Monthly Archives: March 2014

How Salli Became An Integral Part Of Parsi Cuisine

Most of the city’s Parsi food-serving Irani restaurants are around Fort, and fried foods and sweets shop Camy Wafers has a sound and solid reputation among them for the quality of their salli, the well-loved, deep-fried and salted juliennes of potato often used in Parsi food. Indeed, Britannia’s 91-year-old Boman Rashid Kohinoor Irani said he only buys his stock for the 91-year-old restaurant’s salli boti, salli kheema, and salli chicken from the Camy Wafers shop on Colaba Causeway. When I visited this outlet, the manager briefly paused in the middle of their frenetic mid-afternoon business to inform me that that they sell about ten kilos of salli a day on average, not counting festive occasions. The biggest buyers are Irani joints and Parsi restaurants, as well as Parsi and Sindhi folk who come from nearby Colaba and from as far as Hughes Road.

A few years ago, I had spent a few weeks in Iran, where, leave aside salli, potatoes barely figure in the cuisine and meals are typically a spread of beautiful leaf-thin “berg” kebabs; barberry-, saffron- and fried onion-laden meaty “polo” (a biryani-like rice dish, related to pilaf and pulao); “fesenjan” or duck cooked in a nutty-tart sauce of walnuts and pomegranate molasses, and the fizzy minty yoghurt drink “ayran”. The Persian influence in Indian Parsi food is evident in the community’s love for meat and their propensity to combine it with dried fruit, as in jardalu salli boti. But the Parsi proclivity to to put these crisp fried potato sticks on their gravied dishes seems to be entirely their own. (We Sindhis eat salli as a snack, sprinkled with red chilles and salt, with our tea, while Maharashtrians make a sweet-salty and very delicious chiwda with them.)

Dalal offered the most plausible explanation for the Parsi love of salli. Potatoes, among other produce, were brought to western India by the Portuguese (via Spanish explorers who brought them from the Andes in South America, where the potato originates) in the early 16th century. The Parsis, being an adaptable and integrative community, adopted some Portuguese ways. Vinegar (“sarka”, part of Parsi pork vindaloo, and many other dishes) and potatoes are Portuguese influences on Parsi food, and have nothing to do with Persia.

It’s still hard to say which ingenious Parsi cook decided to put salli over spicy mince, over chicken and apricots, and under eggs (salli par eeda), but Dalal points out that its explosive crunchiness apart, this textural joy also has a very practical use – during bhonu (meals), it prevents the gravy of the dishes it covers from running all over the patra (banana leaf). Dalal says that to be most effective, salli has to be cut just right – too long and it starts curling. It also needs to be fried just right – the best salli has a definitive snap, and is also very pale, cream in colour, with a flush of gold. Before mandolines and potato-cutting machines came along, all salli was manually made, and it was all tediously hand-cut jaadi (fat) salli. Dalal has memories of going to Golden Wafers on Grant Road as a kid and watching the workers hand squeeze brined potato sticks in a cheesecloth that had gone grey from all that starch.

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A Thousand Years of the Persian Book

A Thousand Years of the Persian Book, Library of Congress Exhibition Opens March 27, 2014

Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA) invites you to visit A Thousand Years of the Persian Book exhibition at the Library of Congress. The exhibition, sponsored by PAAIA and the generous support of other sponsors, will explore the rich literary tradition of the Persian language over the last millennium, from illuminated manuscripts to contemporary publications. The exhibition will bring attention to the literary achievements of Iran and the greater Persian-speaking regions of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Central and South Asia and the Caucasus.
A Thousand Years of the Persian Book will open on Thursday, March 27, 2014 in the South Gallery on the second level of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 E. First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, the exhibition will close onSaturday, Sept. 20, 2014.
The exhibition’s 75 items are drawn primarily from the outstanding Persian collection in the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division. The Library’s Persian collection is among the most important in the world today outside of Iran. The exhibition will look at the Persian language and earlier writing systems and scripts; the seminal 10th-century “Shahnameh” (Book of Kings); and works in the fields of religion, science and technology, history, literature, classical Persian poetry, 18th- and 19th-century literature, modern and contemporary literature, women writers, and storytelling and children’s literature. The exhibition will also demonstrate the continuity of the written word as a unifying cultural force in Persian-speaking lands.
In conjunction with the exhibition, a series of lectures at the Library of Congress will take place from April through September, organized by AMED and cosponsored by the Roshan Institute for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland.
For more information about the exhibition and planned lectures, click here. To view the Library of Congress press release, click here.
Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans
1001 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 745, Washington DC 20036

Dinshaw, Pak’s lone Parsi cricketer, dies in penury

Rusi Dinshaw, the only Parsi to have ever been selected in a Pakistan Test squad, passed away on Monday, and his death has brought into focus the failure of the PCB to look after its former players.

Dinshaw, an 86 year-old man in need of proper care and support, was suffering from schizophrenia.

Dinshaw a stylish left-handed batsman and left arm spinner who was a member of the Pakistan Test squad that first toured India in 1952-53 was reduced to begging at the Karachi Parsi Institute and at some traffic lights in the city before his death.

“It is very sad to hear about the plight of Rusi Dinshaw because while he may not have actually played a Test match but he had the honour of being in Pakistan’s first Test squad and is an important part of Pakistan cricket’s history,” former Test captain Aamir Sohail said.

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