Authentic Parsi Cuisine: Part 2

Date

October 17, 2011

Post by

arZan

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About

This columnist’s maternal grandfather, Behramji Baria of Navsari, was a bad businessman but a great cook. He ran a catering business between the two World Wars.

Article by Berjis Desai | Mumbai Samachar

He made no money but gained countless admirers including Lady Navajbai Tata and her family. The Jame, in his obituary, noted, in a memorable almost untranslatable Gujarati phrase – ‘Marhoom ni chamach bahu Vakhnayeli Hati’. His greatest personal contribution to authentic Parsi cuisine was Bhujan, and its gravier cousin, Khurchand. Pieces of lIver, kidney, spleen and testicles of goat, marinated overnight in curd and a spice formula, which was more closely guarded than that for Coke, and grilled over wood and charcoal fire, almost semi-baked and hence, its name (Bhujan, literally in GujaratI, meaning baked). An unmatchable dry or picnic lunch (colloquially called ‘Bhatiyu’) Bhujan, due to its rustic origins, is best consumed with, hold your sensibilities, desi Mahua liquor (yes, the one which sears through your insides and is flavoured with orange peel). Baria’s Bhujan, not ignoring his secret spice formula – never transmitted to his many children, unfortunately – derived its uniqueness and taste from the wood fire and the cool air, at dawn, in Navsari (also responsible for the most delectable Doodh-na-Puff ever made – the Dadar Parsi Colony ones, being a poor imitation). The dawn air thus added that extra zing to his Bhujan.

Baria was also renowned for his Khurchand (not to be confused with Aleti Paleti). Almost the same ingredients as the Bhujan but slowly cooked in a spicy gravy, designed to bring tears to your eyes, as the green chillies would conspire with the garam masala. Khurchand served piping hot on the banana leaf and lovingly esconsced with the ubiquitous ghee ni gagarti ghaoon ni rotli and a bit of Kolah’s Gor Keri nu achar, was bound to make the diner bless the caterer’s future generations. If you add fried potato and pieces of boiled egg or raisins or meat balls to Khurchand, you get the Aleti Paleti, but then you are affronting the afficionados of Khurchand. None will grudge Bhujan and Khurchand their rightful place in the Parsi authentic list.

If the Gujaratis were successful in elevating the lowly status of the green vegetable, Papadi (in Parsi dialect, Papri) by inventing the delicious Undhiya, to be enjoyed during winter alongwith hot Puris, the Parsis discovered a Papri dish called Papri ma Kabab, which makes it to our ‘top-10’ list. Small, round meat Kababs are prepared by marinating, almost raw mutton, for a long period, in a mixture of light spices and yoghurt, and then dipped in whipped egg, crusted with some rawa flour, and very gently fried or grilled. When the Papri, in a base of onion, spices and aubergine, is half done on a simmering fire, the Kababs are added. Best consumed with marble white rice chappatis and methiya nu achar, with some fried (not grilled) papad thrown in, together with onion rings dipped in vinegar. The marriage results in the Kababs elevating the lowly Papri into an authentic and original experience.

Malido, by its sheer audacity, makes our list. Before you express incredulity at its inclusion in the list, please be sure that you have eaten authentic Malido. Most Agiyaries serve such bad Malido that our younger generation has never been privy to the original thing. The oldest Mumbai Agiyari, the Banaji Limji at Fort under the late Framroze Panthaki (a warm, colourful, lovable priest who thought of nothing playing manjeera at Bhajan recitals) prepared the most delicious Malido – oozing with many eggs yet not smelly, in dollops of cow’s ghee yet not sleazy, sugar measured not to make it too sweet, embellished with finely grated almonds, charoli, pomegranate, candied fruit peel, raisins and pistaschio. The secret of a great Malido lies in its texture. The ordinary bad Malido is brownish, stone hard, without haemoglobin and inedible. The ultimate item is like Silk Smita (the late South Indian actress with the famed silken complexion so smooth that if a droplet of water was placed on the nape of her neck, it would travel down to her ankle, without dissipating) – golden hued, blended to perfection, feather light on the tongue, endearing aroma and silken smooth. The divine vibrations of prayers at Jashans and Fareshtas with the Malida centrally placed, renders it more delightful. Malido is as Parsi as you can get. The royal splendor of Malido is enhanced, if eaten fresh and slightly warm. Alongwith a unique Parsi bread called the Papri (not to be confused with the vegetable). The salty taste of the Papri bringing out the inherent flavor of the Malido. A unique Parsi sweetmeat, indeed.

The final item on our list is Chora-ma-Khariya (mutton trotters).

Before we talk about Chora-ma-Khariya, it should be recorded that this dish narrowly beat three others, to make it to the top-10. Tarapori Kolmi no Patio, due to its similarity with some Goan Portugese preparations, Titoli and Dodhi ma Gosht – which may seem a surprise item but when prepared by the Parsis of rural Gujarat, of sublime deliciousness and memorable taste – often served during the four days of feasting at Parsi weddings in Gujarat.

While even the Europeans eat trotters, it is more like an insipid soup. Some Parsis follow this practice and serve trotters in large soup bowls. However, we are talking about trotters in Chora ni dal – spicy, tangy, sweet-sour and original. Anyone using any device other than his fingers to eat this delicacy, is, being silly. Years ago, we had a rather pompous colleague, who was very proud of his rich, blue blooded mother-in-law, who was so sophisticated, that while she would condescend to eat Khariya by using her manicured fingers, she would only spoil her first phalange (technically, distal phalange, meaning the tips of the finger). Other Parsis eat this delicacy by spoiling all their phalanges (as kids, we would avoid washing our hands immediately, fascinated by the fingers sticking against each other due to the gelatine). Chinese prepare pig trotters in ginger and vinegar but C-ma-k is absolutely authentic Parsi. To be marinated over 48 hours ideally, this is not an easy dish to cook.

We invite our readers to send in their assent, dissent, comments, experiences and other entries into what qualifies as original and distinct Parsi cuisine.

16 Comments

  1. KV

    Great article Berjis !
    C-ma-k, and sticky fingers took me back to my childhood days when eating khariya was a once-in-a-few-months treat !!!My father used to get plenty of them, and my mother would take great pains to ensure that they were cooked just right in the Parsi way.We would be eating them over 2 or sometimes even 3 days. And the more vaasi they were, the tastier they would be 😉

  2. KV

    Great article Berjis !
    C-ma-k, and sticky fingers took me back to my childhood days when eating khariya was a once-in-a-few-months treat !!!My father used to get plenty of them, and my mother would take great pains to ensure that they were cooked just right in the Parsi way.We would be eating them over 2 or sometimes even 3 days. And the more vaasi they were, the tastier they would be 😉

  3. Percy Madon

    The article itself is mouth watering ummmm…..

  4. Percy Madon

    The article itself is mouth watering ummmm…..

  5. xyz

    Excellent article. monha ma pani avi gayu. you have already selected the menu for october 2015 for the next elections. somebody has already predicted the results. 6 existing trustees will almost definetely be re-elected and the seventh one will be either anahita or dinshaw’s son. tough fight. let us all celebrate with this anticipated menu.

  6. xyz

    Excellent article. monha ma pani avi gayu. you have already selected the menu for october 2015 for the next elections. somebody has already predicted the results. 6 existing trustees will almost definetely be re-elected and the seventh one will be either anahita or dinshaw’s son. tough fight. let us all celebrate with this anticipated menu.

  7. Jerou (Panthaki) Rammohan

    Talking about MALIDO  Papdi, I do not know of anyone having made better malido papdi than Late Ervad Nadirsha Panthaki of Petit Parsi Agiary at Churchgate. I am certaun that all those who have eaten that malido papdi between the years 1940 to 1970, while reading this will recall and reminice the flavour, the texure, the taste and the richness of plenty of dry fruits and pure ghee. The Daran as well as the Papdi were equally delectable, as also each and every dish of the food he cooked. He can never be forgotten not only for such excellent cuisine but also for its quality and the utter cleanliness of preparation. May God bless his Soul.

  8. Jerou (Panthaki) Rammohan

    Talking about MALIDO  Papdi, I do not know of anyone having made better malido papdi than Late Ervad Nadirsha Panthaki of Petit Parsi Agiary at Churchgate. I am certaun that all those who have eaten that malido papdi between the years 1940 to 1970, while reading this will recall and reminice the flavour, the texure, the taste and the richness of plenty of dry fruits and pure ghee. The Daran as well as the Papdi were equally delectable, as also each and every dish of the food he cooked. He can never be forgotten not only for such excellent cuisine but also for its quality and the utter cleanliness of preparation. May God bless his Soul.

  9. Phiroze

    Next elections in 2015?. What happened, I read on the other thread that you and gb want all the trustees dismissed right now and new elections to be held. Anyways it is never too late to learn.

  10. Phiroze

    Next elections in 2015?. What happened, I read on the other thread that you and gb want all the trustees dismissed right now and new elections to be held. Anyways it is never too late to learn.

  11. Hombil

    Jerou, my wife who hails from Nagpur, always claims that the malido catered by the dastoorji of the Nagpur agiyari in 1940’s and 50’s was the best she ever tasted. Similarly, many talk about the malido, bhakras, etc. made by their dastoorji’s wife, which they liked and enjoyed… It’s a matter of perception. Homiyar 

  12. Hombil

    Jerou, my wife who hails from Nagpur, always claims that the malido catered by the dastoorji of the Nagpur agiyari in 1940’s and 50’s was the best she ever tasted. Similarly, many talk about the malido, bhakras, etc. made by their dastoorji’s wife, which they liked and enjoyed… It’s a matter of perception. Homiyar 

  13. shernaz siganporia

    my father was the panthaky of TATA Agiary hill road bandra.We had a fantastic kitchen in charge Pirojsa.The best malido,the best dhanshak ni daar,the best parsi sweets like koprapaak, oud etc
    I believe during Muktaad the best food was made here, say some of the priests who came here for the prayers.

  14. shernaz siganporia

    my father was the panthaky of TATA Agiary hill road bandra.We had a fantastic kitchen in charge Pirojsa.The best malido,the best dhanshak ni daar,the best parsi sweets like koprapaak, oud etc
    I believe during Muktaad the best food was made here, say some of the priests who came here for the prayers.

  15. JasmineKhurshid

    Thanks Bergis. I do remember all these dishes and still can taste them just thinking about it. Our Dastoorji Late Kavasji Ravji and Kekobad Dastoor of Navsari, their wives(goranis) used to cook all these during Muktad times and we had all (breakfast, lunch and dinner) food delivered for 7 days. All made with pure ghee and enough Mevas (as they used to say “chhutto hath”). Lucky to be born in Navsari in 40’s-50’s to enjoy authentic Parsi food.

  16. JasmineKhurshid

    Thanks Bergis. I do remember all these dishes and still can taste them just thinking about it. Our Dastoorji Late Kavasji Ravji and Kekobad Dastoor of Navsari, their wives(goranis) used to cook all these during Muktad times and we had all (breakfast, lunch and dinner) food delivered for 7 days. All made with pure ghee and enough Mevas (as they used to say “chhutto hath”). Lucky to be born in Navsari in 40’s-50’s to enjoy authentic Parsi food.