If there is one dish that is instantly associated with Parsi cuisine, it is dhansak. There are more interesting dishes, there are far tastier dishes, there are richer dishes, but nothing in the entire repertoire of Parsi cuisine is as famous as dhansak. So what makes it so popular amongst non-Parsis? Perhaps the fact that dhansak is simply an elaborate version of dal-chawal, a pairing much loved and easily identified by most Indians, has something to do with it. But the dhansak dal is no ordinary dal; it is a spicy combination of several dals, vegetables and meat and the caramelised brown rice with kebabs is closer to a fancy pulao than an ordinary chawal. What most of us don't realise is that dhansak dal with meat is a dish associated not with celebration but with mourning: it's the first meat dish eaten by the family after the funeral fast during which they eat only vegetarian preparations.