Parsi cuisine is as simple as it is complex. It’s a wonderful amalgam of Persian culinary secrets which have been preserved, and passed down generations for over 1,500 years, intrinsically mingling with the flavours of Gujarat (where the Parsis landed) making the blend a truly intoxicating one. But then that did not let the tongues or the minds stop yearning for more, as the Parsis happily borrowed and assimilated tastes and flavours from the Anglo Indians, the Goans and even the Maharastrians.
The other word synonymous with a Parsi could be “foodie” as the Bawa clan is extremely fond of the “parsi-peg” and “chicken-leg!” The Parsi home is known for its penchant for good food and drink, added with the legendary hospitality that the community is famous for.
One of the most important ingredients of a Parsi kitchen is the fun and laughter that adds to the overall bonhomie and the treats that get dished out each day… Eat, drink, live, laugh and be merry.
The Parsis are one of the tiniest communities in the world, totally just 1,38,000 out of which 69,000 are in India. Even Gandhiji had some complimentary words about the Parsis. He is known to have praised the Parsi community of India as “in numbers beneath contempt, but in contribution great.”
Mumbai has the largest number of Parsis residing in one city, though through the entrepreneurship and lust for travel, you will find Parsis in almost every corner of the world and what follows is the famed Dhansak, one of the most popular Parsi dishes, closely tailed by Patra ni macchi, Sali boti and Lagan nu custard. A Parsi can’t do without eggs; it has to be a part of atleast one meal. We Parsis speak a sweeter, softer dialect of Gujarati, which includes quite a special smattering of unique swear words that add such flavour to our very own food and life!
The writer is the chef at SodaBottleOpenerWala.
A proper Bawi who looks the part, Anahita learnt cooking from her mom, who is an excellent Parsi cook and caterer. She grew up with good food and has access to some incredible family recipes — some, more than 200 years old.
PAATRA NI MACCHI
(Fish steamed with fragrant coconut chutney wrapped in banana leaves and steamed)
Silver Pomfret 1 kg
Fresh coconut 250 gm
Coriander (with stem)
Mint 50 gm
Sugar 50 gm
Garlic 50 gm (peeled)
Green chilli 10 gm
Lemon juice 60 ml
Whole cumin (jeera) 5 gm
Ice water to blend
Banana leaves 4
Grate the coconut fine, and keep all other ingredients ready.
Cut the fish into fillets, that are still attached.
Marinate with salt and lemon juice and garlic paste.
Keep for one to two hours.
Blend ingredients for the chutney. Keep aside.
Soften banana leaves on a gas flame, and then cut away the stalk and cut into squares, large enough to wrap the fish pieces.
Once everything is ready, arrange the leaf on a clean surface, apply chutney, place the fish and top with chutney.
Pack the fish parcels with the help of a toothpick or string.
Steam in a rice cooker, or an idli steamer for 15 mins till the fish is cooked.
Serve with onion rings and garnish with lemon.
This can also be served with rice, and is a main course dish.
MITHOO MONU: MAMAIJI NU RAVO
(Sweeten your mouth with my grandmother’s authentic semolina pudding!)
1 cup semolina
1 cup sugar
3-4 tbsps butter or ghee
2 tsps vanilla essence
4 cups milk
Roasted almond slivers
Fried raisins (for a low calorie option, you can use plain raisins too) lA few rose petals (optional)
Sauté the semolina in butter or ghee on a very low flame without browning it, yet it should be cooked.
Warm the milk, just slightly enough as to dissolve the sugar. Keep aside.
Add milk slowly to the semolina, stirring continuously.
Keep stirring on simmer till it starts coating the back of the spoon and becomes thick.
Take off heat and add vanilla essence.
Take out “Ravo” in a pretty glass bowl and garnish with slivered almonds, raisins as much as you like and some rose petals.