Mumbai’s Miss Muffets
Some time after sunrise, the call of a bearded vendor in kurtalungi echoes through the treelined alleys of Dadar Parsi Colony. “Paneerwalo,” he hollers, careful not to tip the aluminium handi balancing on his head. Like children drawn to the chime of an icecream cart, residents trickle out to pick up topli ma paneer – little melt-in-the-mouth roundels of cottage cheese spiked with salt to tease the palate.
For Peddar Road resident Aban Pardiwalla, this is a childhood memory. But Dinaz Wadia, 66, a resident of Parsi colony, where she lives with husband Hosi, sees the scene play out in the street below even today. Both, interestingly, accept orders to hand-make the delicacy that’s no longer made in every Parsi home, or available at stores. With a texture akin to that of the Italian panna cotta, topli ma paneer (paneer-in-a-basket) is an integral part of the feast served at Parsi weddings.
Aban, who began home-catering to distract herself after her mother’s death, starts her morning with warming whole fat milk to just the right temperature before a 100 per cent vegetarian enzyme is introduced to curdle it. Once at perfect consistency, the milk is poured into teacups and after it’s allowed to set for a few hours, the jiggly roundels are scooped out, turned into individual wicker baskets (stainless steel strainers in Dinaz’s case) and left to drain for another couple of hours. Imprinted with the characteristic basket-weave pattern by the time they’re ready to eat, the delicate milk patties are then preserved in a bowl of fresh, briny whey.
Aban Pardiwalla, Rs 250 for minimum order of 12 pieces (23526179)
Dinaz Wadia, Rs 300 for minimum order of 24 pieces (9820988656)
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