TThe Parsi, Community in India are followers of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster. Descended from the Ancient Persian Zoroastrians who immigrated to India to avoid religious persecution by the Muslims the earliest settlements were in Gujarat but now have over the centuries spread out all over. Having been proud citizens of this great country myself included for about 1500 years our food is a mix of both Persian and Indian flavors.
Guest post by – Rukshana KapadiaCheck her blog on facebook – https://www.facebook.com/CulinaryCommentator
The cuisine has a predominant non-vegetarian element and our community as a whole loves to eat with good food being the focus of all festive and cultural celebrations. Infact if legend is to be believed when the first few ships of settlers arrived on the shores of Gujarat visa the Persian Gulf near Sanjan they were refused shelter by the Council of Ministers from the Kings Court. Since we did not speak the local language the council of ministers used a pot of milk filled to the brim to indicate that there was no space to accommodate us. In reply our ancestors simple added a little sugar to the pot indicating that even when the sugar was added it did not cause the pot to overflow but rather its sweetness enhanced the taste of the pot of milk. This impressed the King and his ministers and we were allowed to establish our settlement and the rest as they say is history. iIt was indirectly food that was the bridge that helped facilitate our initial settlement here and overcome the communication barriers.
Parsi Cusine is relatively unknown except in Mumbai and Pune where a large number of Irani Parsi Café’s like Britannia & Co , Ideal Corner , Jimmy Boy , Kayani , Yezdani etc have established a cult following. Soda Bottle Opnerwala that opened last year in Cyberhub Gurgaon (Backed by the Olive Group ) has also been a great success in the NCR. Kolkata sadly is yet to establish a Parsi Restaurant except a small catering outfit called Muncherji’s which most people have hardly heard of. Therefore unless you have a Parsi friend who will invite you over to sample the famed Dhansak , Akuri , Patra ni Maachi , Marghi Na Farcha or Sali Boti chances are that many of you will not have sampled these delicious delicacies. Parsi’s are also egg and potato crazy and both are ingredients used liberally in their food.
Dhansak is perhaps one of the signature dishes of our community and is a regular feature in most Parsi households often made on a Sunday Afternoon because after you have your Dhansak your knocked out and an afternoon siesta is very welcome 😉 . Dhansak is typically a rich, thick slightly spicy mix of lentils (dal) served with Brown Rice and Mutton Kebabs (similar to Kofta’s). Alternately people today also make Chicken and Vegetarian variants. If you’re in Mumbai Britannia & Co, Ideal Corner and Jimmy Boy serve up a good one. Muncherji’s in Kolkata also serves a decent Dhansak.
Patra ni Macchi is fish marinated and covered with a layer of green coconut chutney wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed which is absolutely fantastic in terms of the delicate flavors. One of the most well known dishes it’s very different in taste to the Bengali Paturi which has more intense flavors since it uses Mustard and Spices. My vote would go to Britannia & Co , Jimmy Boy and Sodabottle Opnerwala for serving up good Patra ni Macchi.
Next up is the famed Sali Boti …. Pieces of Mutton (Boti) in a brown gravy made with ingredients like onions and tomatoes as the gravy base … however has a slightly sweet taste thanks be to the use of the “Jerdaloo” or Apricot very much the middle eastern Iranian influence and a firm favorite of mine personally as well. This is topped with “Sali” (Fried Potato Matchsticks ) when it is served and adds a delightful crunch and texture to this delectable dish. Again a chicken variant is also made but personally I prefer the mutton version. Jimmy Boy hands down serves up an excellent Sali Boti.
Now comes what I call the Parsi KFC …. Marghi na Farcha or fried Chicken …. These are usually succulent Leg and Breast Pieces of Chicken on the Bone marinated in a spice rub and dipped in an Egg based batter and deep-fried and are sinfully delicious. Ideal Corner and Sodabottle Opnerwala both serve good Farcha’s but the one at Sodabottle is boneless which I guess many would prefer but I personally like the pieces on the bone better.
Parsi Cutlets made from a mince of mutton usually or vegetables in some cases are also very popular and often served with a thick tomato gravy. They are eaten with soft chapattis which we call “rotli”. The Parsi Cutlets at Ideal Corner make for an excellent snack especially paired with the rotli’s.
Another typical Parsi dish is Papeta Par Eda which is basically sliced Potatoes “Papeta” lightly seasoned with spices and spread out in a pan on which egg’s are broken and poached …. Very simple but absolutely delicious I personally lover the version SodaBottle Opnerwala serves up.
Akuri the famed egg dish, is pretty much everyone’s favorite. It’s different from an egg bhurji though similar ingredients are used in both with Akuri having far more complex flavors if made properly. To prepare an authentic Akuri you need to use chopped onions, tomatoes, chilies’ cook them down to a thick paste then add scrambled eggs and stir till cooked just before you take it off the fire you can throw a bit of chopped coriander and lo behold you have an awesome Akuri served up. Best eaten with Pav or else Hot Buttered Toast. Akuri honestly many hotels and restaurants feature but I am spoilt because my Dad makes the best Akuri and my search for the perfect Akuri in a restaurant is still on J.
There are of course many other delicious delicacies but these perhaps are the better known ones. I would be delighted if you would share your experiences of eating Parsi Food and your personal favorites and where they are available.