Co Dr. Cawasji Hormusji Street, Marine Lines: 22061343/ 65767601

Parsi Amelioration Committee (PAC), Tardeo
In bustling Nana Chowk lies tiny PAC (Parsi Amelioration Committee), facing the busy road with determination. All through the year, the counters are heaped with PAC’s unctuous Non-veg Samosas (Rs 15); Crust Chicken Pattice (Rs 30); dense, nutty, spice-laced Kumas Cake (Rs 25) and crumbly biscuity Bhakras (Rs 70/12).

PAC: Shastri Hall, Shop No.3, Ground Floor, opposite Adenwala Bungalow, across Bhatia Hospital, Tardeo : 2386 5868.

Belgaum Ghee Depot, Grant Road
Although everyone flocks to Belgaum Ghee Depot, the store owners clearly hold a soft spot for the Parsis. Come here for the cheap and delicious Kohra (pumpkin) Murabba(Rs 55 for 250gms) and Surti Sutarfeni – sweet, flaky, shredded dough (Rs 80 for 250gms). Sometimes, you may catch a stray piece of paper taped to the glass shelves, advertising the day’s special, Patrel – sautéed rolls made of colocasia leaves for instance, which is very similar to the Gujarati patra.

Belgaum Ghee Depot N Bharucha Marg, Nana Chowk, Grant Rd – 23887746 / 2382 0837

Motilal Masalawala, Grant Road
Motilal Masalawala has been currying favour with Parsis for more than a century. Crammed into the small shop is everything from Parsi Dhansak Masala (Rs 200 for 500gms), Parsi Sambhar Masala (Rs 40 for 100gms) and Parsi Dhana Jeera (Rs 400 for a kg), to Kolah’s Methya Nu Achar – piquant mango pickle (Rs 100), Surti Levro – clove-infused sugar, encrusted in til (Rs 200 for a kg) and Pune ni Biscuit (Rs 240 for a kg).

Dadar Parsee Youths’ Assembly Snacks Centre, Dadar West
Line up at Dadar Parsee Youths’ Assembly Snacks Centre for Malido (Rs 85 for 250gms) – a fudgy confection similar to Bohri malido,. It is a mixture of flour, semolina, milk, nuts and spices, eaten on auspicious occasions and Mawa Ni Ghari (Rs 85 for 250gms) – round, mawa sweetmeat.

Dadar Parsi Youth Assembly, Perviz Hall, 800 Jame Jamshed Road, Parsi Colony, Dadar (West): 2412 9437.

So the next time you have a hankering for Parsi bhonu, turn away from the regulars and try one of these dishes instead.

Cyrus Todiwala opens his first restaurant in India

Chef Cyrus Todiwala has opened his first restaurant in India, at the Acron Waterfront Resort in Goa, on the banks of the Baga river.

Called the River restaurant, the 60-seater site is run on a day-to-day basis by executive chef Mark Smith, who has been working closely with Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala in the development of dishes that make full use of Goa’s fresh produce. India’s smallest state, Goa is particularly the renowned for its abundant seafood, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Cyrus Todiwala said: “I spent eight formative years in Goa, so The River Restaurant marks a homecoming for me. Before I came here as executive chef of the Taj properties, I was mostly enamoured of classical French and other European cuisines.

“It was my need to learn more about Goan food to meet the demands of our guests then that led me into a deeper exploration of what Indian food is all about. Goa today is evolving into India’s culinary hub. I hope that this new restaurant enables me to bring to Goa the food innovations I either developed or absorbed as a chef working in Britain, while raising the profile of Goan food in the eyes of the rest of the world. It is still early days and we are treading carefully and will be evolving ourselves, but in time we hope The River Restaurant will be considered a true bastion of fine cuisine in Goa.”

Click Here to read more


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,133 other followers