Parsi Potluck at Pia's...Carrying Forward Culinary Traditions
Our group met again,this time for Parsi cuisine.In April,I had attended a Parsi food walk, organized by SodaWaterBottleOpenerWalla,a hip restaurant that specializes in the same cuisine,along with food blogger Kalyan Karmakar.The decor of the restaurant brings a smile to all those that enter.A blackboard with instructions typical of the Irani restaurants that occupied building corners of old Mumbai and the Parsi family tree invariably connected to the Queen :D Our walk was great fun.From SBOW,we headed to a Parsi bakery and then Kyani restaurant
Parsis and Iranis both came to India from Iran but Parsis came during the 8th to 10th Century A.D in order to preserve their religion Zoroastrianism as Iran was invaded by Muslim rulers.(Iranis came during the period between 19th and 20th century).They landed up in Gujarat and convinced the king of a principality Jadav Rana that they would mix into the people like sugar does in a glass of milk but impart sweetness to it.That they have done in good measure.You only have to think of the word philanthropy to remember what Parsis have done for our city! They also agreed to imbibe some of our traditions,which they did....by way of the language similar to Gujarati and the women started wearing sarees,with the Gara having their characteristic embroidery.
Parsis love eggs and several of their dishes have eggs on vegetables (Bhindi Per Eda,Tarkari Per Eda or what not).They also love seafood,specially Pomfret,Prawns and Bombay Duck.They combine meat with vegetables,add nuts and fruits to their food and like combining sweet and sour flavors.Irani food has nuts and dry fruits too,meat and pulses.I have been religiously following Ariana's Kitchen
on television for a look into Persian cuisine.It was a pleasant surprise when Perzen Patel of Greedy Foods launched her Irani menu (for a limited period) with dishes like Koresh Fesanjan (Chicken with Pomegranate and Walnuts) and Ash e Reshteh(a lentil soup with greens,meat and pasta)
As starters,our Potluck had Vegetarian Kevabs and Kheema Samosas by Katy's Kitchen and Chicken Farcha Bites by Zinobia Schroff,known for her Parsi pickles.
Many bakeries in Mumbai are owned by Iranis or Parsis.Kyani Bakery is one that comes to mind,a place I have been to several times thanks to all the Parsi food walks.
Pia baked outstanding bread for the party and Sunita made herbed butters.There was also rice,a Parsi staple.
While Dhansak (meat with pulses and vegetables) and Sali Boti (sweet and savory meat) can be had at many restaurants,our potluck had some unusual dishes.Kurush and Rhea Dalal made Bhaji Dana Ma Gos which combined dill,spinach and fenugreek with mutton.It was light,flavorful and nutritious.They had a vegetarian version without meat.They have a whole list of ancient recipes and stories to match.
Anjali Koli Cooper (Annaparabrahma) is married to a Parsi and made delicious Prawns Green Curry with coconut and cashew.The gravy without coconut is called Ras.The coriander in Anjali's dish came through beautifully and prawns were cooked just right.Another well known seafood dish is the Prawn Patia which is sweet and sour, thanks to sugar and vinegar in it
Anjali made a vegetarian version of the green curry(Lili Curry) with koftas.She herself is vegetarian Koli (from fishing community)
She donned her mother in law's heirloom Gara,made of Chinese textile in dull pink with an intricate border with floral vines.
Kurush Dalal is the son of Katy Dalal,whose catering was well known among Parsis.She published several books,inkling Jamva Chaloji in which she mentions her children Kurush and Freny with great pride.Kurush would go to Sassoon Docks and then Bhau Cha Dhakka to get fish for her.He has also catered to Gambhars,which were huge family oriented events,catering to 500-800 people at a time,with dishes like Istew,Dhansak and Papetu Ma Gos.Those days,men lived in jungles and women in villages at the Gujarat border and Gambhar sought to bring them altogether.Kurush also helped her with catering at the Princess Victoria Mary Gymkhana at Cooperage.
His wife Rhea (a Bengali) and he are both archaeologists like his mother and now run Katy's Kitchen as well
Parsis too observe a meat free month once a year called Boman in which they continue to have fish and egg.Zinobia Schroff made Saas Ni Macchi for our meet up.This was a white sauce gravy with fish (usually pomfret but here she used tuna)
We had typical Parsi beverages: Raspberry Soda and Icecream Soda
Our host Pia Dasgupta Barve made old school British desserts which Parsis love: Heavenly Profiteroles filled with Creme Anglaise and topped with Caramel
Roopa made Sevaiyan Kheer,another one loved by Parsis and called Sev
Sunita made the French dessert Cherry Clafoutis
and then there was another classic: Apple Pie
The evening signified the what Parsis believe in: Khavanu,Pivanu and Majja Ni Life!! It was also heartwarming to see the two Parsi daughters-in-law(one a Bengali and the other a Maharashtrian) carrying forward the culinary traditions of their husbands,so beautifully!