Saturday, 14 January 2012

Parsi Cooking – A Caspian Experience

There must be something really special about Parsi’s. Their population in India is as small as a drop in the ocean, figuratively 0.007 % of the total population, still Parsi’s consider India as their home and the rest of India have good things to speak about them. Speak of their culture, etiquettes, food, everything stands out and speak volumes. Parsi industrialists were once upon a time sought after elites in the then Bombay city. 

When these Zorastrians landed on the western shore of India, thirteen centuries ago they brought with them not only the sacred fire from Persia but also the belief in the age-old religious philosophy of their prophet, zarathushtra and their special customs and their culinary skills as well.

Over the centuries, as the Parsi’s merged into and absorbed the rich heritage of this ancient country, their culinary art underwent a subtle transformation. While keeping many recipes and methods of cooking intact, they also learnt and experimented with new methods and flavours, exotic and different. In this process they blended the original flavours from the shores of the Caspian Sea with the diverse ones of India. What is special about Parsi cooking is the ‘Caspian experience’. The results are a delightful blend of the two. Because of this, Parsi cooking has universal appeal.

The repertoire of the Parsi cuisine include a delicious variety of fish, poultry, meat and egg dishes along with ample vegetarian, rice and desserts so as to keep the interests of vegetarians bright. Fish is a Parsi favourite and the Indian coasts feed their recipes with delight. Pomfret, sole fish, halibut and plaice find a special place on the Parsi dining table along with prawns and Bombay duck (boomla). Khari Machli, a versatile dish can be served on its own or with Khichdee or Sweet Turmeric Rice.  Fish and Chutney Bake and Bhujeli Kolmi( Prawns); are popular  bakes. Kolmino Sahs, Bhinda-ma Kolmi and Bhaji Kolmino Patio are contrasting prawn dishes. Tarapori Patio is a traditional Bombay Duck Pickle.

Chicken and mutton form an indispensable part of Parsi cooking  and have varied,  innumerable recipes and find application in mince, cutlets, kebabs and curries. The basic and very popular preparations find meat cooked with fried onion and ginger-garlic paste, which give a delicious flavour to the brown gravy. They are also generally cooked with a variety of vegetables. Tamota-ma Murghi, Bhinda-ma Murghi, Papeta-ma Murghi, Dahi-ma Murghi are some finger licking chicken preparations with tomato, okra, potato and yoghurt respectively. Chicken Dhansak is found in menus all over the world,  Aleti Paleti is chicken livers and Farcha, the amazing Chicken Chops. Ambakalya-ma Gosh, Beans-ma Gosh, Dodhi-ma Gosh, Masur-ma Gosh are mutton preparations with, mango, French beans, Pumpkin and lentils. Also there are kababs, mince, pies and chops cooked with mutton to perfection. Other interesting dishes include Bhaji-ma Bheja( Brains with Spinach), Fried Brains and Kharia( Trotters).
Like Maharashtrian’s the rice selection is excellent, Bhujela Chaval( Aromatic Rice), Rus Chaval( Meat and Rice ), Prawn Pulao are flavourful.

Parsi’s do not limit eggs till breakfast. They have some of the most delightful recipes with egg as main course. Attractive to look at and exciting in taste, whole or beaten and frothy, cooked over a variety of vegetables, they make unusual and delicious combinations. Bharuchi Akuri( Scrambled Egg ), Baked Akuri, Creamed Eggs on mince, Luggan-na-Eeda( Festive Eggs), Sali Malai Pur Eeda ( Eggs with straw potatoes ) are memorable.

Parsi cooking include vegetarian dishes which are imaginative and interesting and have taste and appeal for all, Brinjal Salnoo and Bharta, Moong Dal with Dill, Khatti Mithi Dal, stews cutlets and curries are plentiful.

Desserts are versatile in taste and preparation and includes, Semolina Fritters, Coconut Pancakes, Malpura, Badam Pak, Malido and lots more. They round up the delicious Parsi cuisine with a special flavour on your palette which make you come back for more.

Devraj Halder
N.B. : This article of mine has also found mention in Wikipedia. Search word 'Akuri'.

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