Food Trails – Perzen’s Paradise
Her unbridled love for food, passion for her lineage and enthusiasm to share anecdotes only a Parsi can ever tell you over a meal, led Perzen Patel to set up the food-centred Bawi Bride
Perzen Patel’s story recalls bits and pieces of the acclaimed movie, Julie & Julia, where a young, married city girl takes up a unique cooking challenge and blogs about it. The 28-year-old founder and ‘chief tasting officer’ of Bawi Bride recounts her journey to every Parsi’s paradise.
Tell us about your journey with food…
Eating food and feeding food runs in my DNA. My maternal grandmother, whom I loving called mamaiji, ran a Parsi dabba service before I was born. At the age of 15, I knew I wanted to do something in life related to food, so we moved to New Zealand for nine years, where I studied hospitality and marketing and when my mom sold kebabs and pattice.
I came to be known as the ‘continental chef’—someone eager to whip up dips, pastas and baked dishes—so much so that for my wedding lunch, rather than having the traditional Dhandar Patio, my parents requested I cook nachos.
From ‘continental chef’ to ‘Bawi Bride’, how did you traverse that phase?
Six months into getting married and moving to Mumbai, I realised I’d have to learn some Parsi cooking. Especially since I had married a blue-blood Parsi, who loved his Dhansak and Patra ni Machchi.
I was always on secret calls to mom in New Zealand at midnight! I found barely any trusted resources online to learn Parsi food. Given the rate at which Irani cafes are dying out, I worried that soon the history and stories behind Parsi food would be lost, if nobody did anything about it.
So, Bawi Bride started as an attempt to document my quest into mastering Parsi food and restoring it back to its former glory. I coined the term to fit my lineage and my status as a ‘newly minted bride’. A month into the journey, #BawaGroom and my readers convinced me that simply writing about Parsi food wasn’t enough and that I should start feeding it to others too. So I started with weekend special menus, which grew to a full catering menu. Later in 2014, we hosted our fist pop-up experience.
What are the services Bawi Bride is best known for?
Bawi Bride has grown into a full-fledged business! I cater for anywhere between four to 70 people, plan Parsi pop-ups at my almost-century old Mumbai home, conduct personalised one-on-one cooking classes, and offer daily Parsi meal service (where no single dish is repeated within a month!).
Do you try your mother and grandmother’s recipes?
Most of these recipes are theirs but I trust Katy Dalal’s Jamva Chaloji and my newest favourite is Time and Talent Millennium, a compilation of over 300 Parsi and ‘continental’ recipes cooked by Parsis that were originally contributed at a book club.
What are the challenges you’ve faced?
Well, I am not a professionally trained chef, so, everything I’ve learned is trial and error. But that’s also been a lot of fun and has resulted in many great innovations—the Lagan nu Custard ice cream was a result of an overdone custard while the Sali Boti Pizza came from having no idea about appetites and making about two extra kilograms of the dish.
And your successes…
I wouldn’t say there’s any one single success story because I enjoy each day in the kitchen. If I had to pick one, it would be the look in the eyes of my guests, when they have their first bite of a Dhansak—that makes it all worth it.
What’s next on your to-do list?
Hopefully further exploring the Quick Service Restaurant space, investing more into operations and being able to host Parsi pop-up experiences in other cities besides Mumbai.
What are your favourite Parsi foods?
I love cooking, eating and feeding my mamaiji’s Prawn Curry Rice, Dhandar and Lagan no Patio, Boomla’s (Bombay Ducks) and my grandpa’s Kheema Kebabs.
Best advice you’ve ever got?
Don’t cook when you’re upset.
Is there one golden rule that you never break when cooking?
I follow a recipe to the T the first time I try it. Of course you’re going to amend it as you go along, but it’s important that the first time, I understand the vision and stay true to the chef who developed the recipe.
Your biggest influences?
My mom and my mamaiji have greatly influenced me. My paternal grandfather taught me how to buy the best fish and that it’s okay to travel a distance to get good produce and ingredients.
Parsi cuisine is heavily influenced by the foods of Iran and Gujarat, both places where the community has lived in for over 800 years. Their love for mutton and dry fruits comes from their Iranian lineage, while liking fish and everything sweet yet sour at the same time, comes from living in Gujarat, so close to the coast.
If you’re looking for a hearty meal, the best place for one will always be at someone’s house. Patel suggests Kyani for breakfast and snacks. For lunch, Ideal Corner or check out the Bawi Bride Kitchen.
Get in touch with Bawi Bride: