Tribute to Irani Cafes

Tribute to Irani Cafes

Published: 20th May 2015 06:01 AM
Last Updated: 20th May 2015 06:01 AM

“SodaBottleOpenerWala is a concept restaurant with a bar. For my wife Sabina and me, Mumbai is an integral part of the journey of our lives. The Bombay Irani cafe is a rich part of the Mumbai tapestry, and sadly, a dying legacy. We delved deep within its unique world to bring alive the nuances- both for cuisine and its atmosphere. The familiarity of Irani cafe is key to the experience and Sabina brought that canvas to life,” says AD Singh, the MD of Olive Group, summarising the concept behind the venture.

Reminiscing about his life in Mumbai, Singh talks about how the place got its interesting name, he says, “Parsis often have surname related to their trade. When I was growing up in Mumbai, I knew a person with surname Haathikhanewala which was a source of constant humour for us. So the name SodaBottleOpenerWala draws its inspiration from that.”

Parsi classics

Coming to the food, the menu includes a prefect balance of classic Parsi dishes and the street foods of Mumbai. While Parsi classics like dhansak (mutton cooked with lentils and served with brown caramelized rice and kachumber) or patra ni machhi (pomfret steamed with chutney of coconut and mint) are obvious choices from the cuisine, dishes like Bombay raasta sandwich or bheendi bazaar sheekh paratha has Bombay written all over it. The Irani bakery menu consists of classic delights like berry and badam nankatais, mawa cake or lagan nu custard.

Pheteli Coffee (coffee and sugar beaten together for a frothy consistency), raspberry soda or parsi choy from the Irani Chai bar completes the experience. The place also has a bar that will be operational from July.

After Gurgaon, Delhi and Bangalore AD Singh, is expecting a warm response from the denizens as well. “The food here is mostly Indian, which has the potential to reach all the cities in the country and even abroad. Hyderabad was an obvious choice since Olive Bistro & Pub gives us a significant presence in the city and a good understanding of its people who are well travelled and curious about new cuisines,” he says.

With a lively vibe and good food, SodaBottleOpenerWala has all the potential to attract the foodies to the place who are either chased by the nostalgia of Irani cafes or are keen to take the first bite of the legacy.

Courtesy : Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman of Secunderabad and Hyderabad

Zarin’ Secrets


Zarin’s Secrets, is a venture started by me through which I am trying to revive old Parsee recipes. I have with me, my grand mothers old recipes for Home Made Authentic Masalas as well as Bhakras , chutney for Patra ni Machi , Kolmi No Achchar, Gajar meva nu achchar, Kachi keri no Murabbo and Gor papri to name a few.

My aim is to keep adding to the repertoire…. In the Masalas, I sell Parsee Dhana Jeeru masalas, Parsee Sambhar masalas, Dhansaak Masalas and Parsee Curry masalas. All masalas when sold are given along with a recipe of the dish whose masalas you have bought. The idea is to make easy Parsee cooking even easier and take it straight to your kitchen.

Please do check out my page on Facebook Zarin’s Secrets and contact me if interested.

Mummy’s Kheema Cutlets

Kheema Cutlets, Parsi Food

It is obvious by now that I am quite the mummy’s girl. No matter what the problem, I’ve found that my mom always has a way of getting us through it – cliched as that sounds! However, I realised that I had not yet shared the story of how my mum’s Kheema Cutlets got us through one of our greatest adventures as a team. So, on Mothers’ Day, here’s the story of Mummy and her Kheema Cutlets.

Perzen and Shernaz, Mom and Daughter

When we emigrated to NZ, my mom and I didn’t have much. While we had brought with us our life savings, it wasn’t a lot and soon the pressure of mum not yet finding a job started taking its toll. We had a small home and while we had bought a bed there was no microwave, no sofa and no TV. We had moved to NZ in winter and there was nothing to distract us from the sound of the cold wind seeping in through the window cracks except each other’s company.

We each hid from the other how miserable we were and kept at it. Going back to India wasn’t an option – we only had enough for 1 person’s ticket – and at one point we were worried if we would make next month’s rent. To ensure this didn’t happen, Mom started cooking food at an Indian couples house while I took up a part time job stocking shelves at the local dairy on weekends.

A couple of weeks later, Mom found out that the local Parsi organisation was having a function and the Indian couple suggested that she should have a small food stall there. Having never done something like this, both Mom and I were nervous but decided to give it shot. We decided to sell Kheema Cutlets and Pav – a Parsi version of the Kiwi Sausage Sizzle. The stall was a runaway hit – we sold off all the 200 cutlets we made and both of us were pleasantly surprised. With our first profits, we bought a microwave for the home.

Mom had a job by this point but we continued with the Cutlets making. And, with the next few stalls came a TV, a second hand sofa, a showcase. Soon – the entire house was furnished with the money we made from selling Mummy’s Kheema Cutlets.

It wasn’t easy making 200 cutlets at a time – we both used to marinate the meat until late at night, wake up at 4am on the day of the event and fry till the entire house was filled with the aroma of Cutlets. Both of us dreamt of Cutlets and having fried so many weekend after weekend we could barely stand the taste of eating one, delicious as they were.

Mom finally stopped making them when I graduated from school and started University. There’s a lot of things my mom has done for me since then as well but I’ll never forget those days. Her Cutlets got us through that first difficult year in a new country and gave me a better life. Her Cutlets made me a confident sales woman and taught me the value of working hard. And ironically, her Cutlets gave me the confidence to turn to food when I moved to a new country myself.

Mothers Day, Perzen and Shernaz

Happy Mothers’ Day Ma – I would not be half the woman I am today without you.

And now, here’s her recipe for making them at home – ingredients below the post as always!

Chop the coriander and chillies finely, wash the meat and marinate it with all the spices.

Kheema for Kheema Cutlets

Soak the bread slices or the brun bread in water for a few mins. Squeeze out all the water and add the mushed bread to the mixture. Mix well and let this marinate ideally overnight or atleast for 30 minutes.

Bread in Kheema Cutlets

When you are ready to fry the Cutlets, remove the marinated meat from the refrigerator and let it come back to room temperature. Taking a small chunk roll it into a smooth ball and then flatten it into a Cutlet with the palms of your hand. In a separate bowl, whip up the eggs and also start heating the oil in a frying pan. Coat each Cutlet in rawa and then the whipped eggs before lowering it into the oil.

Kheema Cutlets

Once the Cutlets is browned on one side, gently turn it over and let it cook another couple of minutes. The bread in the mixture will make your Cutlets rise – this is a good thing!

Kheema Cutlets Frying

Once they are cooked, remove them from the oil and let them drain on a plate covered with paper towels.

Cutlets on paper

Serve the cutlets hot with roti or bread and some tomato ketchup

Cutlets Pav

To make about 12 cutlets you will need:

1/2 kg Kheema
2 tsp Red chilli and Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
Salt to Taste
3 x Slices of Bread  or 1.5 Brun Bread
1/2 bunch Coriander
2 Chillies chopped
2 Eggs whipped
Oil for Frying

Tikka Tikki &Spicy Bites

Tikka, Tikki & Spicy Bites- our new ebook featuring a global twist on Indian kebabs, tikka, chutneys and more, is out this weekend. (And doing quite well so far!) Capture

On my site, I’m running an introductory 20% discount (use code: INTRO20) for this week only. Here is the link (use the add to cart button):
If like me, you prefer to download your ebooks on Amazon, it’s also available on all local Amazon sites (note that the discount code doesn’t apply there). Here is the Amazon link:

With summer and the holidays coming up, this is one book you’ll enjoy using. Feel free to share this with friends who like Indian food too.

Time for wake up your spice-buds, and get some kebabs into your meals!
Thanks and have a great week ahead…
Best wishes,


Love food, cooking and meeting people from around the world?, come join us

We are Traveling Spoon and we would like to know more about the traditional cultures and cuisines of the Parsi and Iranian community in Mumbai, so that we can share it with the world.

Our mission is to change the future of travel by providing travelers with meaningful and cultural experiences over food. We connect travelers with local and authentic food experiences (from homemade meals to cooking classes) in people’s homes around the world. Instead of eating at a restaurant, travelers who are interested in authentic food and enjoying a cultural exchange would pay to dine at someone’s home.

Traveling Spoon was recently featured in Forbes, CNN, Conde Nast Traveler, Times of India, Indian Express, The Travel Channel and National Geographic.

With over 135+ hosts in 36 cities,Traveling Spoon is now looking for hosts in Mumbai. I am writing to you because we are looking for Parsi and Iranian hosts who are wonderful cooks and are passionate about food, culture, entertaining and meeting new people to join the Traveling Spoon family as a host.

Traveling Spoon searches high and low to find the best hosts in the cities it enters and your community came to my mind as the ideal hosts. So if you are interested in learning more, please email me at: Also find attached herewith an image on ‘Who is a Traveling Spoon Host’.

Thank you and looking forward to hear from you.

Warm regards,

Forbes: Traveling Spoon is the next generation of culinary tourism

Neha Kuriakose
Regional Community Lead, Traveling Spoon
Travel off the eaten path
Mobile: +91-9819519807

Travelling Spoon Flyer

When the Cake Boss came calling

A Karachi-born chef, Kim Canteenwalla, joins forces with a culinary star in Las Vegas.

Immigrants often compose a large portion of a country’s struggling population. But for Karachi-born and Montreal-raised chef Kim Canteenwalla, success literally came knocking on his door when Buddy Valastro, star of the hit culinary reality TV show The Cake Boss, touched down at the world-famous Las Vegas strip and stopped by his restaurant Honey Salt. The trip sparked a partnership between the two men, which saw Canteenwalla take the helm as executive chef of Italian restaurant Buddy V’s Ristorante at The Venetian.

So, how did Canteenwalla reach the pinnacle of success in an industry as competitive as food and in a market as challenging as Vegas? “It all begins in Montreal, where I landed as an immigrant with my parents, older brother and twin-sisters in the late 1960s,” explains Canteenwalla. “Growing up, I saw my mother cook for six people every day after work. It was food cooked with a purpose — it was healthy and meant to fill our stomachs. But my love for cooking was inspired by my father who was a weekend cook.” Canteenwalla recalls visiting Montreal’s storied Atwater indoor market as a child to find fresh ingredients needed to create the Saturday suppers and Sunday brunches his father would whip up. “My father knew the precise cut of meat he wanted and would challenge our local butcher to do just that. These early morning expeditions to the butcher, the baker and the greengrocer sowed the seeds of not just enjoying the meal but having fun creating it as well.”

Attention to detail is Kim Canteenwalla’s hallmark. Here he tops the meal with orange rind before it is served to guests at the Honey Salt restaurant. PHOTO COURTESY: KIM CANTEENWALLA’S FACEBOOK PAGE

Canteenwalla’s family is of mixed heritage — his mother is British and his father is Zoroastrian-Pakistani. Thus, biryani, chicken and coconut curry chawal were weekend fare in the Canteenwalla home. The chef has paid homage to this culinary tradition by including a version of Nana’s Chicken Curry, a favourite of his son Cole, on the menu at his Las Vegas restaurant Honey Salt. He owns and operates the restaurant with his wife Elizabeth Blau, who is often referred to as Las Vegas’ restaurant maven.

Upon completing high school, Canteenwalla knew he wanted to make a living by cooking. While enrolled in the culinary programme at the Saint Denis Institute in Montreal, his internships took him to the edge of the eastern Arctic where he learnt to appreciate and create menus from ingredients as rare as caribou meat and whale.

Canteenwalla spent two summers in the Canadian Arctic only to realise that his future did not lie in preparing whale sushi and caribou stew. He then took off to travel to the cuisine capitals of the world, from Toronto to Phnom Penh, Bali, Singapore, Dubai and Bangkok in search for the perfect culinary combination that would blend with the melting pot of cultures and cuisines that is North America.

Canteenwalla manages to create 4,000 covers (individual meals) every night, more so on weekends. “It’s always busy in Vegas and when you are part owner and full-time manager of an outlet which carries the Cake Boss’s name, you have large shoes to fill,” he explains. Cooking up a menu inspired by the Valastro family, Canteenwalla is charged with preparing authentic Italian comfort foods such as a 14-layered lasagne made from scratch. The dishes have a simple premise: what would Buddy V’s large Italian family eat at a regular Sunday brunch?


While cooking is a passion, culinary art might just be in his DNA. A Google search revealed that towards the mid-1800s, British rulers of pre-partition India ordered all Indian subjects to take on two names — a given name and a surname. Many opted to add the name of their town or their trade to their given name. A Parsi gentleman, who owned and operated a cafeteria at Cotton Green, the old Bombay cotton exchange from where the British would load their ships with raw cotton bound for the spinning and weaving mills of Manchester, was given the name ‘Canteenwalla’ and the name has stuck ever since. This lineage comes as no surprise to Kim, as he recalls his late father being a fantastic cook, as well as his cousins and nephew, who is a chef in Toronto.

Kim Canteenwalla does not only give directions but also plays a big role in creating his culinary delights. PHOTO COURTESY: KIM CANTEENWALLA’S FACEBOOK PAGE

By virtue of Canteenwalla’s Parsi roots, our chat inevitably veered towards the ultimate Parsi comfort food: Dhansak. The brown rice-based dish features a lentil curry comprising vegetables, and chicken or mutton. Surprisingly, Canteenwalla could not recall having had this meal as a child and upon knowing how deeply entrenched it is in Parsi culture and cuisine, he was eager to try it. Of course, being the foodie that he is, he will whip up the traditional dish his way and says he will test out a recipe to see how well it could do on his restaurant’s menu. Don’t be surprised if you spot this iconic Parsi dish offered at a Las Vegas restaurant in the near future.

By Creative: Hira Fareed / Teenaz Javat

Published: April 19, 2015

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, April 19th, 2015 –

Register for Jamva Chaloji


Sunday April 26, 2015

Date: Saturday May 16th, 2015

Time: 6:30 PM onwards

Venue: The Community Church of Glen Rock,
354 Rock Road, Glen Rock, NJ 07452

Tickets: $ 100 per Adult and $ 40 per Child (12 years and below)

Register Now

Our mailing address is:

Zoroastrian Association of Greater New York

106 Pomona Road

Suffern, NY 10901

Eating in Thousands !

It’s a fight for a seat, and sometimes, a chicken leg, at the Parsi gahambar that celebrates an age-old tradition of praying and feasting.

At 8 pm on March 21, stewards from legendary caterer Tanaz Godiwala’s team were on stand-by like soldiers awaiting a general’s order, even as a line of cooks poured bubbling hot sweet-sour, butter-flour saas from saucepans into aluminium trays stacked with succulent boneless chunks of steamed rawas. The saas-nimacchi was soon making the rounds of aisles in a makeshift seating area at Dadar Parsi Colony where a dinner was underway on the occasion of Navroze, the holiest day of the Zoroastrian calendar, marking the Spring Equinox.

They were carrying on a tradition that some say, dates back to the times of Prophet Zoroaster. The feast that his followers in India, the Parsis, call gahambar or gahanbar – a middle Persian name for community feasting held at the end of six seasons of the Zoroastrian calendar – was held through the year to celebrate the creation of the sky, water, earth, plants, beneficent animals, mankind, and fire. Each festival originally lasted one day, but following a calendar reform, was extended to six, and finally reduced to five – the first four days dedicated to prayer, and the last to communal eating where everyone participated, either by bringing dairy, meat, legumes and vegetables or offering their cooking services.

“Currently, a gahambar is celebrated as a community event for Zoroastrians, where a thanksgiving meal is preceded by a jashan or prayer. The feasting may be sponsored either for a living person or in memory of the dear departed or simply as an act of spiritu- a l merit,” says Ervad Dr Ramiyar Karanjia, Zoroastrian scholar and priest. Most gahambars are free, with coupons distributed at landmark Parsi stores and colonies, while some are ticketed. The menu can vary as can the guest list.

Bharuch, a city that sits at the mouth of the Narmada, recently served as venue for a mithai gahambar, where the menu was dedicated to desserts. Some feasts are reserved only for women or men, with the express purpose of hewing down boisterous crowds that don’t shy away from fighting for their share of salli ma marghi.

Prepping for the big hour

In a more leisurely time than ours, the rich and poor came together to celebrate. Bhicoo Manekshaw writes in her book, Parsi Food and Customs, “each person may contribute to the function what they can, and rich and poor come together to eat. If a person is too poor, he can even help with the preparation of the food. The meal is simple – masala ni dar ne chawal. Sometimes, someone may contribute an additional dish, which is usually a mutton dish like papeta ma gos (mutton and potatoes).”

This community service is now a memory. All the cooking and serving at modern gahambars is handled by professional caterers, who charge a smidgeon of their regular fees as a service to their community.

Kurush Dalal, archaeologist and caterer at Katy’s Kitchen, has manned the kitchen for Dahanu’s once famous annual gahambar, known to draw 4,000 guests from across the country. Dar-chawal (dal-rice) and stew tend to be staples, he says, although deep pockets often mean that a mutton dish is thrown in. “At the Dahanu gahambar,” he recounts, “we served 200 kg of mutton.” The dal remains the beating heart of the meal, especially in the towns scattered across Gujarat.

Dalal, who remembers his grandfather recounting gahambar tales, says intrepid gahambar-goers would carry lemons in their pocket, because caterers wouldn’t serve lime wedges to squeeze over the dar. “This was later confirmed by my father. In fact, Gustaad Irani, who hosted the Dahanu gahambar, told him he was proud that he was one of the few hosts to serve the guests an abundant supply of lemons.”

The five-day affair may have been pared down, but preparations continue on a daunting scale. Cooking usually starts the previous night. “We bring in the meat at about 3 am before leaving it to marinate for an hour in aadu-lasan (ginger-garlic paste). It’s then slowcooked in giant handis overnight, on mango wood,” says Dalal. The catering staff works overnight to finish prepping, so that the dar can be shifted to the stove to slowly bubble away. “This is because most gahambars are held at lunch time.” The tapelas (pots) are so large, four adults could sit in one. Naturally, once mounted on the fire, they aren’t moved until after the service.

The big Mumbai feast

Philanthrophist Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, an orphan who made his fortune by trading in cotton and opium with China, is often credited with reviving Mumbai’s gahambar tradition by donating a handsome sum to the Bombay Parsi Punchayet for the same. Now, most feasts are organised by individuals or charity trusts set up exclusively for the purpose. “We usually hear of them in Parsi newspapers, or through friends. I start queuing at noon to get a seat,” says Bakhtavar Batliwalla, a gahambar regular. But as night falls, crowds swell at Charni Road’s Albless Baug, a common venue for Parsi weddings. Unlike Manekshaw’s frugal meal, some gahambars rival wedding feasts. “At the last three feasts, there was salli marghi, tarkari par eeda (eggs on vegetables), egg curry rice, cold drinks, achaar and ice cream,” says a satisfied Batliwalla.

At the Dadar Parsi Colony gahambar (in pics) held by the Mancherji Edalji Joshi Memorial Trust, Godiwala served saas ni macchi, dabba gosht, mutton pulao dal, salli marghi, foil chicken, akuri, custard, ice cream and chocolate lava cake. At the recent Shapoorji Pallonji gahambar at Turf Club, waiters plied hungry diners with everything from samosas to gulab jamun.

Clearly, the feast serves as social glue, braiding the scattered community. “It fosters a spirit of unity. It goes beyond the rich-poor divide and works to the common end of progress and prosperity,” says Karanjia.


The stories behind why each gahumbar is held are sometimes as delicious as the eats served on the occasion.

In Variav, a village that sits on the banks of the Tapti river in Surat district, once lived several Parsi families ruled by a brazen Rajput king, who taxed his subjects mercilessly. The Parsis rebelled, and to quell the protest, the king sent mercenaries to Variav. The men were away at work, with only women and elderly at home. Not to cower in the face of a challenge, the women dressed in male attire, drew their swords and fought the mercenaries. It was only when one of them noticed a earring on one of the ladies’ that they realised they were about to be beaten by women. Furious, they came on stronger, forcing the women to retreat and jump into the river, to avoid capture. The elderly lived to tell the tale.

Forever and after, the men of the village held a gahambar on that day each year to honour and remember the feat of their brave wives and sisters. It is said that the only dish to grace the table was vaal (a type of white bean); its bitterness a reminder of their sacrifice.

In the sleepy hamlet of Sanjan, on November 17 every year, a gahumbar is held to mark the occasion when Persian refugees fleeing Muslim Arab invaders in the eighth century, landed in Gujarat. Parsis celebrate the occasion as Sanjan Day by hosting a grand vegetarian gahambar. Last year, the Flying Ranee that shuttles each day between Surat and Mumbai Central, even made a special twominute halt at Sanjan, for droves of Parsis rushing there.

Elsewhere, a less momentous event draws families from Thane and Valsad districts. The junglewasi gahambar sees men who manage their farms come together with their wives who live and work on the coast, once a year. In the pre-prohibition days, palm wine or toddy was served to cool parched throats. “It’s a great place to catch up on who got married, who died, who had children and who ran away,” laughs Kurush Dalal, who has catered for the junglewasi gahumbar in the past.

By Meher Mirza

Parsi food, now at your doorstep

Catering service the Bawi Bride Kitchen, which serves Parsi food, will launch its delivery services next month. sundaymid-day samples a meal, which comprises old Parsi favourites including Sali per eedu 
Perzen Patel, Chief Tasting Officer of the Bawi Bride Kitchen, the catering service which aims to make ‘Parsi food easily available’ to all, is all set to launch the venture’s food delivery service, titled Bhonu by Bawi Bride. The service, says Patel, will be launched on May 1.
Perzin Patel, founder of Bawi Bride

Perzin Patel, founder of Bawi Bride
The meals are carefully planned out throughout the month, to include a variety of dishes such as Chicken Ras Chawal, Chicken Vindaloo, Prawn Pulao and Fish Moilee among many others. There are four different packages — Ravenous (Rs 11,600 per month, R2000 per week), Starving (Rs 9,800 per month, Rs 1,750 per week), Very Hungry (Rs 8,000 per month, Rs 1,500 per week) and Hungry (Rs 5,250 per month, Rs 1,000 per week). The weekly meals are available from Monday to Friday and the prices exclude delivery charges.
(Clockwise from left) Green Mutton Curry, Sali Par Eddu, Plain Rice, Potato Cheese Cutlet, pav and fruits. pic/Romita Chakroborty

(Clockwise from left) Green Mutton Curry, Sali Par Eddu, Plain Rice, Potato Cheese Cutlet, pav and fruits. pic/Romita Chakroborty
We order a ‘Ravenous’ meal, which includes steamed white rice, two pieces of pav, Green mutton curry, Sali per eedu, Potato cheese cutlets and a small bowl of cut apples, bananas and oranges.

Green mutton curry: Main ingredients include coriander, coconut, jeera, green chillies and haldi among others. The meat is cooked with the curry masala in the cooker, to spread the flavour and taste of mutton to the entire curry. While the carnivore in our team finds the meat a tad too chewy for her taste, we like the flavoursome gravy. The dominant taste of ingredients such as dhana jeera and the meat preside over everything else, making this dish a favourite.
Sali per eedu: Made with pureed tomatoes, turmeric, red chilli powder, coriander, cumin powder, garam masala, salli and eggs, we like the Sali per eedu. Sure, we have had a fancier versions of this classic Parsi dish in the past, but we like the dish’s simple, no-frills version – exactly what we would like to have on a more daily basis. Some of us felt the potato sticks could have been crispier, but still, we like this traditional Parsi dish.
Potato cheese cutlets: We, unanimously, agree that the cutlets are a tad too salty for our taste. The cutlets are stuffed with cheese and other ingredients such as mashed potato, cooked with dhana jeera powder, salt and pepper and garam masala. We love the cutlets when we combine it with the steamed rice, but if only salt wasn’t so liberally sprinkled.
Bhonu by Bawi Bride – Launching 1 May, 2015

Perzen Patel

Chief Tasting Officer | Bawi Bride