Of frilly cutlets and wedding custard

Chef Jamsheed Bhote lays down a true-blue Parsi cuisine at an exclusive food festival on at The Trident

Happy and effusive, Jamsheed Bhote is instantaneously likeable. Quite like the nutmeg flavoured lagan nu custard that he has prepared for the food festival showcasing Parsi cuisine. “It’s a must at our weddings, but a bread butter pudding or caramel custard is a staple dessert at a regular Parsi meal. We are Brits, Iranians, Gujaratis and Bombaywallahs all rolled into one,” he says about the different influences that have shaped Parsi food and habits.

With pride Jamsheed narrates the tales of his community’s migration to India and the culinary journey. He talks of the four boats that brought his ancestors down to the Rann of Kutch, of the initial hesitation of the ‘Rana’, the ruler there and of the Parsi head priest’s appeal for shelter. It is said that the priest asked for two bowls, one of milk and one of sugar and mixed them. The Rana was then asked to extract the sugar from the mix, which he could not. That, pointed out the priest, would be the degree to which the settlers would merge with the indigenous community. And so it was.

The “khatta meeta”, sweet-sour tang, is a Gujarati influence. “Sugar is added either for a first taste or for an aftertaste, but sugar is used in most dishes,” says Jamsheed, who was training in-house chefs at The Trident for the festival that runs through this month.

Parsi food derives its penchant for meats–lamb and poultry–from Iran, but seafood and fish are a coastal influence. “We brought our temple fire carefully over the seas when we migrated and built our first temple at Udwada in Gujarat. We imbibed Gujarati food habits. This was followed by Western influence from the British and the cuisine, which was initially quite tangy, but gradually turned mild. Crumb frying and baking techniques were introduced, bringing in some of the most popular dishes like frilly cutlets and lagan nu custard.

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