Aban Daboo: Chicago Resident adapts Parsi recipes to local ingredients

Aban Daboo of Aurora, Illinois loves sharing flavors and techniques of Parsi cuisine, the style of cooking she learned growing up in Mumbai, India.

Aban Daboo makes it clear what food she loves to make by sharing her email address.

She refers to herself as a Parsi chef.

By Abby Scalf | Daily Herald

Parsi, which also can be spelled Parsee, refers to a group who emigrated to India to avoid religious persecution by Muslims. Aban explained she learned about the Parsi cuisine growing up in Mumbai where the cuisine is popular.

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Like Aban, who moved from Mumbai to the United States in 1981, people who left India adapt their cooking to local produce available so the Parsi cuisine they cook takes on a nuance of that region. So, Aban said, the style of cooking incorporates Asian, Mediterranean and other diets. It’s not what most people think of as Indian cuisine.

“The recipes are very easy. Sometimes Indian food can feature a lot of spices and preparation,” said Aban, who now lives in Aurora. “This is more simple cooking. Some Indian dishes can be fried or heavy. This food is not heavy unless it’s made for a special occasion.”

Many dishes incorporate lamb and fish, she said, as India’s West coast relies on its fishing industry. One popular dish she likes to prepare is topping fish with a chutney made with coconut and lemon juice and wrapping the fish within a banana leaf before steaming.

Whether she makes her saffron chicken with apricots, her curried turkey loaf or homemade curry, Aban makes sure to include her favorite ingredient, a paste made with fresh garlic and ginger. She even adds it to vegetable dishes, combining the paste with steamed cauliflower, coconut milk and turmeric.

No matter the dish, Aban prefers using fresh including vegetables and herbs.

“We never use anything out of a bottle. It gives such good flavor we don’t need anything really spicy like curry paste, curry powder or red chili paste,” she said. “If I make red chili paste at home, I roast all the chilies, garlic and cumin and make it in the blender. It can stay for almost a month in the fridge.”

Aban loves to cook for her own family including her husband of 49 years and their two children. She also often contributes to potluck dinners and fundraisers organized by the Zoroastrian Association of Metropolitan Chicago where she’s been a member since its inception 31 years ago.

For Aban, cooking is a chance to be creative and create a strong bond with family and friends. And just as important, Aban said, is they enjoy a beautiful table.

“I prefer to use my good china. My husband asks how many dining sets I’ve collected. I respond I don’t know but I like to entertain,” she said adding with a laugh, “I’m the only one of my group of friends who uses cloth napkins whenever I entertain.”