Food is integral in a Parsi home, be it at festivals, as part of tradition or enjoying a leisurely, lavish spread. All three elements come together this Sunday, when Zoroastrians celebrate their New Year, Navroz. The GUIDE caught up with Jeroo Mehta, expert in Parsi cuisine, to take us through its intricacies and uniqueness

According to Mehta, on festive occasions like Navroz (this year on Sunday, August 18), birthdays and anniversaries, a typical Parsi menu would include a fish dish like Crispy-Brown Fried Fish or Luganno Sas (Fish in Spicy White Sauce), Khari Murghi-ma Sali (Chicken with Potato Straws), Meat Pilau with Masala Dal (Dhansak Dal without meat), or Dhan Dal and Kolimino Patio (Prawn Patio). The meal would end with a dessert of Sev with Sweet Curd, or Ravo.

Nuts over food
Over the centuries since the first Zoroastrians arrived in India, Parsis have integrated themselves into Indian society while simultaneously maintaining or developing their own distinct customs and traditions. “The use of dry fruits, liberally sprinkled over desserts and other dishes, and saffron, are a Persian influence,” says Mehta.

“Almonds, pistachios, kismis, walnuts, cashew, etc enhance Parsi cuisine. Figs, pomegranates (symbol of fertility), plums and apricots are used with abandon and decorate special dishes for celebrations during festivals and on any happy occasion.

Although a lot of our cooking reflects the Persian influence, which followed us to India 13 centuries ago, Parsi cuisine has adopted many ingredients that are used by other communities in India,” she reasserts. Thus Milky Falooda (traditionally served at Navroz), coconut milk in cooking and many other flavours and spices of the varied and individual cuisines of India have become part of Parsi cuisine.

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