From tomato per eeda to fried kera per eeda, we try to analyse the unending love affair which Parsis have with eggs.
A Parsi dish prepared with mangoes and eggs at Soda Bottle Opener Wala. (Source: sbowindia/Instagram)
Eggs play a starring role not just in Parsi cuisine, but in Parsi customs too. In Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel, The Crow Eaters when a newlywed Parsi couple enters their house, a number of rituals are performed and in what is a prominent step, the mother of the bride breaks a raw egg on the floor after circling a silver tray around the girl’s head seven times. Not just at weddings, “a similar practice is performed during Diwali too. An egg is drawn around the main door or entrance to the house” says Kainaz Contractor of Rustom’s Parsi Bhonu. “The use of eggs in a wedding and navjote celebration is mainly to ward off bad luck, calamity or the evil eye and to bring good luck.”
Turns out, this egg mania finds its roots in ancient Iran. According to Contractor, “in ancient Iran and in the entire Caucasian region, eggs were seen as a symbol of fertility and new life”, which is the reason behind eggs becoming a key part of Parsi cuisine.
As a practice integral to their customs, Parsis are supposed to observe abstinence on the eleventh month of the Parsi year, Bahman, when they do not eat meat – yet, eggs are allowed at this time. “The month of Bahman is the equivalent of the Christian Lent. Zoroastrians abstain from eating meat. Since vegetables were limited in variety and availability, fish and eggs became the mainstays of the month.” Even if vegetables have long surpassed these limitations with respect to both availability and variety, eggs never left the Parsi plate.
Contractor also believes that from a culinary point of view, eggs are a major part of Parsi cuisine because they are “very strong believers that any dish can be made better with eggs, especially vegetables, making it more appealing to children and hardcore meat lovers. In fact, one of the signature starters at our joint is a crisp-fried egg topped on spicy kheema pao and egg and cheese balls with mashed potatoes and spring onion.”
However, culinary anthropologist Kurush Dalal feels that the very concept of associating Parsi cuisine with (mostly) eggs is what is a classic case of “overgeneralisation”. “Eggs are well packaged and have a good protein content. That is why they find their place in Parsi food. It is nothing new. It is an absolute misconception that Parsis break an egg into almost everything. You will never find eggs in Dhansak or Patra ni Machi”, he explains.
Written by Priyanjana Roy Das