It’s that time of year when life is like a mango Mardi Gras. Every restaurant, cafe, kitchen and home, at least in western India, celebrates the mango. The alphonso mango is dazzling and in full season right now. Amaras is now a must on most tables, and sliced mango with ice cream, Mango Panna Cotta, Mango Cheesecake, Mango Peda, Thai Mango Sticky Rice and mango in every kind of dessert have flooded our menus, restaurants, patisseries and kitchens. Although I recently devoted an entire article to cooking with mangoes, I came across a lady who knocked me over with her mango cooked mutton.
Mahrukh Moghrelia lives in Mumbai although she hails from a small town in Gujarat called Navsari. By now you should have realized that she is Parsi, but she is unlike most Parsi you may have met. To us, Parsis are those somewhat anglicized urban dwellers who live not only in this sprawling urban metropolis, but even more sprawling, well-appointed colonies in Mumbai. But Mahrukh is a native of Navsari. She may have lived in Bombay for decades now, but she still passionately adheres to her village-style Parsi cuisine, which is raw and robust.
As their history places them on the coast of Gujarat, the Parsis made their name and number here in Mumbai. But Gujarat’s smaller towns and cities, such as Ankleshwar, Bharuch, Udwada, Dumas and Billimora, are home to many Parsis still untouched by Mumbai’s modernity. As their cooking has remained, simple, steeped in tradition and particular season.
Most of us have eaten the Dhansak and Salli Boti and Patra ni Machchi, but if you delve deeper into rural cuisine, you will find fascinating dishes such as “Gosh no batavo”, a rustic, village-style preparation of marinated meat slow-cooked in palmtoddy until it simmers into a deliciously sticky, sweet and sour gravy. Or a Parsi-style Chicken Vindaloo prepared with ‘sarko’ – a barrel-aged sugar cane vinegar aged in Navsari’s legendary EF Kolah & Sons. Rare preparations such as “Trotters cooked with black-eyed beans” or “Bhaji dana ma gosht” – a spicy dish where mutton, vegetables and peas are cooked over wood fire. My go-to encyclopedia for all things culinary, and a traditional Parsi chef to boot, Kurush Dalal once gave me “Masoor ma Jeeb” – Ox Tongue cooked with spices and whole red lentils.
By now you should have realized that Parsi cuisine is mainly devoted to meat, fish and eggs. But for a daily dose of roughage, the Parsis often cook vegetables but add meat to anything and everything. Thus we get ‘guvar-ma-ghos’ (string beans), ‘bhida-ma-ghos’ (ladyfinger), green beans-ma-gosh, ‘cauliflower-ma ghos’, ‘papri-ma-ghos’ (broad beans) , even ‘kakdi ma ghos’. ‘Kakdi’ is cucumber or bone marrow. And don’t miss ‘tarela-kera-ma-ghos’ (meat with fried bananas). And so, if the season is dictated by the mango, so will their cooking.
Mahrukh Moghrelia, whose house I visited, cooked me an amazing dish called ‘Kanda, Kairi Ma Ghos’, translated as mutton cooked in onion and mangoes. The recipe seems simple enough. Saute chopped onions until brown and translucent, add to that ginger-garlic paste and the mutton, until the meat is seared and the color changes from pink to white. Add a bunch of spices including ‘dhana-jeera’, Kashmiri chili powder and spicy red chili powder, pinch of turmeric, Paris sambhar masala and a little Dhansak masala and more onions but new white onions big chunks just cut in half.
Then you peel some fully ripe whole alphonso mangoes, don’t slice them and they go in. Boil everything with a little water until the meat is completely cooked. And you have this delicious golden dish. Tender pieces of mutton with a pronounced taste of soft onions, dhana-jeera and herbs, prickly sharp because of the red peppers and sweet because of the ripe alphonso. If you really want to celebrate the king of fruits, what better way to do it than this.
Kunal Vijayakar is a food writer from Mumbai. He tweets @kunalvijayakar and can be followed on Instagram @kunalvijayakar. His YouTube channel is called Khaane Mein Kya Hai. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of this publication.
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