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The Parsi Connection

Friday, August 14, 2015

This Parsi New Year, take in as much as you can! Anindra Siqueira & Sara Shah bring you a lowdown on the food available on Navroze and explain how you can immerse yourself in one of the oldest cultures of the country

Who doesn’t want to find out more   about the diverse cultures of India? And, the best way to do that is by indulging in the season’s celebrations. This Navroze, foodies get a reason to rejoice as restaurants and eateries are lining up a variety of mouth-watering dishes. Take a look at a few dishes that you shouldn’t miss out on to get in the festive spirit. And, don’t forget dessert — after all, who doesn’t want to end a good meal with an equally good Lagan Nu Custard ?

Five traditional dishes you can’t afford to miss
We spoke to Indrajit Saha (executive chef at Sofitel Mumbai BKC) chef Tehmtan (of the Ripon Club) chef  Varun Ramchandran (head of food content at FOODFOOD) executive chef Rishi Kapoor (at Hotel Marine Plaza) chef Farrokh Khambata (owner and director, catering & allied, Umame, JOSS Catering Services and Café at The NCPA) and homechef Mahrukh Mogrelia (on to find out what traditional Parsi dishes you can’t miss.
n Patra ni Macchi Prepared with green coconut chutney and steamed in banana leaves, this dish is both tasty and healthy. Varun tells us, “This is one of the hallmarks of Parsi cuisine and is influenced by a blend of Gujarati and Persian cooking.” No Parsi celebration is complete without Patra
ni Macchi.

  • Chicken Farcha Another favourite, Indrajit and Tehmtan tell us, is this fried chicken dish. “Juicy, rich, spicy and absolutely delicious, the dish is marinated with seven spices, then coated with breadcrumbs and eggs. This is then fried to attain the crusty texture,” they add.
  • Sali Boti This boneless mutton dish is made with jaggery, onions, tomatoes, vinegar and cooked on a low flame with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and other spices. Needless to say, Sali Boti is as succulent as you expect from the description. The crispy, fried potato sali adds a crunch to the dish.
  • Kolmi nu Patio If you enjoy seafood, you have to try Kolmi nu Patio. The shrimp is prepared in a thick, tangy curry and is generally served with rice and a lentil side dish.
  • Lagan nu Custard Indrajit and Tehmtan tell us, “A popular wedding dessert, this dish is a version of crème brulee and is made with milk, eggs, cardamom and other ingredients. Served with a garnish of cashews, almonds and pistachios, the treat has hints of vanilla, condensed milk, nutmeg and raisins.”

10 must-have dishes this Navroze

  • Akuri Served with toast, Akuri is a breakfast dish prepared like scrambled eggs, but with coriander, chillies and other herbs, quite similar to a bhurji.
  • Sali Par Eedu Parsis love their eggs — and the Sali Par Eedu (egg on potato sali) is a star player in this mix. The dish also has a dash of tomato and is mostly served for breakfast.
  • Zereshk (berry pulav) Chef Farrokh Khambata tells us that Zereshk, a fragrant Iranian meat pilaff made with sour barberries, is his favourite. Varun adds, “The thought of the soft fluffy rice, succulent meat and the tart berries is already making my mouth water. The dish brings back childhood memories of when I enjoyed it with the Pastakia family.”
  • Saas ni Macchi This dish features fish cooked in a white sauce, which tends to be sweet and sour. The gravy dish is served with roti and is popular on festive occasions.
  • Chicken/mutton pulao with dal If you want to stick to a familiar taste with a Parsi twist, try the chicken or mutton pulao with dal.
  • Khichri This masala rice dish is spicy, and made with turmeric, chillies, tomato and onions. It is served with a mild gravy to tone down the spice.
  • Black masoor Indrajit and Tehmtan tell us that this dish was originally very popular. “People these days don’t know how to prepare it. Served best with butter and chapatis or bread, the dish isn’t difficult to make,” they explain.
  • Lagan nu Stew Rishi tells us that Parsi Lagan nu Stew, with its tangy, spiced vegetables, is also something to look forward to this Navroze.
  • Sagaan ne Sev with Mithoo Dahi Parsis serve a sev dish with sweet yoghurt for dessert. Mahrukh says that Sagaan ne Sev with Mithoo Dahi is a nice way to end a Navroze meal.
  • Baklava Rishi tells us that you really should try a Parsi Baklava. Traditionally a Roman dessert, it has been adopted by many cultures but retains its many-layered appearance. The Parsi version might have  rose-flavoured cream added.

Why isn’t Dhansak celebratory?
“Dhansak is eaten on the fourth day after the death of a near one. Members of the Parsi community refrain from eating meat for three days and Dhansak is used to break this fast on the fourth day after prayers,” chefs Indrajit and Tehmtan at Sofitel Mumbai BKC tell us.

Perfecting Dhansak
Did you know that Dhansak is not eaten on celebratory days? While it’s not a likely addition to a Navroze feast, it’s arguably one of the most popular Parsi dishes. It’s known for its eclectic mix of spices and vegetables and usually contains mutton, three dals (some have one) and brown rice. Since it’s such a popular Sunday meal in most Parsi households, chef Tehmtan and Indrajit give us a few handy tips and tricks to make the perfect dhansak.

  • After cooking the dhansak for a short while in the pressure cooker, transfer it into a container on a slow flame. This will keep it from  coating the bottom.
  • Make your own spice mixture or buy it from a store. Tehmtan and Indrajit use Mangal Dhansak Powder.
  • The consistency should be medium to thick and not too watery.
  • You can prepare the rice in two ways, either by frying onions to golden brown or by caramelising sugar.
  • The freshness of your vegetables determines the quality of your dhansak, so always use the freshest ones that you can find.
  • A finely diced onion and tomato salad is essential to balancing the crunch and flavours of the dhansak.
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