It has become a ritual for me to write about Parsi food every year as Parsi New Year approaches. In fact, in their joie de vivre spirit, the Parsis celebrate two new years, which gives me the yearning opportunity to attend double the celebrations, with double the food. What a wonderful kitchen. Is it my fault, then, that, over decades of friendships, I have artfully persuaded myself into their gastronomic lives and their families? Today almost all of my friends are Parsis, the ones I particularly bond with are the Broachas, the almost Anglo-Bawa family of Cyrus Broacha. After all, his mother is a Goan and father is Parsi. Here I first tasted the real fusion of Paris and western food. The table was always full of casseroles, puddings, soufflés, casseroles, gratins and meat in brown sauce and fish in white sauce. Like the Saas Ni Macchi. Huge slices of pomfret in a sweet and sour version of a classic béchamel sauce, spicy and pungent, with green chillies, with baby tomatoes, to create a taste like no other. The Broacha household also makes superlative frills after cutless with keema. Or what is also known as Lacey Cutlets or popularly called “Dadi wala Cutless” as these pasties made from ground meat with herbs, coriander, mint and onion are dipped in an egg batter and then fried to a crispy, crispy coating to create and served with a gravy. However, the gravy is nothing more than a classic French tomato sauce, with a few added spices.
Then of course there is the family of actor Boman Irani with whom I spend way too many lunches, dinners and now even holidays. His wife Zenobia cooks spicy with masalas that are muscular. The meat is generous and voluptuous, and her cooking can easily be described as hot and heavy. Whatever Zenobia’s cuisine offers, it is sumptuous, sumptuous and plentiful, and rich in meat, fish and eggs. So let me start with the eggs. Starting with the most rudimentary, but asking for art and technique. The Charvelu Eedu or scrambled eggs. Soft scrambled eggs slow cooked with milk, with a hint of green chili. Eggs that always taste better with lumps of butter and in the winter months with finely chopped fresh green garlic. If you add masala, fried or scallions to this scrambled egg, perhaps tomato, it magically turns into an Akuri, a creamy, spicy preparation that is often dishonored when unforgivably called a “bhurji.” As if one “Akuri” wasn’t enough, other Parsis make two more versions of the classic Akuri; the Bharuchi Akuri and the Bafela Eeda Ni Akuri. The Bharuchi Akuri is a nutty luxury variant of scrambled eggs, made in ghee, with finely chopped green chilies and crispy fried onions with dry fruits such as raisins and cashew nuts and pine nuts. The Bharuchi Akuri is a rich, nutty delicious dish often served at traditional Parsi weddings.
But Zenobia Irani’s homemade banquet doesn’t necessarily have to wait for new years to come and go. Every meal is a feast. Masala Bheja with fried onions and curry leaves, Kolmi Na Kebab (shrimp kebab), Salli Chicken and an orgasmic Mutton Pulao with homemade Dal. Pieces of tender mutton, seasoned and cooked in long grain rice, and eaten in a puddle of thick, spicy dal.
My friend Fali Unwala, designer and all-round aesthete, now rarely makes his mother’s recipe from Mithoo Pulao Dal. A mutton pulao, made with sugar and eggs, eaten with a fiery spiced brown masala dal. But what he does make is a luscious savory Bacon Papeta ma Gosh. Pieces of meat, cooked in ghee, with slices of bacon, with whole spices and dry red peppers.
And my friends coming from Parsi catering royalty, firstly, Khurush Dalal is an archaeologist, wealth of food knowledge and Mumbai’s foremost Parsi caterer. Lovingly, he holds up the gourmet flag, raised by his mother, the great Katy Dalal. And this is a place where you can order a really good Parsi meal especially during the festivals. Kurush now runs “Katy’s Kitchen” and he lovingly sends me my Navroz party when I’m in town, not trying to lose weight. His menu is also out this year. There is Patra Ni Machchi, Sali Jardaloo Chicken, Mutton Pulao Dala, and for the vegetarians there are Vegetable Cutlets, Lagan nu Istew, Ravaiyya and Vegetable Pulao Dal.
And then finally the queen of Parsi Catering herself, Tanaaz Godiwala. Her portions are huge, as is her heart and heart. Her copies are from generations ago, which she has adapted to perfection. There is no doubt about the spread she puts on a Parsi wedding or during festivals. The food is of the highest quality and highest taste. Her crowning achievement, however, is her Parsi Lagan Nu Custard, cooked with the same ingredients and method as a caramel custard, loaded with added riches such as condensed milk, almonds, cashews, nutmeg, and cardamom. This pudding is baked, unlike caramel custard, which is normally steamed.
Just writing this column has added a few pounds to my already heavy frame. I hope the amount of water I’ve lost from my lips writing this column will help a little bit.
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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