On the eve of Navroze, Meher Mirza cherry picks her way through a bunch of caterers who specialise in Parsi food
Jamshed Navroz, a holy day for Zoroastrians will be observed on March 21. It’s the perfect time to throw a party to celebrate for your Parsi friends. And although there’s something wonderful about pottering about in the kitchen, clanging pots and pans, creating a feast of food for friends, sometimes, you just can’t. Luckily, there’s an army of caterers at your disposal, chopping and churning in their kitchens to bring you a wealth of delicious dishes. Here, though, I’ve listed a few home caterers of Parsi food, caterers that my family and friends have often ordered from. (This is, by no means, an exhaustive list; there are plenty of other excellent purveyors of Parsi food such as Godiwala’s, Katy’s Kitchen and Bawi Bride).
Flavoursome menu – Aban Pardiwala
Well-known for making the plump, salty, whey-submerged, topli na paneer. “Parsi paneer has really caught on with the non-Parsi population,” she smiles. Along with the paneer, she also offers a comprehensive Parsi party food menu with the usual Parsi party staples — think sali boti, chicken farcha, lagan nu fish saas, kid gosh and the wintry Parsi dish, kharias (trotters). “I love Parsi food because it is flavoursome. Italian food, with a drizzle of this and a drizzle of that, I don’t like at all. I am quite a Bbawaji that way,” she laughs.
Pardiwala offers a few Continental dishes (such as aspic jelly salad and pork chops in orange sauce), chocolates, pickles, and sweets (ravo, caramel custard, cheesecakes). But it’s her ready masala packets that are flourishing. “I started making curry masalas when my elder daughter was studying in the U.K. I make three types of curry — green curry, Goan red curry and brown Parsi curry — and I make a vindaloo, dhansak paste and green chutney. You only have to thaw them and add coconut milk.” She never advertises because, “I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew, because I am the only one cooking with my Rosie, who has been with me since my birth. She is now 79,” she says. All the cooking can be exhausting, but there are rewards. “The best thing about my job is getting a compliment from my client,” she says. “Someone recently called and told me, you are better than Godiwala!”
Gher nu bhonu – Zareer Lalkaka
“Parsi food is my absolute passion,” says Zareer Lalkaka. “I love it, although I also do the odd Western thing like a quiche or mousse, what Parsis call Western party food. The accent for me is on tasty food. I believe that in most parties, many people are very happy to settle down to a sali marghi, rather than a very fancy chicken creation. Basic good food is where I fit in. Good gher nu bhonu. People order homey dishes like bhida ma gos from me.” That is, aside from the oft-ordered dhansak and patra ni macchi. “Somehow, those two dishes are extremely popular among the non-Parsis”. His sali boti, sali marghi and farcha are also much sought-after. His quiches are also extremely popular; he makes onion, spinach, mushroom and bacon. When winter comes round, Lalkaka adds kharia to the menu.
Sweet tooth – Havovi Shroff
On her menu, Havovi Shroff juggles what are popularly known as Continental dishes (quiches, lasagne, chops, risotto, roast meats), cakes and desserts. She also offers all the usual Parsi favourites like dhansak, patra ni macchi, sali boti and lagan nu custard along with less popular prawn patia and vegetable stew. “Parsi food is so much easier to make than dessert,” says Shroff. “Very popular is my sali boti, sali marghi and my lagan nu custard.”
Shroff strongly recommends ordering her desserts, “I have a pretty extensive menu; I keep chopping and changing it all the time, and going with the tide, what is popular at the moment. I do a lot of seasonal stuff like strawberries in winter. I soak the fruit for Christmas from May, so my clients know that they have to book in advance.” But perhaps the best recommendation for her sweet dishes comes from fellow caterer, Zareer Lalkaka. “Havovi Shroff makes the best Parsi custard ever,” he says.
Pickled goodness – Zinobia Schroff
As a young girl growing up in Nagpur, Zinobia Schroff would earn all her pocket money by making squashes and jams for her neighbours and friends. “After all, Nagpur is the place for oranges,” she says. Today, they are a part of her culinary repertoire, one that is now bolstered by a plethora of Parsi dishes such as bheja fry, chicken cutlet, patra ni macchi and akuri na pattice, her bestselling beri pulao and pickles. Schroff’s pickles include the Parsi favourites:. doodhi murabbas, lagan nu achar, garab nu (roe) achar, prawn pickle, bombil pickle and mango mathia. “The USP for my pickles is that there are no preservatives,” she says. “Our grandmothers and mothers used to prepare them without any preservatives, so why do we need to put any?”
Culinary goddess – Shirin Adenwalla
Shirin Adenwalla was 18 when she first began putting spoon to bowl. “Of course, it was just a hobby at the time,” but a hobby that, 33 years later, has bloomed into a thriving business. On Adenwalla’s menu is an impressive array of dishes, including several Parsi dishes (like veg stew, Parsi pulao, sali kheema, tomato fish with raisins and frilly lamb chops). “My business began with cakes, desserts and salads and now it handles full catering for up to 80 to 100 people. Our USP though, is catering for about 30 to 40 people. But then again, we even do one dish, like a cake. Mine is a very small and boutique business.”
Dabbas and more – Nargish Lala
Nargish Lala and her brother run a small business supplying daily dabbas to senior citizens. “We keep our prices low to help the elderly people that we provide food for,” says Lala, who has been cooking for 15 years. While the bulwark of their menu is Parsi food, they also include a smattering of Chinese and other cuisines.
Lala’s excellent Parsi pickles have received plenty of good press. Less known is her party catering. “We can handle party orders for up to 40 to 50 people,” she says. “Our most popular dishes are dhansak, pulao dar and jardaloo sali boti. Even the chutney for patra ni macchi! It is surprisingly popular and people just want to purchase it plain!”
Paneer specialist – Gool Postwala
For Gool Postwala, making paneers is just a small hobby. “I started making topli na paneer in 2013, because it is not too much of a hassle,” she admits. Like Pardiwala, Postwala’s paneers are also pure vegetarian and she needs the order to be placed a day or two in advance.